“If you’re lucky, you’ll spend most of your time alone and working,” wrote one 20-year
veteran painter. The artist seeks to express a specific and unique vision through painting,
sculpture, drawing, or mixed media. While many spend time in workshops, attending other
artists’ shows and seminars, and doing research, the heart of the profession—the reason why
people choose to join the very selective fine arts—is that they love what they do.
Numerous artists use their specific set of marketable tools as freelance commercial artists,
producing work on consignment to another’s specifications.
Some note that this selling of their skills at times
affects their ability to produce their own work. “It’s hard to
paint my own pictures when I’m sketching a box of oats
all day,” said one.
History is filled with examples of self-schooled artists with no formal educational training.
They are both brilliant and innovative; unfortunately, history is also filled with examples
of starving artists who died in obscurity. Formal educational training in this field is becoming
the norm, with most earning BFAs in graphic design, painting, or art history. Some find
it helpful to continue their education and earn graduate degrees (primarily MFAs), particularly
if they desire to teach painting at the secondary level or above. Many academic programs
provide at least an introduction to computer-assisted art. Artists tend to congregate around
major urban centers, such as New York and San Francisco, in which the multiplicity of galleries
and artists makes it easier to form connections; this also offers the unproven artist the
opportunity to have his or her work shown.
Artists have a number of opportunities available to them, both during their careers as
artists and after they’ve decided to hang up their brushes. Many work as commercial artists,
computer artists, and electronic layout consultants using their aesthetic and representational
skills in higher-paying professions. Some become art directors for magazines, online
services, software companies, or publishing houses. Other artists move into advertising,
promotion, and product design.