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Nature of the Work
* Nearly 60 percent are self-employedabout seven times the proportion in all professional occupations.
* Artists usually develop their skills through a bachelor's degree program or other postsecondary training in art or design.
* Keen competition is expected for both salaried jobs and freelance work because the glamorous and exciting image of the graphic and fine arts fields attracts many talented people.
Visual artists communicate ideas, thoughts, and feelings through various methods and materialsincluding computers, oils, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, magic markers, pencils, pen and ink, silkscreen, plaster, or clayor other media, such as photographs and sound. They create realistic and abstract works or images of objects, people, nature, topography, or events. (Designers, a closely related occupation, are discussed in a separate Handbook statement.)
Visual artists generally fall into one of two categoriesgraphic artists or graphic designers, and fine artistsdepending not so much on the medium, but on the artist's purpose in creating a work of art. Graphic artists, many of who own their own studios, put their artistic skills and vision at the service of commercial clients, such as major corporations, retail stores, and advertising, design, or publishing firms. Fine artists, on the other hand, often create art to satisfy their own need for self-expression, and may display their work in museums, corporate collections, art galleries, and private homes. Some of their work may be done on request from clients, but not as exclusively as graphic artists.
Graphic artists, whether freelancers or employed by a firm, use a variety of print, electronic, and film media to create art that meets a client's needs. Most graphic artists use computer software to design new images; some of this work appears on the Internet and CD-ROM. As computer software becomes increasingly sophisticated, more artists are likely to become involved with this medium. Graphic artists may create promotional displays and marketing brochures for new products, visual designs of annual reports and other corporate literature, or distinctive logos for products or businesses. Artists may be responsible for the overall layout and design of magazines, newspapers, journals, and other publications, and may create graphics for television and computer-generated media. For example, many magazines and newspapers have a homepage on the Internet.
Fine artists may sell their works to stores, commercial art galleries, and museums, or directly to collectors. Commercial galleries may sell artists' works on consignment. The gallery and artist predetermine how much each earns from a sale. Only the most successful fine artists are able to support themselves solely through sale of their works; however, most fine artists hold other jobs as well. Those with teaching certification may teach art in elementary or secondary schools, while those with a master's or Ph.D. degree may teach in colleges or universities. Some fine artists work in arts administration in city, State, or Federal arts programs. Others may work as art critics, art consultants, or as directors or representatives in fine art galleries; give private art lessons; or work as curators setting up art exhibits in museums. Sometimes fine artists work in an unrelated field in order to support their careers.
Fine artists usually work independently, choosing whatever subject matter and medium suits them. Usually, they specialize in one or two forms of art. Painters generally work with two-dimensional art forms. Using techniques of shading, perspective, and color mixing, painters produce works depicting realistic scenes or may evoke different moods and emotions, depending on the artist's goals. Artists may combine mediums and include sound and motion in their works.
Sculptors design three-dimensional art workseither molding and joining materials such as clay, glass, wire, plastic, or metal, or cutting and carving forms from a block of plaster, wood, or stone. Some sculptors combine various materials such as concrete, metal, wood, plastic, and paper.
Printmakers create printed images from designs cut into wood, stone, or metal, or from computer-driven data. The designs may be engraved, as in the case of woodblocking; etched, as in the production of etchings; or derived from computers using advanced color printers.
Painting restorers preserve and restore damaged and faded paintings. They apply solvents and cleaning agents to clean the surfaces, reconstruct or retouch damaged areas, and apply preservatives to protect the paintings. This is very detailed work and is usually reserved for experts in the field.
Illustrators paint or draw pictures for books, magazines, and other publications; films; and paper products, including greeting cards, calendars, wrapping paper, and stationery. Many do a variety of illustrations, while others specialize in a particular style. Some illustrators draw "story boards'' for television commercials, movies, and animated features. Storyboards present television commercials in a series of scenes similar to a comic strip, so an advertising agency and client (the company doing the advertising) can evaluate proposed commercials. Story boards may also serve as guides to placement of actors and cameras and to other details during the production of commercials. Some work is done electronically, using advanced computer software. This allows ideas to be electronically mailed between clients, or presented on the Internet.
