Working as an Artist in the New Millennium
The most important traits a prospective artist should possess are talent, passion, and drive
- Annika Connor, Painter
Who we are as artists is a combination of all of our experiences, the more things you experience, the stronger your voice will become as an artist.
- David Gallaher, Comic Book Writer
Career Paths in Art
Art is an expansive field comprised of multiple disciplines, ranging from music to painting, industrial design to the performing arts. Below, prospective artists, performers, designers and musicians alike can explore different professional training and programs that prepare them for profitable careers in art-related fields.
The inherent creativity found within the various branches of art means that future artists can paint, draw, sketch, design, and fashion any number of distinct employment paths. Below is a list of potential employment options open to individuals interested in a career in art.
Graphic design is a sweeping profession, one that has fluid boundaries between its different career paths. The field itself is concerned with communicating ideas through visual and textual mediums. A rapidly changing field, the rise of digital media and the Internet have introduced emerging career opportunities in design.
- Visual Designer Visual designers are concerned with how a website looks and feels to the user. They produce the elements (e.g. icons, graphics, buttons, and images) that users see on a website or mobile device. Visual designers employ design principles, such as typography and iconography, as well as the use of space, color, and texture, to craft innovative and engaging visuals.
- User Interface Designer Known as UI designers, these professionals understand how design impacts a user's experience and interaction with a website. Employing skills in graphic design, audience analysis, and website architecture, user interface designers develop wireframes that determine how the site visually communicates the site's layout and user's interaction with that layout.
- Graphic Designer Graphic designers use their knowledge of design elements, art, and technology to create visual concepts that are used in traditional mediums, such as print advertisements, and new mediums, such as websites. In their role, graphic designers help identify how to best translate an idea into a visual message and communicate that message to different audiences.
Music is a broad and dynamic field, one that includes a diverse array of potential career avenues outside of becoming a musician. Music covers a spectrum of professional areas, such as composition; production and engineering; film scoring; music composition; music therapy; and music education.
- Composer Composers work with music, creating and arranging musical scores for a variety of uses. These compositions span musical genres (e.g. jazz, country) and may be developed for live or recorded purposes. Composes may create the soundtrack for a commercial or video game, develop a musical score for an orchestral performance, or write a composition for a musical performer.
- Conductor Conductors prepare and direct musical ensembles and orchestras. They control musical performances, bringing together the members of the orchestra, setting the tempo, and shape the overall interpretation of a piece of music. Conductors may also select an orchestra's musical catalog, schedule and manage rehearsal performances, promote performances, and even coordinate entire seasons of musical performances.
- Arranger Musical arrangers determine and assemble the different components of a musical composition, such as the tempo, structure, voice, and instruments. Selections are made based on the needs of the particular composition and the performer, whether an individual artist, orchestra or band. Skilled in musical theory, arrangers understand the latest trends in music and may work across genres.
A career in fashion is usually associated with design. However, design is not the only available career avenue. For individuals who don't have an interest in sewing or sketching a design, fashion is also home to diverse opportunities in sales and marketing, merchandising, production, public relations, retail, and journalism.
- Fashion Merchandiser Fashion merchandisers combine their sense of style along with a knowledge of sales and marketing to buy, sell, and promote fashion. A diverse occupation, fashion merchandizing involves directing marketing campaigns and sales strategies in boutiques, with fashion designers, retail outlets, or apparel manufactures.
- Visual Stylist Also known as Visual Merchandiser, visual stylists plan, create, and decorate merchandise displays in department stores and other retail establishments. This includes elements such as window displays and holiday decorations—presentations designed to improve the sales of fashion merchandise.
- Fashion Designer Fashion designers create fashion apparel for men, women and children, as well as accessories such as handbags or scarves. They study fashion trends, create unique designs and materials and are responsible for the development of a piece of clothing from inception to production. A varied field, some fashion designers work independently, while others may work for a manufacturing firm or fashion design house.
