Fine artists create original illustrations, paintings, sculpture and other works of art for exhibition or sale. They use a variety of materials, tools and application techniques and choose specific colours, composition and perspective for artistic effect. Pieces are made to inspire, inform and provoke, focusing more on aesthetics, emotion and meaning than function.
- Photograph or sketch people, places and objects to be used as a reference or as inspiration
- Develop creative ideas for a new project
- Sketch out those ideas and create templates or models as guides for the final version
- Select colours, textures, materials and tools for the design
- Draw, paint, sculpt or otherwise form the artistic work
- Use perspective, space, composition and colour juxtaposition to create desired visual effects
- Consider throughout the process which choices will achieve the aesthetics and reactions you desire
- Experiment with new ways of making art
- Collaborate with other artists in creating a single work or using each other's work as inspiration
- Enhance and protect artistic work with additions like framing, pedestals and protective glass
- Apply for grants or network for donors to financially support your artistic endeavours
- Create a portfolio featuring examples of your best work to show to gallery owners and others
- Create illustrations or other artwork according to client expectations and direction
- Exhibit work at galleries, museums, fairs, online marketplaces and other outlets
- Establish a social media presence and cultivate a following for your work
- Teach art in schools or at workshops in your studio
Skills and qualities
Creative careers can be volatile, depending on the current market for art and your own creative output. Talented, dependable fine artists can get permanent positions in creative industries. They can also develop long-term relationships with clients and have steady work as an independent artist.
The ultimate goal is to progress creatively as an artist and become well known for a particular style or technique. Popular artists who continue to innovate and intrigue potential buyers can eventually command very high prices for their work.
Set your own hours
Most fine artists are self-employed and work full time. You will typically meet with clients during standard business hours, but otherwise, you can set your own schedule. Overtime may be required to meet deadlines.
Fine artists may work in art studios in office buildings, warehouses, lofts or a personal home studio. Some artists work and exhibit their creations in a shared studio space. This arrangement saves on overhead costs while capitalising on resources and networking.
Studios are generally well-ventilated, but you may be exposed to chemical fumes, dust, residue and other potential hazards. Burns and other injuries can result from working with blown glass, welding metal and other sculpting or building techniques. Artists use goggles, breathing masks and other protective gear to mitigate these risks.
Some fine artists work part time at another job to fund their creative endeavours and have a stable income for living expenses.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Qualifications and training
Art and design coursework can be helpful
While fine artists don't necessarily need a formal degree, most pursue postsecondary coursework to learn various artistic techniques. This can help you find your preferred medium of expression as well as offer opportunities to build your portfolio.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits hundreds of schools that offer a bachelor's degree in art. Some specialised fine arts jobs, like medical illustrator, require a degree. Teaching jobs may require additional certification, depending on state law.
Fine artists can also improve their skills by training with an experienced artist or attending workshops offered by studios, museums, galleries and other art-related organisations.
SourcesBureau of Labor Statistics National Association of Schools of Art and Design O*NET OnLine Oxford Martin School
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022