How To Become a Fine Artist in 10 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 17, 2021

Fine artists produce works of art for cultural, aesthetic, personal and commercial purposes. They may work in a variety of artistic mediums, with diverse materials and stylistic outcomes. If you are creative and want to incorporate your artistic talents into your professional life, you may be interested in learning about the career options for fine artists. In this article, we discuss what professional artists do, the types of environments in which they work and how to become a fine artist.

What does a fine artist do?

A fine artist produces original work using one or more artistic mediums. They may potentially take part in painting, sculpting, drawing, printmaking and digital media art-making. Some artist's work may be focused on a particular subject matter or done in a specific style, while others may produce their art with a diversity of subjects or styles. Fine artists may display and sell their work in venues such as art galleries, through art dealers or they may work directly with art patrons.

Fine artists create their works to be displayed and sold in galleries or through art brokers. Works can also be commissioned by private collectors, organizations or governments for purchase. In the case of digital media, an artist's work may be purchased by advertising firms, marketing teams of corporations, or media companies. Additionally, some fine artists may work as part of a creative team or staff within a company. Here are six examples of things that fine artists regularly do while working:

  • Preparing to create: This often involves brainstorming ideas and producing sketches, drafts and prototypes.

  • Obtaining and prepping materials: Sourcing and prepping materials like canvasses, paints and clays for artistic works are important to the overall aesthetic outcome of an artistic project.

  • Developing a portfolio: This involves gathering a body of artistic works for a portfolio. It can also include taking high-resolution photographs of artistic creations.

  • Making business connections: This process revolves around interacting with potential gallery partners or clients.

  • Relationship building and networking: Building and solidifying relationships with art dealers, brokers and gallery owners is crucial to developing your professional reputation, defining your personal brand and building a network.

  • Communicating with clients: When communicating with clients, artists listen to their project goals or personal desires, and discuss the ways they might meet those expectations. It also involves negotiating the sale and commissions of artistic works.

Read more:Top Arts Careers for All Types of Artists

Work environment for artists

Artists can work independently in a personal studio, or they may work as a part of a team of creators in a collective space. Fine artists may even work as illustrators, sculptors, art professors, fashion designers, graphic designers or digital art directors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average national salary for a fine artist is $49,120 per year.

However, the average national salary for an illustrator is $48,707 per year and $71,994 per year for a digital art director, so compensation is likely to vary between artists who do different things with their creative talents. Depending on your career path, the work environment for artists can be internally inspired and autonomous—or it can adhere to external deadlines and center on collaborative initiatives or external creative directives.

Regardless of the specific artistic job you pursue, working as a fine artist will include hours of time dedicated to creating. People in this position may create their art in independent creative spaces or artistic agencies. They may work with pencil art, oil paints, clay, marble, wood or digital mediums.

Related: How To Become an Art Director: Steps To Take and Skills Needed

How to become a professional fine artist

Here are 10 steps to stake to start and develop a career as a professional fine artist:

1. Practice with multiple artistic mediums

Practicing and mastering multiple artistic mediums can provide you with a depth and breadth of skills that increase your marketability and reputation as a fine artist. Artists must always be learning new skills and refining their existing skills so as to remain on the cutting edge of artistic innovation.

Additionally, experimenting with new art forms and new mediums may lead to inspiration or the discovery of new talents or passions. It may also lead to new connections within the industry, which can be crucial to your career development.

2. Earn a bachelor's degree

Earning a bachelor's degree in fine arts at an accredited college or university provides a solid foundation in core artistic skills such as sketching, painting and materials management. As an undergraduate student, you're likely to study art history, art appreciation and digital arts.

Attending an undergraduate program in fine art, or a related major, can help you broaden your skill set and knowledge base. It can also give you access to experienced teachers and artists, and it's likely to help you build a network of peers and colleagues for future collaboration or business engagements.

