What is this job like?
Artists make art to express what they are feeling or thinking. They use many methods—drawing, painting, sculpting. They use an assortment of materials—different kinds of paints, pencils, and pens, plaster, clay, and even computers. Artists’ works may show objects, people, nature, or events.
Artists fall into one of several groups. Art directors design and look at material that is going to be in magazines, newspapers, and other printed or digital form. They decide which art to use.
Multi-media artists and animators create art on film, on video, or with computers. They draw by hand and use computers to create the large pictures that form movies, television programs, and computer games.
Fine artists create original art. They specialize in one or two art forms, such as painting, illustrating, sketching, sculpting, printmaking, and restoring. Many fine artists have a second job as a curator or teacher.
Craft artists create or reproduce hand-made objects for sale or to exhibit in galleries or museums. They may use many different materials and the same types of techniques as those used by fine artists.
Illustrators create pictures for books, magazines, and other publications. They also create pictures for products such as wrapping paper, stationery, greeting cards, and calendars. Illustrators work directly on a computer. Medical and scientific illustrators combine drawing skills with knowledge of biology or other sciences.
Cartoonists draw political, advertising, social, and sports cartoons. Some cartoonists work with others who create the idea or story and write the captions.
Sketch artists draw using pencil, charcoal, or pastels. Their work can be used by many different people for a wide range of purposes.
Sculptors make artwork using clay, glass, wire, fabric, plaster, wood, or stone. Some combine materials to make art.
Printmakers create printed images. They use wood, stone, or metal. Some also use computers to aid in their work.
Painting restorers restore damaged and faded paintings.
Many artists work in art studios. Others work in their homes. Some share studio space, where they also may show their work. Work areas have a lot of light and air. However, artists may be exposed to fumes from glue, paint, ink, and other materials and to dust from filings, splattered paint, or spilled fluids. They may get back pain or eyestrain, or feel tired.
Artists may work extra hours to meet deadlines. Self-employed artists can set their own hours. They spend a lot of time selling their art and building a reputation.
How do you get ready?
Though formal training is not strictly necessary for artists, it is good to take art courses in high school. It is hard to be successful without some training.
Many colleges and universities offer bachelor's or master's degree programs in fine arts. Independent schools of art and design offer associate and bachelor's degree programs in art. These educational programs include training in computer techniques. Knowing how to use a computer is very important.
Art directors usually start as entry-level artists in a firm and work their way up to being a director. First they must show their artistic and leadership abilities. Some may get a degree in art administration.
Medical illustrators need a bachelor's degree combining art and premedical courses. A master's degree in medical illustration is recommended, but only five schools in the United States offer this degree.
Those who want to teach art at public elementary or secondary schools must have a teaching certificate and a bachelor's degree.
Artists hired by a firm often start with routine tasks. They may also sell their work privately. The most successful artists constantly come up with new ideas.
Artists usually prepare a "portfolio"—a collection of samples of their work. This collection shows their talent and skill, and it helps them sell their art and get jobs.
Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
See also: Artists.