Medical and scientific illustrators combine artistic skills with knowledge of the biological sciences. Medical illustrators draw illustrations of human anatomy and surgical procedures. Scientific illustrators draw illustrations of animals and plants. These illustrations are used in medical and scientific publications, and in audiovisual presentations for teaching purposes. Medical illustrators also work for lawyers, producing exhibits for court cases and doctors. Fashion artists draw illustrations of women's, men's, and children's clothing and accessories for newspapers, magazines, and other media.
Cartoonists draw political, advertising, social, and sports cartoons. Some cartoonists work with others who create the idea or story and write the captions. Most cartoonists, however, have humorous, critical, or dramatic talents in addition to drawing skills.
Animators work in the motion picture and television industries. They draw by hand and use computers to create the large series of pictures which, when transferred to film or tape, form the animated cartoons seen in movies and on television.
Art directors, also called visual journalists, read the material to be printed in periodicals, newspapers, and other printed media, and decide how to best present visually the information in an eye-catching and organized manner. They make decisions about which photographs or art work to use, and oversee production of the printed material. Art directors may also review graphics that will be shown on the Internet.
Graphic and fine artists generally work in art and design studios located in office buildings or their own studios. While their surroundings are usually well lighted and ventilated, odors from glues, paint, ink, or other materials may be present. They may use computers for extended periods of time.
Graphic artists employed by publishing companies and art and design studios generally work a standard 40-hour week. During busy periods, they may work overtime to meet deadlines. Self-employed graphic artists can set their own hours, but may spend much time and effort selling their services to potential customers or clients and establishing a reputation.
Visual artists held about 276,000 jobs in 1996. Nearly 6 out of 10 were self-employed. Self-employed artists are either graphic artists who freelance, offering their services to advertising agencies, publishing firms, and other businesses, or fine artists who earn income when they sell a painting or other art work.
Of the artists who were not self-employed, many were graphic artists who worked for advertising agencies, design firms, commercial art and reproduction firms, or printing and publishing firms. Other artists were employed by the motion picture and television industries, wholesale and retail trade establishments, and public relations firms.
In the fine arts field, formal training requirements do not exist, but it is very difficult to become skilled enough to make a living, without training. Many colleges and universities offer bachelor's and master's degree programs in fine arts; specialized art schools also offer postsecondary training in this field. In the graphic arts field, demonstrated artistic ability, appropriate training, or other qualifications are needed for success. Evidence of appropriate talent and skill, displayed in an artist's "portfolio," is an important factor used by art and design directors and others in deciding whether to hire or contract out work to an artist. The portfolio is a collection of hand-made, computer-generated, or printed examples of the artist's best work. Assembling a successful portfolio requires skills usually developed in a bachelor's degree program or other postsecondary training in art, design, or visual communications. Internships also provide excellent opportunities for artists to develop and enhance their portfolios. Formal educational programs in art and design also provide training in computer design techniques; computers are widely used in art and design, and knowledge and training in computer techniques are critical for many jobs in these fields.
Recent data from The American Institute of Graphic Arts indicate that over 9 out of 10 artists have a college degree; among this group, over 6 out of 10 majored in graphic design and nearly 2 out of 10 majored in fine arts. Nearly 2 out of 10 have a master's degree.
The appropriate training and education for prospective medical illustrators is more specific. Medical illustrators must not only demonstrate artistic ability, but must also have a detailed knowledge of living organisms, surgical and medical procedures, and human and sometimes animal anatomy. A 4-year bachelor's degree combining art and pre-medical courses is usually required, followed by a master's degree in medical illustration. This degree is offered in only a few accredited schools in the United States.
