What Does IT Take to Be an Artist?

Sep 07, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an artist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training paths, job duties and promotion techniques to find out if this is the career for you.

An artist may be a fantastic career choice for the creative, self-expressive individual. People in this career constantly have to design and promote their own material, which can become quite strenuous because of all the competition you must face. While not mandatory, completing an art degree program can expand your skills and help you create a portfolio of your work.

Essential Information

The field of art includes a wide variety of media, such as sculpture, painting and photography. While a formal education is not required to be an artist, the field is highly competitive and completing a degree program offers many advantages. Artists will also need to complete a portfolio of their work to show to potential clients and employers.

Required Training None; postsecondary art classes or art degree program recommended
Additional Requirements Portfolio of work
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 1% (slower than average for craft and fine artists)
Median Salary (2018) $49,380 (fine artists); $65,390 (all other artists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Sample Steps to Becoming an Artist

Step 1: Experiment

Art is the product of a unique vision, and honing an artistic voice requires skill, practice and discipline. Most artists choose one specific medium to specialize in; drawing, painting, photography, woodworking, graphic design and ceramics are all examples of media one may explore. Through experimentation, prospective artists can assess which medium they find most enjoyable and expressive of their sensibilities.

Step 2: Consider Pursuing an Art Degree

While many artists choose not to pursue a degree in art, there are many benefits to doing so. Students undertaking a fine arts degree program are introduced to various aspects of art and art history prior to concentrating in a specific medium. Additionally, the formal education environment offers aspirants opportunities to work with and make professional connections with peers, professors and other artists. Having a degree may also make one a more competitive applicant if seeking employment in a particular field such as graphic design.

Step 3: Build a Portfolio

An artist's portfolio is his or her most essential marketing tool. Some degree programs even incorporate portfolio-building projects into the curricula. When compiling a portfolio, artists should choose a variety of pieces that best reflect their skills and specialty. However, as with a resume, one may also find it beneficial to tailor portfolio selections to specific jobs.

Step 4: Hit the Pavement

In order to get a foot in the door, one may attend art shows and network with other artists and gallery owners. If interested in a particular gallery, aspiring artists might research the type of work usually shown, and see whether there are openings at the gallery, and if their style fits in at the venue before calling to schedule an appointment to show a portfolio. Artists seeking steady employment at, say, a design firm, may set up accounts on online job-search websites as well as scour Internet job postings for leads.

Step 5: Continue to Create and Self-Promote

The world of art is incredibly competitive and can be quite frustrating; artists must continue to create new works and be persistent in efforts to show them. Involving oneself by, for instance, volunteering at an art gallery, allows one to create professional relationships and may provide a portal to further opportunities. One might also create a website displaying his or her work and have business cards printed up.

If you love things like painting, ceramics, drawing, and countless other pursuits, then becoming an artist could be an ideal option for you. Of course, you need a natural artistic flair, but getting a degree in art can increase your chances of finding work and building a portfolio. Making yourself known by persistent marketing, volunteering at art galleries, and having a website, also facilitates employment opportunities.

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