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Fine Arts

The life of a Fine Artist.

What do studio artists do?

A career as a fine artist is about choosing self-discovery and exploration above all else. Studio artists work in painting, drawing, sculpture or printmaking, striving to establish themselves in the art world.

It takes real courage to become a fine artist. This is the toughest of all art careers, but if you are passionate about your work and willing to do what it takes, you can create a lifestyle that allows you to continue to explore your talent and yourself.

The works of fine artists are displayed in museums and galleries and in private collections in homes or corporate headquarters. Some artwork is commissioned. For these pieces, artists meet with clients to discuss objectives, ideas and themes to be portrayed. Most artwork, however, is created by artists and purchased by people who like the item.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most artists and related workers are self-employed. Keen competition should be expected for both salaried jobs and freelance work. Because there is no guarantee that artwork will sell, many fine artists hold other jobs. Some artists take special commercial assignments for magazines or newspapers. Some teach art in high schools and colleges. Others work as administrators of arts programs. Fine artists also work as art critics and consultants to foundations that invest in art.

If you plan to consider the studio arts, be prepared: Although the market for fine art encompasses a large area, a real market for work is very limited, so fine arts should not be a field you enter to make money.

Few artists are selected to exhibit, though most galleries willingly look at slides of their work. Learning to choose and approach galleries is important in getting visibility. For the artists chosen to exhibit, sales made by the gallery provide income. The best galleries also pay the artist a monthly stipend to help continue work. Other financial resources to help the artist include government and private grants, fellowships and residencies. You will find a list of these opportunities listed at your local art council and in the resource section of this site.

Travel and study

Kendall offers a number of summer travel/study experiences. Upon graduation there are a number of opportunities to choose from, such as residencies, colonies and graduate school. Studio artists usually develop their skills through a bachelor's degree program and then often pursue other postsecondary training in art or design.

What are some typical occupations for studio artists?

Salary information

Earnings for self-employed artists vary widely; some well-established artists earn more than salaried artists, while others find it difficult to rely solely on income earned from selling art. Wages vary by employer and the artist's reputation.

Many fine artists sell their work by the piece. Others work for a commission, which is a percentage of the amount a painting is sold for. Some artists obtain grants to support the time they devote to their art. Others win prize money in competitions.

Median annual earnings of salaried fine artists, including painters, sculptors and illustrators, were $41,970. The middle 50 percent earned between $28,550 and $58,550. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,350. Information about the earnings of self-employed artists is not available.

About half of all fine artists are self employed. They must provide their own health and life insurance, as well as other supports traditionally supplied by employers. Fine artists who are not self employed and work full time for an employer may receive benefits.

Employment-related websites

  • www.artcareer.net/
  • www.nasaa-arts.org
  • www.aicad.org/career.htm
  • www.artisthelpnetwork.com
  • www.nyfa.org
  • www.artservemichigan.org/