Visual Arts & Trades

Artists produce fine art. They might specialise in a particular area such as painting or sculpting. Artists make a living by selling their work to members of the public or being commissioned to produce a particular piece.

Work Activities

Fine artists create original works of art using a variety of materials and techniques, such as paintings, photographs, fine prints or three dimensional pieces. They may work from their own ideas to express their views about the world, or they may create a piece of work to order from an individual or organisation (a commission).

They often specialise in a particular medium, which may be categorised in the following ways:

  • two-dimensional work (drawing, painting, collage)
  • three-dimensional work (sculpture, installation)
  • four-dimensional work (moving images, performance).

You could be:

  • creating abstract paintings, drawings or photographs, perhaps of landscapes, portraits or street scenes
  • working with oil paints, acrylics, watercolours, pencils, ink, pastels or textured paints
  • researching subjects for inspiration to develop new work and recording images in your sketchbook
  • creating images on different surfaces and transferring with ink onto paper, such as etching on metal (acid etching), carving out wood (wood cutting) or using a template and fine mesh screen (screen printing)
  • creating a collection of two- or three-dimensional objects or media displays, such as lighting effects or video, for an 'installation' in a gallery
  • making sculptures by shaping clay or casting a mould in metal (see job profile sculptor)
  • promoting your work on your own website, or through exhibitions, festivals, shops, galleries and publishers, and by networking with gallery owners or art agents
  • attending exhibition openings, private views and artists networks
  • teaching, running workshops or acting as 'artist in residence'
  • writing project proposals for galleries, competitions or artist residencies
  • writing funding applications (public and private)
  • liaising with contacts, gallery owners, curators and other artists
  • curating individual and group shows
  • negotiating a sale or commission
  • self-promotion, networking, attending private viewings and other events
  • writing press releases
  • maintaining a portfolio which will typically include a website
  • evaluating a project and feeding back to the main funder or sponsor.

Personal Qualities and Skills

  • A high level of creative and artistic skills
  • Good visual communication skills
  • Research skills
  • A good understanding of colour, shape and form
  • To enjoy working on your own
  • Self-motivation, determination and self-confidence
  • Idea development
  • Business skills, if you're self-employed
  • To be able to cope with fluctuating work and income
  • Marketing skills
  • To work to deadlines and budgets
  • To be the kind of person who can cope with rejection.

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of artists

Some artists are offered a residency in, for example, a school, hospital or cathedral.

Opportunities for artists occur in towns, cities and rural areas throughout the UK. However, the ability for individuals to promote their work online via the internet means location is less important.

Some artists choose to base themselves in Europe, for example, France and Italy are popular, where some offer teaching holidays to increase their income/sales.

Artists often work on a freelance basis or become self-employed, which helps provide artistic freedom but reduces long-term job security.


Entry routes and training

You'll need a high level of skill and talent in your chosen art form.
A common route into this career is via a Foundation course in Art and Design followed by a degree, HND or foundation degree in a subject in:

  • art and design
  • art history with fine art
  • fine art
  • visual art

Departments of art put on exhibitions of students' work, which may help establish a reputation and provide a basis for a career as a full-time artist.

Entry requirements for degrees vary so it is important to check with individual universities.

You'll also need to be able to promote yourself in different ways, like:

  • having an online presence through your own website, blog or through social media, like Instagram
  • joining together with other artists or 'collectives'
  • organising your own shows in galleries or other venues
  • volunteering with community arts projects

You could also:

  • get an agent
  • raise funds through crowdfunding websites
  • enter competitions and open exhibitions
  • illustrate products like books or greetings cards

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