‘Fine arts’ is a collective term used to describe creative disciplines like sculpture, painting, and drawing. Fine artists work across a variety of mediums – paper, metal, clay, photographic film, and wood – usually specialising in a single ‘fine arts’ sub-category.
A majority of fine artists work independently, either commissioned by clients or on their own initiative, to create artistic works.
They sell their works to museums, art galleries or directly to customers, based on talents and reputations built in the market.
Entry into these professions is often by way of competitions or exhibitions. Building a reputation and client base takes a long time.
While most fine artists work on their own, they may also be employed by museums and galleries, educational and art institutions (as instructors) or work in private studios on special commissions.
Salary & benefits
The concept of salary and benefits professions is not applicable in the case of fine artists. Artists usually receive payments for every creative piece sold, in full for direct sales or a net amount after deduction of a specific percentage (as commission) if represented by a gallery or studio.
Artists working as instructors or hired by studios may receive a fixed salary, though benefits may not be part of the package.
Fine artists such as painters, sculptors and photographers can earn any amount upwards of £100 for a piece, depending on their professional background, experience and portfolio of existing work (and, of course, the quality of the work itself).
Artists with market recognition and years of experience can earn more than £20,000 a year, depending on their output.
Most fine art pieces appreciate in value on a yearly basis (around 10%-20%) and the artists’ fees also increase correspondingly.
Established artists are represented by galleries or artist agencies, who receive a percentage of annual earnings or sale prices as fees for promotion and marketing.
Fine artists work according to their own schedule and without deadlines unless they’re working on projects which are time-bound, such as exhibitions or contests, or as stipulated by contracts.
Work is carried out in the artist’s own studio space (often rented) and may involve frequent travel, depending on the market for the artist’s work.
Many artists also choose to work in cooperatives or communities with other fine artists, sharing the costs of studio space and heavy equipment.
While formal qualifications may not be necessary to get started as a fine artist, most people in this profession should have an academic or technical training background in fine arts (for example: degrees, diplomas or certificates, or an apprenticeship under an established artist).
It is also crucial to build a portfolio of creative work, as galleries usually take on artists who are able to demonstrate talent and creativity in their chosen medium of expression.
Training & progression
Career growth and success for a fine artist is primarily a matter of self-development; this is not a profession where educational qualifications spur advancement, though they provide a small advantage.
Talent, creativity, imagination and a prolific output over a fairly long period of time (at least five years) are the main drivers in becoming a successful fine artist.
Other crucial requisites are diversification and experimentation in, for example, new media and different techniques or forms of expression.
It helps to gain expertise in multiple fine arts disciplines while making concerted promotional and marketing efforts.