13 Skills for Fine Artists (Plus Steps for Improvement)

Updated March 10, 2023

Fine artists create visual pieces of art for aesthetic, business and decorative purposes. These professionals can work in a variety of careers, including on a freelance basis. If you're interested in becoming a fine artist, it's helpful to understand which skills may benefit you the most in your career. In this article, we discuss fine artist skills and share the steps you can take to improve your fine art skills.

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What is a fine artist?

A fine artist is an innovative professional who creates artistic works from one or two mediums. Fine artists can have a variety of specialties, including painting, sculpting, sketching and creating digital art. These professionals may work for organizations or seek self-employment where they complete commission work. Some of the job duties a fine artist is responsible for includes:

  • Brainstorming ideas: In order to create a piece of artwork, the artists must first brainstorm ideas and make plans for their project.

  • Gathering materials: Once they have an idea, an artist gathers supplies such as paint, canvases, software and other tools artists use to create their work.

  • Creating a portfolio: Many artists build portfolios to demonstrate their abilities and share their art with others.

  • Marketing their abilities: When taking commission work, artists find ways to market their abilities such as creating social media profiles, attending craft fairs and networking with other professionals.

  • Selling their work: Many artists sell their own work, which can entail setting prices and arranging for deliveries.

  • Building relationships: Building relationships with other professionals and customers is important for artists because it allows them to share their work and find potential clients.

Related: How To Make a Digital Portfolio That Gets You Hired

13 Examples of fine artist skills

Here are some examples of technical skills fine artists often need:

1. Communication

Fine artists use communication skills when working with clients. Often, fine artists need strong communication skills to build relationships with others and ensure that they understand their client's requests. This can include sending updates to their client as they make progress on the artwork and listening to feedback. Artists also use this skill to communicate with clients without the use of industry jargon.

Related: Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

2. Realistic drawing

Realistic drawing skills involve the ability to accurately draw artwork that mimics real life. Though not all fine artists use this style, it's important to understand how to make art that looks realistic. Mastering this skill can allow you to create realistic portraits, landscapes and object-oriented art. Artists use this skill to meet client expectations and create complex artwork.

3. Constructive drawing

When practices constructive drawing, fine artists build the subjects of their art on the medium they choose. This can include combining shapes to create a rough outline of what the artist paints or draws later. This skill often helps fine artists create realistic art and helps them master other basic skills of art, such as line work and symmetry.

4. Time management

Because some artists work under deadlines, it's important for these professionals to possess strong time-management abilities. This allows them to complete their work in a timely fashion without needing to rush. Artists who have these skills are often able to accept more clients at the same time, which can raise their earning potential.

5. Drawing from life

When artists draw from life, they create realistic images of subjects they can see while they create their art. This can include drawing models or still-life pictures. This ability requires the combination of other skills, such as attention to detail and, in cases involving human models, the knowledge of human anatomy.

6. Drawing from memory and imagination

The ability to draw from memory or imagination is a very valuable skill for fine artists who take requests for commission work, as it often involves creating an image of something their client is describing. Because artists may not be able to find a real-life model for these ideas, they use their imagination to create artwork for their clients. This is also a great skill to use when creating works of fantasy and surrealism.

Related: How To Become a Video Game Concept Artist in 8 Steps

7. Knowledge of art materials

Having a strong knowledge of art materials, including where to get them, how to use them and their effects is essential when creating art. This allows fine artists to create pieces in their own style and on various mediums. In some cases, having this knowledge also allows fine artists to create higher quality artwork and it may save them time and money if they understand which materials they should invest in.

8. Networking

Fine artists use networking skills to market their abilities and art and to build relationships with other art professionals. These relationships are useful when looking for work or advice because the artist can refer to other professionals in their network for help. In order to advance your networking skills, consider creating a social media account dedicated to your work or attending industry conferences.

9. Understanding of perspective

Perspective describes how a viewer might observe a piece of art. For example, if an artist makes a painting of the sky, they might paint it as if the viewer is looking up from the ground. This would create an entirely different painting than an artist who uses an eye-level perspective.

It's important for artists to understand perspectives and have the ability to make artwork from different points of view to add variety to their work. The perspective of a piece of art also changes other important aspects, such as sizing details and shading.

