Like most artsy people who like to express their creativity, you might discover at some point in your life that you are an artist. In the flesh. For real. For some of us it happens in childhood. It can also happen at any time in your adult life. It's not always clear right away, and it can be even more complicated deciding exactly what kind of artist you are. It's common to dabble in many things before deciding. Some artists work in multiple mediums for their entire lives and they are happy, productive, and thriving.
Picking Your Passion
If you're having trouble deciding what kind of artist you are and where to focus your energy and attention - welcome to the club! Many of us have to revisit this question often to stay on track with what our true creative passion is, even when we have actual art businesses, and we are constantly creating. Re-evaluating creative goals and getting a clear sense of your path every year is not a bad thing if you already have an art practice or business. You can get your goals in order as well as your life balance and well being by using a dreambook planner. You can find that here . If you're just starting out on this path, and you're thinking in terms of a career as an artist, here are some things to consider.
Artist Career Paths
Artist careers can come in many forms, so it's important to look at what excites you and what you think you would be happy spending a lot of your time doing. These categories might have you working for a company or you might prefer working for yourself if that suits you. These are most of the categories in the visual arts category. There are also the disciplines of performing arts, literary arts, music, theater, and dance. The performing arts overlaps with the visual arts because there are set designers, costume designers, and make up artists involved. Modern performances also involve light shows which is an art and skill in and of itself.
What Kind of Work Some of These Art Forms Involve
A designer might work in anything from decoration to industrial applications. A decorator could be anything from fancy cakes to decking the interior of homes and businesses. Make-up and Fashion designers involve everything you can put on a body. Did you know there's even such a thing as body painting? It's not just for faces. Take a look at some stunning work here . Even tattoo artists have evolved into a beautiful artwork form, as shown here . Illustrators can do artwork for books of all types. Digital and Animation artists can train to work in movies and gaming or work exclusively as digital art designers or digital painters. Digital artists can work in 2D or 3D as well as animation. You can see an examples of 3D artwork made with the Blender program here . Graphic artists also work digitally to create websites, logos, posters, etc., and even things like cd or book cover art. Cartoonists in modern times don't get a lot of mileage out of printed news anymore, but due to digital distribution and social media, they can still have significant careers, especially political cartoonists. You can see a great example of that here . Sculptors work in different mediums to create 3D artwork that can be figurative or conceptual. An interesting and unique form of sculpture artist work can be seen here . Painting and painters are a broad category of visual artists because of the many mediums involved. Here's an overview of that category.
Painters of Visual Art
Painters are among the best known category of artists because of the very long art history of documented paintings. Although painting began in caves with early humans using materials they made themselves and rocks as a surface, the art of painting has become very complex and varied in the modern world. This category is my personal area of preference, experience, and expertise. You can find my work here . There are many areas of interest and career paths involving painting, so I will break this down into three primary categories.
self employed visual artist painters working in 2D on canvas or paper or other surfaces
self employed illustrators working in 2D on canvas or paper or other surfaces
muralist - traditional, contemporary, signs, logos, streetart, and spraypaint art
An artist choosing to work in the studio setting making art of any medium on canvas or an other surface can be an illustrator or fine artist, or contemporary artist, perhaps even low brow artist or concept artist. This list is not all inclusive as creative people are constantly developing new kinds and categories of art. Once admired, purchased, or commissioned only by the wealthy and powerful entities, particularly churches and governments, art is continuously and always expanding in the digital era by both reaching and creating new audiences. Although the numbers of artists in the world has skyrocketed, the number of collectors, fans, and followers has also grown exponentially.
Artists work from group studios, large venues with studio spaces for rent, or from private studios. What kind of art is made typically drives this choice. An illustrator doing work for authors and publishers usually works from a home studio, as do many other visual artists and fine artists. Artist who teach can do so from a home studio now that zoom sessions are so easy to offer, or they can meet their students at a venue.
Print on Demand for Artists and Illustrators
The POD market has opened up enormous opportunities for artists to monetize their art and designs on a variety orf desirable products from home decor to fabric to clothing to office supplies and more. Getting your art on prints to hang on a wall - the old stalwart option - is only one of many options today, and numerous companies are competing for you to utilize them. Be choosy and do your research before you commit. They all have different features, pros and cons. I recommend researching this subject for 3-6 months before deciding on a company to work with. You might also pursue licensing of your art with companies that wish to use it on their product line, and they will pay your for your artwork to be used. Check out this POD company making a splash in the designer fabric and designer wallpaper business.
As a fine artist or upscale contemporary artist you might choose to only do quality art prints and giclee prints, or you might throw in a few other products such as totes, calendars, and cards. Or you might have a separate line of your art where you enter the POD world and have some fun creating a lot of products with your artwork on them. This is a big decision, and you have to find the right company, quality, and products appropriate for your art, if you decide to go this route. Some artists have become extremely prolific with products on sites such as society6 .
Selling your work online through your own website or through other venues or POD companies has become commonplace, and customers are ready and willing to buy in this way. This is a big shift from twenty years ago when people did not have trust in the process of buying art online. I personally sell my art through my social media pages, my website , galleries, shows, and open art market events. It's often smart to have multiple streams of income instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, so to speak.
Galleries, Museums and Art Dealers
Having owned and operated a gallery myself, I know that venues exclusively dedicated to showing and promoting artists and their art will always exist. There are grant funds and public funds to support the not for profit ones so that the public will always be able to walk into a gallery and see art in person. Many artists don't understand why a gallery takes a commission of anywhere from 30-50% of the sale of your work. Having been in those shoes before - and having put in 16 hour days, 7 day weeks, hosting shows and receptions, hanging / taking down shows, promoting artists, marketing, talking to collectors, and keeping a webstore going - I can tell you that it's a LOT of hard work to run a gallery. That's what the commission pays for, and it's work that you don't have to do. It does help tremendously if you help to promote the gallery and each show that your work is in by distributing brochures, posting on social media, and showing up at the opening reception. Bring a crowd if you can. You will endear yourself to those running the gallery, and guests will get to meet you, which increases your chances of selling your work. If you are going to work with galleries, you have to have social skills and be personable.
Murals, Public Artists, Street Artists, Spray Paint Artists
This category is so broad that it will require a lengthy separate blog post ( coming this year), but suffice it to say that doing this kind of work is not for the faint of heart. Not only does it require talent, you must have a significant amount of knowledge and equipment to pull off this work. Try applying to be on an artist team under an experienced artist to get your feet wet. You will either be totally elated and ready to turn your will and your life over to this work, or you will run away as fast as you can back to your studio. It's that simple. I personally love working on the streets and with the public, and you can see my mural work here .
Don't Choose Your Artist Path on Impulse
Take your time researching this decision. Talk to anyone who knows anything about these types of work. Learn from other artists. Be flexible. Be honest with yourself. Be willing to humble yourself and take in all the information for what it is. Practice, practice, practice. Once you have latched onto what inspires you, and it matches your lifestyle and personality, you will have a foundation to build a plan upon. There will be highs and lows, but mostly there will be a lot of hard work, so make sure you choose what you love. When I wa a teenager I used to tell people that I couldn't make art for a living because it would take the fun out of it, but I was wrong. I just needed to acquire some wisdom, more skills, knowledge of the business, and take a leap of faith. Glad I didn't talk myself out of it after all.
Wishing your the best on your artist adventure.