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Art Editor


The purpose of editing art is to improve the quality of visual images for communication purposes. Art editors help artists prepare pieces that are appealing, beautiful and effective for print and publication. They review, evaluate and choose appropriate drawings, paintings, artwork and photographs for various publications and coordinate the activities of artists and staff photographers within a company. They usually advise copy editors on which illustrations to use in a publication, including editorial cartoons.

Most art editors specialize in a particular type of publication, such as books, magazines, newspapers or manuals. Working with book editors and novelists, for example, they may suggest including illustrations within the text, and find artists for book covers and design. They might even advise on photography additions, including a snapshot of the author to put onto a book jacket. Those who work with children's literature will supervise the illustrations and make sure they are appropriate and clear. They will ask illustrators to make corrections if necessary. Art editors working with magazines may supervise artists that draw illustrations, cartoons and pictures in the areas of sports, business, entertainment, fashion, food, photography, travel, design and graphics.

Art editing has become a highly specialized profession which involves recognizing esthetics and having a good eye. They are responsible for appeasing the work of artists, the visual pleasure for readers and the headaches for publishers and chief editors. Art editors also work for large corporations, website developers, governments and non-profit organizations, producing regular newsletters and publicity documents. These days, art editors are doing more and more contract, or freelance work for a wide variety of organizations. One assignment could be for a children's book, while the next for a medical charity organization.

Art editors often have supervisory responsibilities in addition to their editorial responsibilities. They are usually the people in charge and are ultimately responsible for seeing that everything gets done before deadlines including deciding which illustrations and cartoons they want to publish. Art editing also involves acquisitions, developmental work, stylistic editing and research. Some art editors also coordinate the design and layout of a book, magazine or newspaper, including any accompanying pictures, graphs or charts which are to appear.
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  Interests and Skills  
Art editors must have a talent for and love of art, and esthetics. They must have the ability to work with both people and independently, while making informed, logical decisions. They must be able to criticize effectively, while taking criticism as well. Art editors must love to look at art and marvel at the idea of improving artworks and images.

They must have a sharp eye for detail as art editors will be held responsible for any flaws left in a cartoon, for example, of a printed text. They should have an instinct for recognizing patterns, and organizing ideas, be willing to question assumptions, theories, and facts and most importantly have the ability to recognize what's missing in artistic content, image or presentation.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Evaluate art and photographs for publication
  • Confer with artists and photographers regarding revisions to drawings, sculptures and photos
  • Plan layout or format of art and photography according to printed space available
  • Plan and coordinate activities of artists and photography staff and ensure deadlines are met
  • Plan coverage of upcoming events and assign work to artists
  • Negotiate royalties and payments to artists and freelance photographers
  • Specialize in particular subjects, types of art or in particular types of publications
  • Plan the art content by suggesting story ideas weeks and months in advance
  • Draw illustrations, create sculptures and take photographs
  • Depending on the industry in which they work, art editors may spend most of their day alone or working with many different people. Newspaper art and photo editors work in loud and hectic surroundings. Art editors often work long, irregular hours with longer hours required to meet deadlines. Some newspaper art editors work nights in order to get the news into the next day's paper. Freelance art editors are able to set their own hours and take on various projects.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Art editors work for publishing houses, magazines, journals, newspapers, radio and television networks and stations, and for companies and government departments that produce publications such as newsletters, handbooks and manuals. Many art editors also work on a freelance basis.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Competition for art editorial positions is intense and most jobs go to qualified people who already work in the field as artists or editors. Nevertheless, all art editors must start somewhere and getting as much experience as possible, including publishing artwork is the best route to take. Art editors must be willing to take entry level positions and work their way up to other editorial positions like, photo editor, editor-in-chief or production editor.

Art editors will advance to positions with increased supervisory and managerial responsibilities. Accordingly, the opportunity to work at a larger publishing company or magazine is often seen as a promotion. Since art editors have such a wide range of experience within the print and publishing industry, they may choose to work in marketing, public relations or any other communications-oriented field.

  Educational Paths  
Art editors are usually required to have a bachelor's degree in journalism, English, fine arts, communications or a related arts discipline. Many community colleges and universities offer post-graduate editing and publishing programs, usually ranging in length from one to two years. A working knowledge of media law, and computer photo editing and page layout programs are also recommended.

Several years of experience in photojournalism, art history, art publishing, children's literature illustrations or a related field is usually required. Most employers value experience and reputation over other credentials, so it is recommended to draw illustrations and take photographs for newsletters, magazines, or brochures for organizations in your community. Many such groups welcome volunteers. This is valuable experience as aspiring arts editors will have the opportunity to look over someone's shoulder and test their aptitude, skills and inclination towards this career.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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