Artist Career Information

An artist's career isn't easily defined. The highly individualistic nature of artists and their work precludes a generic description. In all forms of visual art, the personal element is a major factor. A life's work may cover a vast scope of projects, media, and applications. Artists are additionally very mobile in terms of career employment, not limited to a particular line of work.

Working as an artist

Some commercial artists work 9 to 5 jobs, but most don't. Working as an artist for a living includes a range of deadlines, contract obligations, and a real need for good time management. Professional artists are much more organized than the common image of a Bohemian lifestyle suggests. The requirement for quality of product and time constraints means artists are always busy.

Even purely creative artists, working with their own originals and a tolerant clientele, work hard. The process of creating visual art can be as much physical labor as any laboring job. Drafting, composing, drawing, and preparing materials all consume time and effort, before a production piece is even begun. A "simple" graphic design may mean several days of hard work.

Career modes

The artist will work in areas of preference, where possible. Depending on levels of experience, qualifications, and skills, there are three fundamental levels of work in an artist's career:

Entry level: The work is basic visual art, usually in a commercial environment like an advertising agency, graphic design, usually an extension of training level standards of skills. The tasks are usually production work, assisting with products rather than creating them. This is the learning stage in terms of understanding how to make a living, exploring job opportunities, and growing as a commercial artist. Most artists spend a few years at this level before progressing to their preferred areas of work.

Median level: This is the true formative period for artists. Experienced junior artists move up the commercial ladder and develop their creativity at this stage. As more advanced artists, they're now in a position to do true creative work in their own fields. This stage assists in developing their talents, and allowing a lot more artistic freedom. In advertising agencies, for example, they're in a position to do actual designs and produce a true commercial portfolio of their own original work.

Expert level: The original art is the catalyst for the true professional artist's career. The artist may become an artistic director, or at least a senior graphic artist. The portfolio work is comprised of high quality commercial materials, which makes the artist a much more mobile entity as a career mode. At this stage of their careers, artists may freelance and do commercial ventures, and obtain work as a viable means of career progression.

Successful artists make a clear progression up the scale in terms of earnings and demand for their work. There's no particularly hierarchy of career success in artistic careers. Many creative artists earn just as much as those in commercial fields. Artists appraise their success by their own standards, whether it's commercial or critical acclaim.