Persons hired in advertising agencies or graphic design studios often start with relatively routine work. While doing this work, however, they may observe and practice their skills on the side. Many graphic artists work part time as freelancers while continuing to hold a full-time job until they get established. Others have enough talent, perseverance, and confidence in their ability to start out freelancing full-time immediately after graduating from art school. Many freelance part time while still in school in order to develop experience and a portfolio of published work.
The freelance artist develops a set of clients who regularly contract for work. Some successful freelancers are widely recognized for their skill in specialties, such as children's book illustration, design, or magazine illustration. These artists may earn high incomes and can pick and choose the type of work they do.
Fine artists and illustrators advance as their work circulates, and as they establish a reputation for a particular style. The best artists and illustrators continually develop new ideas, and their work constantly evolves over time. Graphic artists may advance to assistant art director, art director, design director, and in some companies, creative director of an art or design department. Some artists may gain enough skill to succeed as a freelancer or may prefer to specialize in a particular area. Some graphic artists become webmasters, maintaining their company's Internet site. Others decide to open their own businesses.
The glamorous and exciting image of graphic and fine arts fields attracts many talented people with a love for drawing and creative ability. As a result, the supply of aspiring artists will continue to exceed the number of job openings, resulting in keen competition for both salaried jobs and freelance work. Freelance work may be particularly hard to come by, especially at first, and many freelancers earn very little until they acquire experience and establish a good reputation. Fine artists, in particular, may find it difficult to earn a living solely by selling their art work. Nonetheless, graphic arts studios, galleries, and individual clients are always on the lookout for artists who display outstanding talent, creativity, and style. Talented artists who have developed a mastery of artistic techniques and skills, including computer skills, will have the best job prospects.
Employment of visual artists is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2006. Demand for graphic artists should remain strong as producers of information, goods, and services put increasing emphasis on visual appeal in product design, advertising, marketing, and television. The explosive growth of the Internet is expected to provide many additional opportunities for graphic artists. Employment growth for graphic artists, however, may be limited because some firms are turning to employees without formal artistic or design training to operate computer-aided design systems. Employment of fine artists is expected to grow because of population growth, rising incomes, and growth in the number of people who appreciate fine arts.
Demand for artists may also depend on the level of government funding for certain programs. For example, the National Endowment for the Arts offers a variety of grants to artists; however, competition is intense for most awards.
Median earnings for salaried visual artists who usually work full time were about $27,100 a year in 1996. The middle 50 percent earned between $20,000 and $36,400 a year. The top 10 percent earned more than $43,000, and the bottom 10 percent earned less than $15,000.
The Society of Publication Designers estimates that entry-level graphic designers earned between $23,000 and $27,000 annually in 1997.
Earnings for self-employed visual artists vary widely. Those struggling to gain experience and a reputation may be forced to charge close to the minimum wage for their work. Well-established freelancers and fine artists may earn much more than salaried artists. Like other workers, self-employed artists must provide their own benefits.
Many occupations in the advertising industry, such as account executive or creative director, are related to commercial and graphic art and design. Other workers who apply visual art skills include architects, display workers, landscape architects, photographers, and floral, industrial, and interior designers. Various printing occupations are also related to graphic art, as is the work of art and design teachers. In addition, several occupational options associated with the Internet have emergedfor example, webmaster and Internet page designer. These jobs often require artistic talent as well as computer skills.
Students interested in careers as illustrators should contact:
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design, 11250 Roger Bacon Dr., Suite 21, Reston, VA 20190.
For information on careers in medical illustration, contact:
The Association of Medical Illustrators, 1819 Peachtree St. NE., Suite 712, Atlanta, GA 30309-1848.
For a list of schools offering degree programs in graphic design, contact:
The American Institute of Graphic Arts, 164 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.
For information on magazine art and design occupations, contact:
The Society of Publication Designers, 60 East 42nd St., Suite 721, New York, NY 10165-1416.
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