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Ah, to be a starving artist. To live in a Paris grotto, or in a seedy basement apartment in Toronto, sipping espresso at cafes and dressing in vintage black or raging, vibrant colors. Tossing off brilliant paintings in between your rounds to clubs, parties and romantic picnic rendezvous, while carving out a small but solid reputation as an avant-garde artist.

Okay. So maybe that's not your dream. The fact is not many artists live that way. Most artists do not have much money, that's true, but they certainly don't hang out at cafes, while their art and reputations make themselves. Artists who want to live off their talents are hard working sales people, who divide their time between creating art, working at odd jobs to make money, and contacting agents, galleries, other artists and art dealers in an effort to launch their careers out of their communities and into an international frame.

Artists can work with sculpture, paint, photography, film and computers to create meaningful art which reflects society back on its citizens. Artists comment on politics, nature, people, and cultures in their pieces. Sometimes the work is subtle, like a simple landscape, while others make more brash and daring statements which are usually left in galleries or museums, instead of taken home to sit above the living room couch.

Artists often work for themselves, and then try to sell the pieces later, but they also work on commission. This means someone might like their style, and ask for something special, to be custom-made. This could be a one-time contract, like making a mural for a restaurant, but could also be a year's contract with an advertising agency or an animation studio. Some find work as illustrators, and draw pictures for children's books and medical texts.

Because artists display their work, they must be prepared to undergo public criticism, and the bigger and more well-known they get, the more likely it is they will be reviewed and scrutinized. Public showings of their work are important ways to get their art out to the public, so the stress and pain the events can cause are often worth it if the artist's career is advanced by sales and positive feedback.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Artists need to be extremely creative, and dedicated to their work. Motivation is important for independent artists, who must be driven to work on their own. Artists need to be brave, able to try new things, and remain productive even after receiving harsh criticisms. Artists should be able to work with new media, and be accepting of other ideas, points of view, and artistic tastes. Artists also need to be grounded enough to draw up contracts, meet with clients, and meet deadlines. Artists should be risk-takers, who are willing to sacrifice job security for their passions.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Painters create drawings, paintings and other artwork using oils, pastels, watercolors, charcoal, ink and other media
  • Sculptors create sculptures, statues and other three-dimensional artwork by shaping, carving and working with materials such as clay, ice, paper, stone, wood or metal
  • Meet with clients, agents, and gallery owners media representatives
  • Artists spend most of their days creating art pieces. That involves many stages, from initial inspirations and planning sessions, to searching for appropriate materials, to the actual creation of the piece. They meet with many types of people, attend art openings for friends and plan openings for themselves. They may also spend time planning future projects. They work alone, and usually spend time indoors. They may travel for inspiration, or if their work is being shown internationally.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Artists usually work wherever they are inspired. Some work in studios, which they may share with other artists. Some, like photographers and landscape painters, will work outside. Artists who work in the commercial field will spend some time working at the company's offices, where they will work in a computer lab or a studio. Artists usually work alone, unless they work in a collaborative team, such as in advertising or graphic design. Artists can set their own hours, often working around another job. They may work steadily when the commissions are coming, or inspiration is flowing, and then slow down for a few weeks while waiting for new ideas.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Artists can explore any medium; they can get into painting, sculpture, graphics, writing, acting, set design, fashion design and interior decorating. Because artists are industrious, creative, and self-sufficient, there are numerous careers open to them. They can become art instructors in public schools, private art programs, or with colleges and universities. They can apply their knowledge of art to the business side of it, and open a gallery, become an agent or a dealer.

  Educational Paths  
There is no required path for an artist. However, an artist doesn't have to be self-taught. Artists can work under the guidance of a mentor, or might choose to attend a university or college program. The benefit to this is the artist is exposed to a number of different art forms, including sculpture, painting and textiles, as well as art history. Artists can also meet fellow artists in school, and can use the school's gallery spaces to mount shows. In school, artists are also forced to work at a set pace, teaching them discipline in their work. Courses in business and entrepreneurship are also useful for artists.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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