Artist Job Description

Salary: $29,900 – $65,300 Number of Jobs: 25,700
Hourly Rate: $14.39 – $31.38 Employment Outlook: Normal
Green Job: No Education:

What do Artists do?

To put it simply, an artist is a person who creates art for either sale or exhibition. Artists use many different techniques and materials in their work, and they can be classified as either craft artists or fine artists depending on the type of work that they create.

Craft artists create art that serves a practical purpose, like pottery or jewelry. The work that these artists create is normally intended for sale. Some craft artists sell their art in a store, while others sell it on websites, at craft shows, or in a studio. Very successful craft artists are sometimes commissioned to create individual pieces of art, meaning that an individual pays them to create a custom designed piece.

Fine artists (like sculptors and painters) create art that’s intended to make people think, or to be visually pleasing. Their work is frequently displayed in galleries, museums, and homes. Some fine artists sell their work on their own, while others rely on galleries and art dealers to help them find buyers for their work.

When most people think about working as an artist, they usually think only about the creative process. But the truth is, in this occupation, selling is just as important as creating. Without good marketing and sales abilities, it can be very difficult to make any money as an artist.

Since there are so many types of art and each type requires its own set of techniques, most artists choose to specialize. Here are some of the most common types of artists:

Glass artists create artistic pieces by shaping, joining, and blowing glass. There are many types of work created with glass. Stained glass, lamps, and glassblowing are a few of the more common types of work done with glass.

Illustrators draw pictures that are used in books, magazines, stationary, websites, textiles, and many other types of products. Traditionally, illustrators did all of their illustrations by hand, but today, many illustrators use computers to create their work.

Sculptors work with materials like stone, glass, metal, plastic, glass, clay, and wood to create three-dimensional pieces of art. Some sculptors even forgo traditional materials altogether, and create sculptures from shadows, complex light systems, and other interesting things.

Medical illustrators are artists who know just as much about biology and anatomy as they do about art. They create images of surgical procedures that doctors can follow when they’re learning how to perform a particular type of surgery.

Ceramic artists make art out of clay. They use potter’s wheels and other equipment to shape, form, and mold their work. When a piece is finished, they fire it in a kiln that dries and hardens the clay.

Painters use media like watercolor, acrylic, and oil paints to paint their subjects. Painters often specialize in different styles, spanning anywhere from realism to abstract art.

Sketch artists are a type of illustrator. If you ever watch the news and see a sketch of a police suspect, that sketch was drawn by a sketch artist. Sketch artists also frequently draw scenes from courtrooms that are used by the media.

Jewelry artists make bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and other pieces of art that people wear. They frequently work with materials like stones, beads, and metals.

Work Environment and Schedule

The environment that artists work in varies greatly depending on the type of art that they create. For example, an artists who makes pots may work in an industrial-type setting, while an animator will work in an office.

Artists work in many different industries, and for many different types of employers. Colleges, software companies, newspapers, museums, video production companies, advertising firms, public and private school systems, and the federal government all frequently employ artists.

Selling art requires a lot of hard work, and many freelance artists spend just as much time trying to sell their work as they do creating it. Selling normally becomes much easier as artists build a reputation and get work on a referral basis, but a good reputation can take lot of time and money to develop.

For freelancers, income can be very inconsistent. For this reason, it’s very common for freelance artists to work a full-time job in another occupation. This provides them with the consistent income they need while they grow their client base.

Many artists work variable work schedules. Though some people do work full-time as an artist, part-time schedules are also very common. Artists who are self-employed are normally able to set their own schedules, but they still need to work hard to meet deadlines on time.

How to Become an Artist

Many professional artists earn a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in art. However, a degree is rarely required to work as an artist. A strong portfolio of work is normally much more important.

With that said, formal education can be extremely important when it comes to developing new artistic skills. Some people are able to learn well on their own, but most people need an experienced artist to help them develop new techniques and abilities.

Most colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degrees in art. Before you enroll in a college, you should make sure that it’s accredited. You can search for schools accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design here.

As with all occupations related to art, the key to working professionally is practice and dedication. It takes a ton of hard work before the work that you will create will become great enough that people will want to pay you to produce it.

Some types of artists learn their craft by working under an experienced artist. For example, an artist who creates stained glass pieces may learn the intricacies of their art by working with an artist who has specialized in that medium for many years.

Freelance artists rely on recommendations from friends, family, and previous clients to get new work. Building up a client base can take many years of hard work and networking, but it’s the best way for freelancers to earn consistent income.

Related Occupations

Employment Outlook

There are currently 25,700 artists in the United States, with 810 new artist job openings created each year.

Artist jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Artist Salaries

Overall Salaries

Artist salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most artists make between $29,900 – $65,300 per year, or $14.39 – $31.38 per hour.

Updated: 05/04/2017

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