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Fine Artists - Painters, Sculptors, And Illustrators Career

Career Description

A Fine Artist specializes in one or two art forms, such as painting, illustrating, sketching, sculpting, printmaking, and restoring.  Painters, illustrators, cartoonists, and sketch artists work with two-dimensional art forms, using shading, perspective, and color to produce realistic scenes or abstractions.

Common Work Tasks

  • Display work in museums, commercial art galleries, corporate collections, and private homes
  • Receive commissions for artwork from clients
  • Sell artwork in art galleries or hire an art dealer to sell works
  • Work in museums or art galleries as fine-arts directors or as curators, planning and setting up art exhibits
  • Work as art critics for newspapers or magazines or as consultants to foundations or institutional collectors
  • Teach art classes or conduct workshops in schools or in art studios
  • Use materials such as pens and ink, watercolors,  charcoal, oil, or computer software to create artwork
  • Integrate and develop visual elements, such as line, space, mass, color, and perspective, in order to produce desired effects such as the illustration of ideas, emotions, or moods
  • Confer with clients, editors, writers, art directors, and other interested parties regarding the nature and content of artwork to be produced
  • Maintain portfolios of artistic work to demonstrate styles, interests, and abilities

Other Job Titles

Fine Artists are also known by other titles, including:

  • Painters
  • Sculptors
  • Illustrators
  • Muralists

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  Artists usually develop their skills through a bachelor’s degree program or other postsecondary training in art or design. Many colleges and universities offer programs leading to a bachelor’s or master’s degree in fine arts. Courses usually include core subjects such as English, social science, and natural science, in addition to art history and studio art. Independent schools of art and design also offer postsecondary studio training in the craft, fine, and multi-media arts leading to certificates in the specialties or to an associate or bachelor’s degree in fine arts. Typically, these programs focus more intensively on studio work than do the academic programs in a university setting.

  Evidence of appropriate talent and skill, displayed in an artist’s portfolio, is an important factor used by art directors, clients, and others in deciding whether to hire an individual or contract for their work. A portfolio is a collection of handmade, computer-generated, photographic, or printed samples of the artist’s best work. Assembling a successful portfolio requires skills usually developed through postsecondary training in art or visual communications.  Internships also provide excellent opportunities for artists to develop and enhance their portfolios.


The median annual salary for a Fine Artist is $42,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $84,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $19,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of fine artists are:

  • Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers - $68,980
  • Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers - $46,360
  • Specialized Design Services- $60,100
  • Motion Picture and Video Industries - $53,090
  • Glass and Glass Product Manufacturing  - $42,910

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  10%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 3,000
  • Employment 2006 : 30,000
  • Employment 2016:  33,000
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