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Watercolor Artist Career Information and Requirements

Watercolor artists are not required to have a formal education, but they may benefit from it in significant ways. Learn about degree programs, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Watercolor artists typically paint works of art using water-soluble pigments over paper canvases and while a formal education is not required, it is recommended that a person considering this career obtain either a bachelor's or master's degree in painting. While there are some employment opportunities with commercial studios, most artists should expect to be self-employed. Learn various aspects of the career from the information below.

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Essential Information

Watercolor artists create paintings using water-based media, developing an idea, then sketching out a design before adding color with paint. Watercolor artists often complete bachelor's or master's degrees in painting, though no degree is required for this line of work. While some are employed by commercial studios, most fine artists are self-employed and need good business and communications skills, as well as a solid portfolio to negotiate with buyers of their work.

Required Education No degree required, but a bachelor's or masters in painting is recommended
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% for fine artists
Median Salary (2013)* $42,610 for fine artists, including painters, sculptors and illustrators

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Watercolor Artist Career Description

Watercolor artists use paint made up of pigments that are water-soluble, making the paint colors and textures able to be manipulated by adding different amounts of water. Watercolor artists use different types of brushes, pastels, glazes, ink and pencils designed to work with watercolor. Though most watercolor artists typically create their art on paper, some other materials that support watercolor include plastic, canvas, wood, fabric, bark paper and leather.

Like many fine artists, watercolor artists may work at commercial art studios located in warehouses or office buildings; some may have in-home private art studios. Watercolor artists sometimes use their studio space to both create and exhibit their work.

Employment

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), about 60% of fine artists are self-employed; therefore, when they aren't painting, watercolor artists may spend most of their time networking in an attempt to sell their work to art dealers, galleries and private collectors. While many watercolor artists represent themselves, some artists might hire an assistant to handle promoting their work, finding potential buyers and getting them into art shows and competitions. In order to make a living, many watercolor artists have additional jobs, such as teaching art classes or working in a gallery.

Educational Requirements

There is no set education necessary to become a watercolor artist, though many find that a bachelor's or master's degree in fine arts helps them to hone their craft. In a fine arts degree program that focuses on painting, students might take classes in art history, painting materials and techniques, color and mixed media, water-based media, pressed drawing, issues in abstraction, still-life painting and professional practices.

An added bonus in earning a fine arts degree is developing a portfolio of work that a watercolor artist can use to approach gallery owners. Since watercolor artists need to have both artistic and business skills in order to sell their paintings, some business classes may also be helpful. Many artists also find benefits in joining a professional organization, such as the American Watercolor Society (www.americanwatercolorsociety.com).

While watercolor artists can receive formal education on the processes and skills used in this career from either a bachelor or master's degree program, an undergraduate or graduate degree is not a necessity. These artists typically use water-based paints over canvas to create works of art. They should expect to be self-employed and use their interpersonal skills to work towards earning a median salary of $42,610 or greater.

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