How to become a Fine Artist. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Fine Artist do?
Fine artists create original works of art using a variety of methods such as painting, drawing, sculpture, engraving, printmaking, photography or lithographs.
As a fine artist you could:
- work from your own ideas or to an order (known as a ‘commission’) from an individual or an organisation
- sell your work through an agent or through galleries, exhibitions, shops, craft markets and fairs
- research subjects and materials
- display your work for sale on your own website or an online gallery
- network with agents, dealers and galleries
- attend exhibitions and join artists’ groups
As well as selling your work, you could also add to your income by:
- working as ‘artist in residence’ – running classes and workshops in places like schools, prisons or hospitals
- teaching art classes privately, in colleges or through community learning
- running local art projects.
You would arrange your own working hours, which could involve fitting your art work around another full- or part-time job.
You may work in a studio, at home, in rented space within a shared studio, or in specialist facilities such as a print or sculpture workshop.
How much does a Fine Artist earn?
Earnings will differ greatly depending on work opportunities and reputation.
It is common for fine artists to earn their living from a combination of exhibiting and selling their creative work and other part- or full-time jobs.
To be successful, you will need a high level of skill and talent in your chosen art form. If you are exceptionally talented you may be able to sell your work without formal training or qualifications. However, most fine artists have some training in art or design. See the further training and development section below for more details.
You will need to network and sell your work – you can either do this yourself or use an agent. If you sell your own work you keep all the money gained from the sale, but you may be restricting yourself if you have a lack of contacts. An agent may give you access to more potential buyers, but they will take commission from sales.
Visit the Association of Illustrators (AOI) website for listings of agents, publishers, advertising agencies and other specialist organisations like children’s book publishers. As an AOI member, you can promote your work by listing your contact details and displaying samples of your work on the AOI website.
The Society of Artists Agents website also has details of agents, as well as examples of artists’ work, which will give you an idea of the standards of work in demand.
You could also set up your own website to showcase your work.
Visit a-n The Artists Information Company website for advice and resources on all aspects of working in the visual arts – you will need to subscribe to use some of the resources. The Writers and Artists Yearbook also has advice and useful links for artists.
- a-n The Artists Information Company
- Writers and Artists Yearbook
To read about the experiences of some successful artists, check the case studies on the Creative Choices° website.
- Creative Choices°
Training and Development
You could develop your techniques and ideas by attending courses at all levels. Some of these lead to qualifications like BTEC National certificates and diplomas, BTEC HNDs and degree courses.
You should check with colleges and universities for their entry requirements. For HND and degree courses you will be asked to present a portfolio of your work, and you could be accepted onto some courses just on the strength of this.
To search for art and design HNDs and degrees, visit the UCAS website.
Artquest is a source of advice and information about training, funding, finding studio space, selling and exhibiting. The Artquest website is mainly aimed at artists in London, but you will find much of the information useful wherever you are based.
Membership of organisations like the AOL is also useful for training opportunities, advice, networking and support.
Skills and Knowledge
- a high level of creativity
- a good appreciation of colour and shape
- willingness to work alone
- business skills to promote and market your work
- the ability to cope with a changing workload.
Your local regional arts board (contact details on the Arts Council website) will advise on possible funding and studio space. The Arts Council website is also a useful source of information on local and national arts projects and initiatives that you could get involved in.
Your success will depend on the amount of work you are able to sell. You may need to combine your art with work in related areas such as teaching, community arts, gallery management, critical writing, project management and creative consultancy, or in a completely different area.