Difference Between Artist & Actor

Being an artist or actor takes creativity, though artists typically express their ideas through various media, while actors portray characters through performance. See the similarities and differences between these two careers in the arts.

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Comparing Artists to Actors

Both artists and actors prepare a display for audiences, hoping to entertain or inspire individuals. However, artists largely focus on placing their work on a permanent material - like paint on canvas - or in a specific location, while actors aim to wow audiences solely through performance. Further down you will read about some similarities and differences between these two creative careers.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Artist Bachelor's degree for fine artists; no formal degree for craft artists $48,780 (for all craft and fine artists) 2% (for all craft and fine artists)
Actor No formal degree, though training is recommended $18.70 per hour 10%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Artists vs. Actors

Artists and actors are similar in that they both must spend time creating something to give to their viewers. Artists must place their interpretations of life onto a canvas or some other material. They spend their days working in studios with tools like paintbrushes or pottery wheels. Actors, however, study the characters they are assigned to portray, practicing their roles to become believable in a performance. Their occupations require spending a lot of time in rehearsal, whether in a theater or on a movie set. Unlike artists, they don't create objects with their hands.

Artist

There are many different kinds of artists, including craft and fine artists. Craft artists use their ideas to transform materials like clay, wood, textiles, or glass into items that can be sold, often at craft fairs. Fine artists, on the other hand, paint detailed landscapes, portraits, and other types of scenery using media like oil paint on canvas for the purpose of inspiring audiences. Fine artists paint depictions of life in styles that range from lifelike to extremely abstract. Both types of artists may have to work overtime to meet client deadlines when they have a lot of work orders. They may be self-employed or work for companies that manufacture artistic products, either working in their own studios at home or in employers' studios.

Job responsibilities of an Artist include:

  • Brainstorming ideas for new works of art
  • Making outlines of their work before beginning a new piece
  • Locating and then getting materials ready to use
  • Researching ways of raising money to support their work
  • Preparing their work for display

Actor

Actors study scripts and do research on characters in order to accurately portray them, sometimes learning new skills as part of the process. Much of their job is to memorize script lines and set placement. Before being hired to fill a role, actors must prepare for auditions by reading any available scripts and portraying what they believe directors want to see. After landing a gig, actors often have to work at odd hours and in adverse conditions, such as on weekends in the pouring rain, and wear unusual costumes or makeup. Actors may find that it is difficult to win auditions and often have to work at other jobs to make ends meet. Actors who work in theater and television might have to travel long distances to reach a job.

Job responsibilities of an Actor include:

  • Meeting with their agents
  • Rehearsing their lines with other actors
  • Following the directions of the director or producer
  • Acting for short periods of time, such as only a few months
  • Frequently searching for new jobs

Related Careers

Someone interested in becoming an artist may also want to think about being a fiction writer, since both careers involve creating unique ideas and putting them in a permanent form. Those interested in being an actor may also consider becoming a dancer, since both jobs involve creative performance in front of an audience.

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