Related:10 Careers You Can Pursue With a Liberal Arts Degree

3. Complete an internship

Internships are highly effective ways of gaining on-the-job training and developing hands-on skills. These opportunities also offer experience communicating with galleries, collectors, buyers and artists, and they are beneficial for making connections in the art world and local artistic community.

Reach out to your professor, academic advisor or student services coordinator to find out about applying to an internship program during the last two years of your undergraduate degree. Additionally, you may be able to find information reputable job search portals, gallery websites, or art journals.

4. Create art

An artist is defined by the art they create. Creating and experimenting with the production of art is an essential component of becoming a fine artist. By spending time creating, an aspiring artist can facilitate their own learning and development, and they are likely to sharpen their skills. Also, this work is critical to gaining a positive reputation and following in the world of fine art.

Read more: Creativity Skills: Definition, Tips and Examples

5. Connect with other artists

Reaching out and connecting with other artists is very beneficial for further developing your artistic abilities and expanding your professional network. Try connecting with others using social media or joining professional groups. You can also try joining or forming a collective creative space to share ideas techniques. These groups are helpful for gaining access to other artist's network connections, and they can be a fantastic means of advancing as a professional artist.

6. Consider earning an MFA

Earning a Master's in Fine Art (MFA) provides students with advanced skills and training to enhance their portfolios and professional reputations as artists. Here are five positive outcomes that can come from earning an MFA:

  • Access to well-studied artists and professors of art: Access to high-level educators with specialties in unique, or advanced, art forms.

  • Intensive artistic training: Developing and sustaining an effective studio practice that is disciplined, consistent and conducive to thriving as a professional artist.

  • Extensive knowledge of craft: By engaging in an MFA program you can increase your knowledge of different techniques and artistic concepts. It can also give you access to materials, techniques and tools to develop and your craft and professional artistry.

  • Exposure to art history: Deepening and expanding awareness of art history, which includes influential artists, important artistic techniques and artistic movements.

  • In-depth study of influential artists: Exposure to the lineage of artists and artistic expressions that are crucial for enhancing appreciation and personal passion for artistic work.

Read more:Tips for Choosing the Right Master's Degree Program

7. Decide what type of art inspires you

Deciding the type of art that inspires you is critical to creating focus and direction in your effort towards becoming a professional artist. Think about both artistic styles and techniques that intrigue you, and seek out opportunities to view or experiment with different art forms.

It's important to remember this decision can help you focus, and it can direct you to the specific skills or materials you need to develop those skills, and it may even help you create connections within your target audience. However, it is not a final decision. Being a fine artist is a creative and imaginative career choice, and one of the core benefits of this career is the freedom of expression. So, if your inspiration changes over time, it's perfectly natural to allow your art and creations change and adapt as well.

Read more:18 Creativity Exercises To Improve Creative Thinking and Problem-Solving at Work

8. Create two portfolios

Creating both a physical and digital portfolio are crucial tools for finding work—and finding success—in today's artistic environment. Your physical portfolio should house examples of your drawings, paintings, or other types of works, while your digital portfolio will be an online link to your comprehensive collection of completed works.

Creating a strong digital portfolio, with high-quality digital renderings of your work, is important for showcasing your talent as an artist as well as your ability to market that talent as a professional. Including a link to your digital portfolio on your resume or social media page can help you make connections, and it may even help you find work.

9. Create a resume

Crafting an eye-catching and persuasive resume that clearly displays your artistic education, background and experience is an important step on the path to becoming a fine artist. Emphasizing specific artistic skills acquired, degrees obtained and your most impressive achievements are all important for creating a powerful resume. Providing links to your portfolio of works in the resume can give hiring managers and recruiters a more comprehensive understanding of who you are as an artist and professional.

Read more:Creative Ideas To Help Your Resume Stand Out From the Crowd

10. Apply for an entry-level position

Apply for an entry-level position at a place that is relevant to your career goals as a fine artist. It's a constructive way to gain knowledge, experience and connections. Working in places such as galleries, art supply stores, museums and studios is a great way to broaden your knowledge and demonstrate your commitment to your career goals.

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