Job Description: Fine artists typically display their work in museums, commercial art galleries, corporate collections and private homes. Some of their artwork may be commissioned but most is sold by the artist or through private art galleries or dealers. Only the most successful fine artists are able to support themselves solely through the sale of their work.
Training and Educational Qualifications: Postsecondary training is recommended for all artist specialties. Many colleges and universities offer programs leading to a bachelor’s or master’s degree in fine arts. Independent schools of art and design also offer postsecondary studio training which typically leads to a certificate in the specialty or to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, while formal educational programs in art also provide training in the computer techniques that are used widely in the visual arts.
Job Outlook: Employment of artists and related workers is expected to grow faster than the average. Competition for jobs is expected to be keen for both salaried and freelance jobs in all specialties, because the number of qualified workers exceeds the number of available openings.
Salary: The median annual earnings of salaried fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, are $41,970. The middle 50 percent earn between $28,500 and $58,550. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $18,350, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $79,390. Earnings data for many self employed fine artists is not available.
• About 62 percent of artists are self employed.
• Artists usually develop their skills through
a bachelor’s degree program or other post secondary training in art or design.
• 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.
From 1996 to 1999, I painted my first commissioned mural in a hospital and subsequently painted murals in private homes; 1999-2000,1 worked in a pottery shop during my second year of college where I sold my finished pieces in the window and assisted others in learning pottery painting techniques; 2000-20011 worked as a gallery assistant. I learned a great deal about galleries and art patronage during this time. From 2001 until now, I have worked as a self employed artist. I paint murals, paintings and pottery.
Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?
Artists can work anywhere. I do believe that it may be easier to make a living in some cities than others. For example, growing up in Ogden, Utah, I know that there were not many art galleries, but many individuals commissioned murals. Savannah, Georgia is a great place to thrive as an artist. There are many galleries, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and people who love and support the arts, as well as the Telfair Art Museum.
What is your typical day like?
There truly is no typical day especially living in such a magical city as Savannah! you never know what opportunity will greet you that day or what (or who!) will inspire you. For example, one day I will go to a private home or business and paint large scale murals on thirty foot tall scaffolding; and the next, I will paint pottery composed of bird motifs that are inspired by a beautiful vintage card I received from my grandmother in the mail. My only constant is knowing that I will paint each day, whether it is a mural, pottery or canvas.
What are your job responsibilities?
Time management is very important in keeping up with the business portion of being an artist, so every morning I look over my goals and responsibilities, including gallery shows, mural work, and other commissions. I then go into my studio and paint on pottery or canvas, whichever I am inspired to do. My paintings have many layers and I like to live with each one for awhile, rotating each canvas and adding layers on daily. Like most creative people I know, I work best at night. I often paint until 4:00 a.m. Since I was fifteen years old, I have painted or drawn almost every day of my life. I paint because I have to.
From a business perspective, I find that the structure necessary to function as a self employed artist includes the following: forming an entity (i.e., LLC), setting up a retirement plan (i.e., SEP or 401 K),
finding and maintaining health insurance (for me, it is Blue Cross Blue Shield), having an accountant, and finally, hiring a lawyer to negotiate contractual agreements.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Some of the best parts about being an artist are expressing my thoughts and feelings; for example, when art is the result of being filled with overwhelming emotion and then I am able to later stand in a gallery, or meet with a client, and see their reaction to what I have created. When emotions are evoked through art that is shared, it makes the interconnectedness of all things and persons in life more apparent and you feel deeply embedded in the vein of life.
I have always loved the process and tools for creating art. Every time I squeeze a fresh tube of paint onto my palette, I feel such happiness, a fluttering in my heart, and gratitude for the moment I am in. The times of fear and uncertainty are outweighed by the end result: I truly feel I am living my dream. Many times a week I recite in my mind the quote by Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
What do you dislike about your job?
There is nothing I dislike about my job.
I believe fear is a major factor that stops most art careers the fear of putting oneself out in the world for others to see. Additionally, artists are faced with the problem solving of being self employed.
How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?
To answer this question, I must first describe my grandmother. She always taught me to seek beauty and notice the details in nature. While camping in the mountains of Star Valley, Wyoming, we picked wild flower bouquets and she pointed out how brilliantly red the Indian Paintbrush was, the delicate billows of the dandelion, and the hummingbirds that so touched her heart. As far as I know, I am the only visual artist in the family, but my mom and sister have always written poetry and I would describe my maternal grandparents as aesthetic souls. I think I always somehow knew I was meant to be an artist.
Have you had any turning point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?
When I was sixteen years old, I saw a poster for the Savannah College of Art and Design and knew at that moment that I was meant to attend the college. Savannah was the most beautiful city I had ever seen dripping Spanish moss accentuating majestic oaks in front of historic facades. While looking at the poster, I remember thinking, what could be more incredible than to study and create art in such a beautiful city?
It was very difficult to leave Utah to attend college in Savannah, especially because my family was all in Utah I was, and continue to be, so close to my mom, a single mother of three. My family could not support my education and college seemed a distant dream. But from the moment I saw that poster, I began working toward obtaining scholarships to make my dream a reality. I was awarded a Presidential Scholarship from the President of Savannah College of Art and Design without which I never could have afforded my education.
At the Savannah College of Art and Design, I studied with Joy Flynn, Darrell Naylor-Johnson, and Sandra Reed (three stand outs among many other great professors). These three individuals provided me the entrepreneurial and technical knowledge, as well as encouragement, to truly begin my career as a full time artist. I began supporting myself with my artwork during my junior year of college and have done so ever since. Much to my delight, in May 2005, my mom, sister, and nephew moved to Savannah.
Describe how you got into this industry and how you got your most recent job.
I painted every day of my life and did not let fear stop me. Time management, dedication and love for what I do have all helped me along my path. I’ve learned that as an artist, it is very important to have a business card and Web site. With these two tools, you can provide others with immediate access to what you do; it is very effective in gaining commissions, selling current work, and spreading word of your talent.
If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?
More than anything, I would love to teach. It is my hope that in a few years I will teach Professional Practices in Art at the collegiate level, as well as general painting and art history courses. I would also be interested in art director positions, owning and running a gallery, and working at a museum. Anything to do with art!
What publications do you read?
I wake up every day and read the Savannah Morning News, and then I read through CNN.com. Literature is an important inspiration to my work. I love the classics and new literature.
What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?
Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you. Take it a day at a time and live the life you have imagined. Work each day toward “self actualizing;” become the best person you know you can be. Don’t listen to “dream squashers.” Surround yourself with positive people who inspire you and believe in you. Ask for advice from people you admire.
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