Fine artists create original pieces of art work, through a variety of mediums. They often specialise in a particular type of art which may be categorised in the following ways:
Many artists also specialise in a subject and may concentrate on areas such as landscapes, portraits or abstract.
Fine artists can be commissioned to produce a piece of work or they can create their own pieces for sale at a later date. They may also run art classes or be part of community art projects.
A fine artist will usually be involved in researching, planning and creating art work. Typical tasks for an artist include:
Some fine artists do not have professional qualifications and may have started producing their own work after discovering their talent. However, to have an increased chance of success it is useful to be formally trained and to take relevant qualifications.
Degree subjects that can aid you with becoming an artist include:
Fine art can be studied in many forms including painting, new media, photography, printmaking and sculpture.
It is possible to study art as part of a combined honours degree programme, usually with a humanities or another creative subject. These may include performance, history of art, arts administration, education and community studies.
Fine art graduates can go on to further study in art and design at postgraduate level, completing an MA or MFA (Master of Fine Arts). This may help to increase prices for work, although this still largely depends on your talent and skills.
It is possible to enter work as a fine artist without a degree. Some artists learn through a combination of short courses such as evening or weekend classes, one-week intensive courses and other qualifications such as diplomas or certificates.
Potential candidates need to show evidence of the following:
Recent fine art graduates have usually completed some relevant work experience, work shadowing or voluntary work in the creative industries.
Fine art is a highly competitive field with many more graduating students and artists than there are formal opportunities to exhibit. It is up to the resourceful artist to create their own opportunities and to seek out new and interesting places to show and sell their work, such as artist-led spaces, bars, museums, shops, events and public spaces. However, gallery owners, curators and private collectors are always looking for new artists with exceptional talent who they think are collectable and would produce a good show.
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Some fine artists may decide to complete a postgraduate qualification such as a Masters or postgraduate diploma. There are many subjects available in the art field at this level. There are also a number of short courses available and it is possible to study for various BTEC level awards. You should also seek out professional development opportunities in order to further your skills and make useful contacts.
Many artists find that they learn through collaborating and working with others. Developing good relationships with other artists, curators and gallery owners can provide a forum for criticism and improvement. Artists are constantly growing and developing their own work and practice through improved self-awareness and an increased knowledge of what is happening in the world around them.
Recent fine art graduates may work as an artist's assistant or studio assistant, which provides good training and learning opportunities. These include learning new technical skills and transferable skills such as time management or leadership. There may also be opportunities for promotion into the role of studio manager. New techniques can also be learned by working as a fabricator, which involves making and constructing other artists' work on their behalf.
Since many artists work freelance or run their own business, it is useful to get training in business skills and self-employment.
There is no standard or structured career path for a fine artist and therefore career development is not easy to predict. The success of an artist is highly dependent on their commitment to the work. They need to be opportunistic and push their work into the public domain, either through their own self-promotion or use of an agent. They should also try to participate in as many solo exhibitions or group shows as possible.
Within five to ten years of graduating, a successful artist may have their own studio, gallery representation, regular shows and a network of important contacts. They may be recognised as successful by their peers and able to devote themselves to making work on a full-time basis. They may employ other people to work in their studio or make work on their behalf.
Some fine artists are satisfied with carrying out their art practice in conjunction with part-time or full-time work in a related arts field. For example, they may go on to teach in schools, colleges and universities or may work in paid projects within the community.
There are also a number of artist residencies in the UK and abroad that may appeal to established artists. An artist in residence is engaged over a period of time by a gallery, space, organisation or institution to make work and possibly to contribute skills and knowledge. In return, the artist may receive remuneration in the form of a wage or a bursary, resources and materials, living accommodation or studio space and facilities. At the end of, or during, the residency the artist is expected to show the work they have produced. The duration of a residency varies but usually ranges between 3-12 months. Residencies are advertised in arts magazines, journals and newsletters, on the internet and via word of mouth.
Fine artists are usually self-employed. They often combine freelance work or practice with another salaried job. This is often in schools, adult education colleges, universities, studios, galleries and across the creative industries.
Some artists produce work during artist residencies or are commissioned to make a specific piece of work by an individual or institution. Artists may also sell their work independently or through a gallery and, as such, are expected to maintain a good working relationship with the gallery. They may also use an agent to sell their work on their behalf. This may achieve more sales and wider exposure but the agent will take commission on what they sell, meaning the artist will receive a reduced fee.
Details of residencies, funding opportunities, competitions and full or part-time vacancies can be found at the following:
Vacancies and opportunities are often not advertised at all and those seeking work as a fine artist should be prepared to research and uncover opportunities through networking and by having the confidence to approach organisations and individuals.
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