How to become a paid artist

How to become an artist (with career options and salaries)

Indeed Editorial Team

The art world can provide you with a lucrative income stream for your artistic talents. As an artist, you can pursue a career in fields such as fine art, graphic art or the world of digital entertainment. All of these can give you a high level of job satisfaction and perhaps allow you to freelance, which means you can accept the projects that appeal to you and choose your own working hours. In this article, we provide information on how to become an artist and explore career options in this creative field.

How to become an artist

If you’re wondering how to become an artist, you may want to know that it’s not necessary to attend art school. While many artists have a degree in art subjects like drawing, graphic design or sculpture, amateur artists can develop their skills through an internship or apprenticeship with a professional artist. It’s important to interact with other like-minded artists and establish a network of contacts with whom you can share ideas and experiences.

Many self-taught artists have honed their skills through practice and experience. If you feel you’d benefit from professional guidance to improve your skills, you could enrol in a community class. Enquire at your local library or art supplier for details of local classes or workshops. You can take some preliminary steps to establish what you want to achieve as an artist:

1. Identify your passion

Start by choosing the type of art you are most passionate about that matches your talent as an artist. You may enjoy painting, sculpture, calligraphy, photography, or computer software to create your art, such as graphic design and animation. Amateur artists can develop their skills through an internship or apprenticeship with a professional artist. It’s essential to interact with other like-minded artists and establish a network of contacts with whom you can share ideas and experiences.

2. Identify your market

Decide the purpose of your art. Are you doing it for yourself or are you doing it for other people to enjoy? Do you want to inform people, entertain them, make them think or simply have something original to look at in their home? Do you want to display your creations in a gallery or street market, sell them online or work on unique commissions for individuals? Once you’ve established which market appeals to you most, you can formulate a plan of action to promote yourself and your work.

3. Create a portfolio

Create a portfolio. This is a personal gallery of your best work. It’s an essential and powerful marketing tool, something to show prospective clients what you do. A portfolio can be in print format for face-to-face meetings with clients or online. Post images of your work on your website and social media accounts if you have them, which helps you promote yourself and sell your work. If you can design an e-commerce website, people can browse, choose one of your art pieces and pay online. You can also post images of your work on community marketplace websites.

4. Consider the job opportunities

Professional artists can work for organisations or as freelancers. Some artists set up their own studios, while others work on company premises or for other artists in their studios. Some artists work on commissions for specific work, while others create artwork for general sale. Unless expressly stated in an employment contract, a professional artist in traditional employment can also accept freelance projects.

Types of artist careers

Earnings depend on where you choose to work. As a professional artist, you can earn a healthy income from several sources. You can accept full-time employment and earn a regular salary. As a freelancer, you can get commissions from individuals after negotiating an agreed fee. You may create a unique piece of artwork, decide on a price tag and advertise it for sale. You could also embark on a career as a visual effects artist where you can design and create animations for film. Here we explore some of the job opportunities for artists and the salaries they offer:

1. Cinematographer 

Primary duties: Cinematography is the art of developing the overall visual qualities of images and still frames that make up the final production of a film. Cinematographers collaborate with the camera, lighting and sound crews, film directors and production teams. They typically possess skills such as communication, analytical and time management.

2. Photographer

Primary duties: A photographer uses print or digital cameras to record images of people, events, locations and other subjects. They work in many industries, including arts and entertainment, real estate, construction, sales, education, sport, advertising and the media. Photographers may work full-time or freelance for clients in the industries mentioned above or for private clients.

3. Videographer

Primary duties: A videographer records video and film productions and live events, often collaborating with other film and videography professionals. They document real-life stories, live entertainment and social events like sports fixtures, weddings, graduation ceremonies and other special occasions. Some record legal proceedings or business training sessions, while others create adverts and promotional content.

4. Graphic designer

Primary duties: A graphic designer develops and creates artwork for a variety of purposes. Graphic designers can work in industries such as marketing, sales, manufacturing and entertainment. A graphic designer works to clients’ specifications to design promotional materials, logos, graphic media, short animations and other computer-aided designs. Graphic designers can work in an employer’s office or remotely from home, either as employees or as self-employed freelancers.

5. Concept artist

Primary duties: Concept artists typically visualise and create various forms of media, including detailed sketches, drawings and paintings of vehicles, buildings, characters and environments. They work in fields such as advertising, graphic design, architecture, print publications, animation and video games. Many concept artists work in offices, while others work remotely from home.

6. Illustrator

Primary duties: Illustrators work closely with authors and writers to create sketches, drawings and paintings to illustrate books and other written materials. They often work on a contract basis but can also work with ad agencies and media publications. They typically possess skills such as attention to detail and communication..

7. Art framer

Primary duties: An art framer may work in an art gallery or a framing shop. An art framer employs technical and specialised carpentry skills and art principles to design, create and assemble artworks within prefabricated or custom-made frames for paintings, photographs, documents and memorabilia. They also collaborate with artists and photographers displaying their works in art galleries.

8. Curator

Primary duties: An art curator oversees exhibits and collections in an art gallery or museum. They help to develop organisational methods for cataloguing, storing and archiving artworks. They may also help to develop plans that encourage visits from the community.

9. Gallery manager

Primary duties: Gallery managers ensure the overall financial success of an art gallery or museum. They collaborate with artists, update gallery exhibits and create art displays and exhibitions. They are also responsible for updating and maintaining the artwork catalogues.

10. Art teacher

Primary duties: An art teacher with the appropriate teaching credentials works in educational institutions, like schools and colleges. Their primary function is planning and delivering lessons to students in various settings. They may also work closely with other school faculties to connect art concepts to core subjects like mathematics.

11. Art therapist

Primary duties: Art therapists encourage people to express themselves through art. This is helpful for people who struggle to express their emotions verbally. Art therapists may work with children and adults with behavioural or emotional difficulties, learning disabilities or poor mental health, people on the autism spectrum or those who are speech impaired. The requirement for registration as an art therapist is the completion of an approved postgraduate qualification.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and the candidate’s experience, academic background and location.

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