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Artist Career Guide

Are you a creative person who thrives working under pressure on tight deadlines? A position as a professional artist might be the perfect role for you!

Artists use their creative thinking and technical skills to produce artwork for commercial and personal use. A professional artist’s work typically falls into two categories: fine art or applied art. Fine artists create artwork meant to provoke a response in the viewer or listener, or to convey important information. Applied artists design and produce consumer goods like furniture, jewelry, fashion apparel, and ceramics.

Professional artists are great communicators who respond to their clients’ and creative team’s feedback, and follow a creative brief. They are adaptive, versatile, and capable of learning new tools and platforms to perfect their craft.

Sample job description

The artist is responsible for the design, creation, and modification of artistic projects. The artist must have good communication skills since they work closely with clients, sponsors, and other project managers. The artist must have a thorough understanding of design concepts and techniques, as well as computer applications. The majority of the work will be collaborative, but there may also be some individual work designing art pieces or creating models for projects to come. The ideal candidate will design concepts and techniques, be familiar with computer applications, have strong communication skills, and have the ability to work independently.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Collaborate with the creative team about client needs
  • Propose budget and production schedules to clients
  • Design rough drafts for client approval
  • Conduct demographic and industry research
  • Create content using traditional or digital tools and platforms
  • Refine initial drafts and revise using traditional or digital tools
  • Format or share final files, if necessary, for creative review
  • Deliver final assets for client review

Education and experience

  • This position requires a high school diploma or GED
  • Bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree from a college or university preferred

Required skills and qualifications

  • Expertise with traditional tools and digital tools such as Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Strong communication skills
  • Ability to work under tight deadlines
  • Expertise in the principles of their chosen artistic field
  • Proficiency with design enhancement platforms and software
  • Keen knowledge of emerging trends

Preferred qualifications

  • 3+ years of experience with Adobe Photoshop
  • 3+ years of experience with Adobe Illustrator
  • Knowledge of 3D Studio Max or Maya
  • Knowledge of AutoCAD or Revit

Typical work environment

Artists typically work in a collaborative workspace with other team members, but there may also be some projects that require working independently. Hours vary based on the project and company.

Typical hours

The work hours for a full-time artist are typically from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, in an office setting.

Available certifications and classes

There are plenty of great classes for aspiring artists looking to improve. Sites like Skillshare and Coursera both have a plethora of resources to help on your journey. There are also certifications for artists out there. Here is one of the most popular:

  • Adobe Certified Professional – This certification is an industry-recognized credential that effectively validates one’s skills in Adobe Creative Cloud applications. If you plan to work in art and design, having this certification can set you apart from other applicants.

Career path

The journey to becoming a professional artist can take many different directions. All of them require building a proven, exceptional skill set.

Many artists begin their careers by earning a bachelor’s degree in fine art, visual media, or related field of study. Some candidates even go on to pursue a master’s degree in order to further expand their expertise, but a robust creative portfolio will offset a lack of formal education. Many professional artists will hone their craft and build experience by freelancing between various full-time positions.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 27-1013

2020 Employment25,900
Projected Employment in 203030,400
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 17% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift4,500 increase

The emergence of digital and social media has grown the potential audience for full-time professional artists. The lines between the consumers and producers of art have blurred.

3D printing has also expanded the production capabilities of full-time and freelance artists. The most versatile artists will master these new platforms to engage directly with their audiences, creating value as brand ambassadors for prospective clients.