Related: 40 Jobs You Can Do With a Degree in Fine Arts

10. Computer skills

The proficiency level of computer skills an artist may need often depends on their preferred art medium and how they sell their work. For example, a fine artist who specializes in painting likely would only need enough computer skills to network and sell their work. On the other hand, digital artists would need advanced computer knowledge to learn how to operate the software they use to create their work.

11. Knowledge of proportions

Proportions describe a subject's specific sizing requirements, often in reference to something else. Understand how to properly proportion images allows artists to create aesthetically pleasing artwork. Artists can use proportions to create realistic art or purposely distort the proportions of an image to create something surrealist.

12. Understanding of color theory

Color theory is the study of how colors are created and how they work with each other. Understanding color theory allows artists to mix their colored art materials, such as paint, to create a new color and helps them pick an aesthetically pleasing color palette for their work.

13. Composition

Composition skills require knowledge of a variety of artistic techniques and topics, such as shapes, color, form, texture and space. Composition involves how an artist creates a work of art as a whole, detailing each step the artist makes to add to their work. Having composition skills allow fine artists to create works with complex backgrounds and multiple subjects. It also gives the artists the necessary knowledge they need to understand how each aspect of their artwork interacts with each other, such as perspective and shading and proportions and space.

How to improve fine artist skills

In order to improve your fine artist skills, consider following these steps:

1. Take classes

Consider taking classes that focus on art topics that interest you the most, such as sculpting or digital art. Taking classes allows you the chance to learn from a professional and can grant you valuable information on your preferred art medium as well as the industry as a whole. Consider auditing a class at a post-secondary school in your area or from a community center. If you're interested in advancing your skills even further, you might consider enrolling in an associates or bachelor's program.

2. Develop your own style

One way an artist can differentiate themselves from others in their field is to develop their own style. This can mean mastering a certain genre, technique or even a niche topic. It also can include choosing a specific art medium to work with. To develop your own style, try to observe other fine artists, including your peers and established professionals. Observing other artists' art and techniques can help you decide which styles you like and give you ideas for developing your own.

3. Practice

Once you start developing your own style, practice your art by creating new pieces for your portfolio. Consider trying new art mediums as you practice and expand your skills. This can help you understand which areas you may need to improve on and give you the confidence to advance your career as you build a portfolio.

Related: How To Become a Fine Artist in 10 Steps

4. Ask for advice

Remember to ask for advice from your peers and other professionals. Consider seeking out a mentor who understands your work and is available to answer questions you may have about the art industry. Asking for advice and being open to receiving feedback can help you improve specific skills that help you become a better fine artist.

Fine artist skills in the workplace

Some other fine artists skills professionals may use in the workplace include:

  • Collaboration: Artists use collaboration skills in a variety of projects and often may work with other artists to complete a project. This can include working on the same stage of the project together, like painting a mural or working in consecutive stages to finish a project, such as a photographer taking photos and another artist editing them.

  • Critical thinking: Critical thinking skills allows fine artists to translate their creative ideas into physical forms of art.

  • Financial management: Because many fine artists are self-employed, it's helpful to have financial management skills to run their own business and price their art.

  • Self-motivation: Self-motivated artists can meet deadlines and stay productive at work.

  • Attention to detail: Attention to detail is an important skill for artists to learn because it allows them to fulfill commissions for clients and create complex works of art.

  • Planning: Planning skills help artists gather their supplies and set deadlines for projects.

  • Research: Artists use research skills to stay up-to-date with technical information and create detailed artwork based on history, artistic styles and other topics of inspiration.

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How to highlight fine artist skills

Highlighting your fine artist skills during the hiring process and while you work can help you earn new positions and promotions. Here's how you can highlight your fine artist skills:

Resume and cover letter

When creating a resume and cover letter for a new job, it's important to read the job posting carefully. This can help you decide which skills you should mention in your application. Try to highlight your skills in your resume by both listing applicable talents in the skills section of your resume and by mentioning them when explaining your previous job duties.

Consider highlighting these skills further in your cover letter by explaining how your fine art skills can help you complete the job tasks the company lists in the job description.

Job interview

During your interview, the hiring manager might ask you questions that determine how skilled you're in fine art. You may answer situational questions that require an in-depth response, it's beneficial to practice your answers. When creating answers to these questions, consider how you can include your fine art skills in your answers.

For example, if you're interviewing for a muralist position, the interviewer may ask what you would do in the event that the weather impeded your work. When answering, you may mention how you use your time management skills to keep your project on track even after delays.

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