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Art Degree Paths
Artist Salary & Employment Growth Snapshot
Employment growth is projected to be varied among the numerous professions within the arts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Across the industry, the BLS expects 7 percent job growth nationally between 2012 and 2022. Below is a look at the employment outlook for three unique art careers—multimedia artist, graphic designer, and fashion designer.
|Occupation||Median Salary||Job Growth||Growth Outlook||Education Required|
|Fashion Designer||$64,030||-3.0%||Declining||Bachelor's degree|
|Graphic Designer||$45,900||6.7%||Slower than average||Bachelor's degree|
|Multimedia Artist||$63,630||6.3%||Slower than average||Bachelor's degree|
The beauty of art as a profession is its diversity, presenting a multitude of potential career paths in any number of areas, such as photography, fine art, digital media, spatial design, fashion, graphic design, and writing. Below is a list of art-related careers worth considering.
|Occupation||Median Salary||Job Growth||Education Required|
|Choreographer||$44,250||24.3%||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Art Therapist||$44,000||13.4%||Bachelor's degree|
|Music Director||$48,180||4.5%||Bachelor's degree|
|Sculptor||$43,890||3.8%||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Makeup Artist||$44,310||3.1%||Postsecondary non-degree award|
|Art Teacher (Secondary)||$64,300||16.0%||Master's degree|
|Set Designer||$49,810||6.3%||Bachelor's degree|
|Industrial Designer||$64,620||4.4%||Bachelor's degree|
|Fashion Buyer||$106,090||2.1%||Bachelor's degree|
Ask the Professionals
Q & A With David Gallaher, Comic Book Writer
Why did you choose to pursue a career in art?
Do you have formal training? If so, what type? Where did you go to school?
How did you end up in the world of comics? Why did you choose that field?
What are some of the key skills and attributes you've developed as you've gained professional experience?
What advice do you have for a prospective student considering a degree or career in an art-related field?
What is your favorite part of working in comics?
Q & A With Annika Connor, Painter
Why did you choose to pursue a career in art, specifically painting?
Are you formally trained? Where did you complete your training?
What's the professional world of painting like? Is it possible for prospective painters to find a place where they can earn a living?
What are the biggest mistakes aspiring artists typically make and how can they avoid them?
Q & A With Lyle Salmi, Associate Professor
Why should students consider a career in art?
What art fields are experiencing growth?
Are there lesser known art career avenues that students should consider to explore?
What advice do you have for students considering pursuing a career in art?
The Artist's Life:
Attributes & Skills To Being An Artist
While creativity is the cornerstone of any artistic profession, artists need to develop a range of complementary skills central to their chosen craft, whether in art, music, fashion, or related field. Below is an overview of the different types of skill sets required for three divergent career paths: Artist, Curator, and Creative Director.
Artists: storytellers that use different mediums (e.g. paint, sculptures) to create a piece of art that tells a narrative.
|Composition||Artists must have knowledge of composition techniques, such as the rule of thirds, to control how a viewer sees and engages with an image.|
|Visualization||The ability to imagine how objects will appear when moved, altered or rearranged is crucial when designing the layout of an image.|
|Perspective||Perspective controls how and where objects are placed within a picture and artists should have skills to work in different perspectives, such as one-point and two-point perspective.|
|Value||Value determines the brightness and darkness of an image and artists used value to distinguish between objects in an image.|
|Color||Artists use color to tell stories and convey emotion and they should be able to leverage color to control composition and perspective.|
|Lighting||Lighting is a major element of image creation and artists should understand how to use lighting to create depth within an image.|
Curators: research, cultivate, oversee and manage collections (e.g. artwork, historical artifacts) for museums, libraries, government agencies and other organizations.
