How to become artist

What does an artist do?

Artists create original art work, such as paintings, sculptures and installations, which they then try to sell through art galleries, agents and dealers. They may also be commissioned to produce a specific piece of art work.

Methods by which art is created by an artist are plentiful. They include:

  • painting
  • drawing
  • installations/conceptual art
  • printmaking
  • carving
  • sculpting
  • modelling
  • using photography, video and computers.

They may specialise in one medium, such as oil painting, one area, such as portraits, or in a combination of techniques and subjects.

Artists need to market and promote their work, and they spend time ‘networking’ and meeting with people such as curators, dealers and agents, as well as identifying potential galleries, clients or supporters. Developing a portfolio of previous work is essential for securing new work. 

Artists may be involved in organising events to help sell their work, such as exhibitions and open studios, or displaying work in online galleries on the internet.

Some artists do residencies, working for a fixed period in places such as schools, hospitals or prisons. This may involve running workshops and teaching, as well as producing decorative work or murals.


What's the working environment like for an artist?

Hours are usually irregular and include weekends and evenings.

It is common to supplement income by other full or part-time work.

Artists may work in a studio or at home, rent space within a group building, or use specialist facilities such as a print or sculpture workshop.

Artists may have to relocate to find work, especially when taking up a residency.


What does it take to become an artist?

To be a fine artist you should:

  • be creative
  • have a good appreciation of colour and form
  • have good communication skills to present ideas, and liaise and negotiate with other professionals
  • be able to encourage people to participate in community residencies and workshops
  • be able to work to a brief
  • be self-motivated and enjoy working alone
  • be able to accept criticism
  • have some business and financial skills in order to promote and market your work
  • be able to cope with a fluctuating workload.

Knowing your skill and art form inside out is key. While some artists never take a course, it could be a useful option to hone and develop your talent through a HND, training course or even a degree. 

It's essential that artists understand how to market themselves, so a course or knowledge in creating an online prescence and networking are important skills that will help drive your career and reputation among other artists and people within this line of work. 

Other ways of getting a foot into the world of art includes:

  • getting an agent who will represent you and help to promote your work
  • entering competitions and open exhibitions in order to showcase your work
  • setting up your own online/social accounts where your work can easily be found

Artist career opportunities

Many artists have a ‘portfolio career’ and combine their work as an artist with paid work in areas such as art education, community arts, gallery management, critical writing, project management and creative consultancy.

There is no recognised career path and prospects depend on factors such as selling work to collectors, holding solo or collaborative exhibitions or completing a major public art commission or residency.

Jobs and work opportunities are available in most areas. There may be opportunities for artists to work abroad.


Further information

If you've got an artistic flair and think you can make it in this highly creative world, but need some more information that isn't on Hotcourses, the organisations below can answer questions you may have.

Arts Council England
14 Great Peter Street
Tel: 0845 300 6200

Arts Council of Wales
Museum Place
CF10 3NX
Tel: 029 2037 6500

Scottish Arts Council
12 Manor Place
Tel: 0131 226 6051

Northern Ireland Arts Council
Macneice House
77 Malone Road
Tel: 028 9038 5200

Artists Information Company

Association of Illustrators
2nd Floor
Back Building
150 Curtain Road
Tel: 020 7613 4328

Crafts Council
44a Pentonville Road
N1 9BY
Tel: 020 7278 7700

Creative and Cultural Skills
Tel: 0800 093 0444

Creative and Cultural Skills
11 Southwark St

Shape UK (deaf arts organisation)
LVS Resource Centre
356 Holloway Road
N7 6PA
Tel: 020 7619 6160
Minicom: 020 7619 6161



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