Jobs for a Working Artist
The term “artist” has been misunderstood for centuries. I think the main problem is that “artist” can mean hundreds of things and dozens of skill levels. A graphic designer is still an artist even if he/she cannot actually draw. A painter of fine art portraits is called an artist the same as a floral arranger and interior decorator. A musician and writer are both artists too. A concert violinist is an artist the same as a rock band guitarist. However they have very different training and skill levels. Some beginning painters have more skill and talent than a professional web designer, but they are both artists. Here is a short-listing of art jobs and skill levels. For the sake of this article I am concentrating on visual arts.
Does Skill mean Success in Art?
Notice I don’t say education. In the field of art you can have a Master’s level degree and not be any better artist than someone with no art education other than practice. Education and skill level are two very different things.
Any age can be a beginner
A beginner artist is someone who has not made a living with his/her art yet. They are at a place where they are working, practicing, doing art, but not selling very much yet. Even when a beginner starts to sell his/her work, they are still considered a beginner until their income level reaches a significant portion of their living expenses. A beginner can be 4 years old or 84. Grandma Moses was a beginner until she was 80 when she began selling art and making a significant income with it.
Ever thought of working as an artist?
I did a lot of window painting and face painting as a beginner. Many artists, including beginners, make excellent photographers because they have the creative eye and see things others don’t notice. The following are just a few of the jobs a beginning artist can get.
Face painting: someone who paints children’s faces at parties, grand openings and events.
Fine art: where a painter creates art to hang on walls and sells in galleries.
Graphic artist: covers a number of jobs from advertising and sign painting to logo designs.
Interior designer: someone who creates color designs with walls and fabrics for interiors of homes and businesses.
Interior decorator: someone who creates decorations and accessories for homes and businesses.
Landscape designer: does not always have to do the actual landscaping but designs where trees, bushes and flowering plants should go to maximize the colors and appeal.
Digital artist: relatively new, someone who creates digital art mainly for advertising and illustration. However some can be printed as fine art.
Art demonstrator: often artists are paid to demonstrate their craft at special events.
Calligrapher: often artists are called on to do fancy lettering for wedding invitations or special event items. Some experience and skill is necessary here.
Window painter: using tempera paint, artists are asked to paint decorative, inviting holiday designs on commercial windows, to be washed off after the holiday season.
Fine Art Photography: someone who manipulates photos in Adobe Photoshop to create artistic or fantasy photos to hang on walls.
Photography: someone who photographs people, places or things, for a fee.
Ceramics: Lots of artist start with ceramic molds and graduate to embellishing these into works of art with glazes or by changing the molds.
Potters: From ceramics, potters marry the art of sculpture with the function of ceramic glassware and add the art of paint and glaze.
Once an artist begins making money with art, they can be called an intermediate artist or a professional artist. This is totally up to the artist. I remember as a teenager, I was pretty embarrassed to call myself a professional because I was selling art but not consistently, so I felt more comfortable calling myself an intermediate artist. This term can sometimes also be used for education level.
How to be a Successful Artist
Some of the jobs available to the intermediate are all those above plus a few more.
Face painting, Fine art, Graphic artist, Interior designer, Interior decorator, Landscape designer, Digital artist, Art demonstrator, Calligrapher, Window painter, Fine Art Photography, Photography, Ceramics, Potters
Illustrator: someone who illustrates for online and physical magazines and newspapers, including editorial illustration
Children’s book illustrator: someone who creates illustrations for children’s books, picture books, early readers, YA books and book covers.
Book illustrator: someone who focuses on adult book covers mostly
Cartoonist: someone who works on cartoons for newspapers, magazines, and clip art.
Art teacher: many good artists make fine teachers but not all artists can teach well. Usually you need no teaching credential to teach art, just expertise.
Muralist: many businesses including schools need large logos or mascots to be painted on walls. Muralists should beware of copyright infringement. More later.
Sculptor: someone who carves, large or small in any medium from wood, to stone, to clay. I know a lady who makes a good income carving Western theme animals (horses, deer, bear, wolves, etc.) out of soft balsa wood.
An advanced artist is making an income with his/her art, is working at least a little on it daily and is considering dropping a day job to work on art full time. An advanced artist may not be making money every day but is working every day on art and is serious about the craft. This is what you call a person who seriously is focused on their art as a career choice. An advanced artist is also a professional.
Some of the jobs available to the advanced artist are all those above plus a few more.
Face painting, Fine art, Graphic artist, Interior designer, Interior decorator, Landscape designer, Digital artist, Art demonstrator, Calligrapher, Window painter, Fine Art Photography, Photography, Ceramics, Potters, Illustrator, Children’s book illustrator, Book illustrator, Cartoonist, Art teacher, Muralist, Sculptor
Web designer: designs pages for the web.
Art Instructor: high school and college level art instruction must be done by a credentialed teacher with both art education and art experience.
Videography: many artists make fine videographers because they have an eye for color and drama. Some skill in editing needed.
With or without an art education, a professional artist works at art full time and pursues methods to continue personal improvement and experimentation. A professional may not necessarily be making a great income, but this artist is pursuing it and working toward it daily. Art is one of those things that lives and breaths. It changes each year and each decade. What worked or sold in the art world one year may not work at all the next. Art keeps changing and the artist much change and grow with it.
At this point you can pick and choose what you will or won’t do as an artist. The painter Grant Wood who created the famous American Gothic, basically did whatever was needed to create income, from sign painting to portraiture. If a professional wants to take a face-painting job, he can but doesn’t have to. If you want to teach, you will be in demand but you don’t have to.