|Project Management||Curators must have keen project management skills to handle different projects, from cataloging to arranging the restoration of an artifact|
|Communication||The ability to communicate clearly is valuable as they may present research findings, lecture about a piece of art, or work closely with colleagues on presentations|
|Strategic Thinking and Planning||An understanding of how to acquire, organize and design exhibits of artistic collections|
|Writing||Curators need strong writing skills to craft grant proposals, develop publicity materials, write institutional reports, or journal articles|
|Administration and Management||Curators should have skills in management and administration as they may train and manage staff, supervise interns, and oversee a budget|
|Research||A core skill, curators should be experienced researchers in their field of study (e.g. Roman artifacts)|
Creative directors: shape the creative standards, vision and style of an agency, marketing department or other organizations.
|Originality||The ability to generate new, fresh and unique ideas about different topics|
|Active Listening||Creative Directors should be able to listen closely to clients and ask appropriate questions to drive creative discussions.|
|Problem Solving||An understanding of how to identify complex problems-whether in design or branding-evaluate options and devise solutions.|
|Decisive||Creative Directors need to be able to provide clear direction when it comes to design.|
|Detail-Oriented||Creative Directors must be able to comprehend the big picture of a project, knowledgeable about market strategy, demographics, and analytics.|
|Creativity||Design skills in color, form, and typography, are important for a Creative Director to possess in different design mediums, including graphic, visual, and multimedia design.|
Art Career Resources
Professional associations and nonprofit organizations support the breadth of the arts—from interior design to graphic design—providing a range of resources that foster the growth of students and encouraging their development as artists. Below is a snapshot of some of the industry-specific associations and groups that provide student memberships, scholarships, and other forms of assistance to budding art professionals from every background.
Known as the AIGA, it is the leading professional membership organization for design professionals and currently has more than 25,000 members across 70 chapters. AIGA support students through student group communities—designed to foster student involvement in the design profession.
With approximately 24,000 members, the ASID is one of the largest professional association for interior designers. The ASID provides student membership opportunities, educational resources, and networking events.
The Artist Trust provides a wide selection of professional development resources and links to organizations in topics ranging from art funding to employment, continuing education to promotion and marketing
Founded in 1972, the Art Libraries Society of North America is an organization dedicated to the art librarian profession. Students can join and gain access to the member directory, attend conferences, and participate in a range of special interest groups.
Created in 1998, the AMP focuses on the entire spectrum of music production, from development to product release. Offering different types of memberships, the AMP provides opportunities for networking and professional development.
The Fashion Industry Association offers free membership and has a goal of helping professionals and future professionals network—whether retailers, models, photographers, or makeup artists.
A membership-based organization for creative professionals, the Graphic Artists Guild offers a range of resources, from the opportunity to post a member portfolio for potential clients to webinars and training sessions, industry news to career listings.
The professional organization for the industrial design sector, the IDS offers student membership, educational opportunities, college scholarships, networking events and other resources for its members.
The IIDA offers a student membership program that helps future interior designers gain access to professional development opportunities not available on campus, including mentoring programs, networking events, a career center, design competitions, and student awards.
The NAME is an arts organization that supports music education, advocating for resources at the local, state and national levels. Offering collegiate membership, NAME provides a range of student-focused benefits, including access to its journal, videos and other publications, as well as conferences and networking events.
The New York Art Resources Consortium includes the research libraries of The Brooklyn Museum, The Frick Collection and the Museum of Modern Art. Open to researchers, including students, the consortium also offers graduate student internships in specific areas, such as web archiving.
Dedicated to advancing the field of contemporary art history, the Society of Contemporary Art Historians provides career development resources for scholars and graduate students, including a graduate student advocacy committee.
Founded in 1901, the Society of Illustrators promotes the art of illustration and supports the education and development of student illustrators through a student scholarship competition and membership benefits for student members.
Students can participate in either an undergraduate and graduate student forum, with the future goal of establishing a membership program for future art museum curators.
Supporting the work of librarians in multiple fields, such as theatre and dance, the Theatre Library Association promotes the development of future professionals through scholarships, access to student resources, and career opportunities in the industry.
Women Arts supports the work of women artists through a variety of resources, including an online directory of more than 1,500 female artists, funding resources, industry emails, and professional development activities.