Home page

Fine Artists

At a Glance

  • Are painters, sculptors, illustrators, and printmakers
  • Work independently and are highly creative
  • Often work other jobs
  • Have years of training and practice
  • Many have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree

Career summary

Fine artists create works of art to communicate ideas, thoughts, or feelings.

Job titles found under fine artists include painters, sculptors, print makers, painting restorers, visual artists, and illustrators.

#from ncis overview wois 9834 & 4726, checked 2/24/15 lh

Fine artists express their ideas through:

The works of fine artists are displayed in a variety of places, including museums, galleries, gift shops, public buildings, and private homes. Some artwork is commissioned (done by request). For these pieces, artists meet with clients to discuss objectives, ideas, budgets, and themes. Most artwork is created by artists without a commission. Many fine artists hold other jobs. Some teach art in high schools and colleges. Others work as administrators of arts programs. Fine artists also work as art critics and consultants to foundations that invest in art. Many also work at jobs very different from their work as artists.

Fine artists typically specialize in one or more types of art.


Illustrators paint or draw pictures for books, magazines, and other publications. They draw models and diagrams. Illustrators also create scenic backgrounds for movies.

Painting restorers

Painting restorers remove paint, or a layer of paint, from canvas to restore damaged or fading artwork. They use magnifying glasses to study the style and materials used by the original artist. Restorers perform tests to determine the age of the paint and its reaction to solvents and cleaning agents. They clean the surface of paintings, using solvents that do not damage the paint. Sometimes they scrape away old and damaged paint. Restorers retouch damaged areas and apply preservatives to protect paintings.


Painters use oils, watercolors, and acrylics to create portraits, landscapes, and still life pictures. They use brushes, palette knives, airbrushes, and other tools to apply color to canvases or other supports. They use lines, color, and perspective to produce the desired effect. Painters have different styles such as abstract or realistic.


Printmakers create printed images from designs cut or etched into wood, stone, or metal.


Sculptors design three-dimensional works. They model materials such as clay and wax using small tools and their fingers. Some sculptors carve stone or wood using chisels and gouges. Some sculptors cut, bend, and fasten materials such as steel to form works of art.

Related careers

This career is part of the Arts, Audio/Visual Technology, and Communications cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to fine artists.

Common work activities

Fine artists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, fine artists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Fine artists frequently:

It is important for fine artists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for fine artists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Fine artists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a fine artist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Many artists earn a bachelor's (BFA) or master's (MFA) degree in fine arts. Course work usually includes art design, history, and studio art. Art schools offer degree programs and studio training in fine arts. In general, colleges and universities offer more programs outside the subject of art than art schools do.

To teach art in a public school you need a teaching certificate plus a bachelor's degree. Director of arts programs or foundations often have a master's degree. Medical illustrators need both pre-medical and art training. They need both types of knowledge so they can draw organisms, surgical procedures, and anatomy.

Work experience

Exhibiting works in local fairs and shows is a good way to find new opportunities to sell artwork. Volunteering at art shows is a good way to meet artists and learn more about what they do.

On-the-job training

Fine artists have many years of artistic training and practice. Formal on-the-job training is not common, except in as much as you learn by doing and getting feedback from others. Fine artists are often self-employed and are responsible for their own training. Some artists learn their skills by working as an apprentice for a master artist or by working in a workshop with other artists.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Many fine artists are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers often review an artist's portfolio as part of the interview process. A portfolio is a collection of the artist's best work. It may include sketches and photographs of completed work.

Most fine artists are self-employed, which means that they must aggressively market and sell their work to potential customers.

There is no specific path that artists follow to become established as professionals although formal training and the study of art can be helpful. A bachelor's degree in art may be helpful. It is also important to display work at group or solo exhibitions.

Experienced artists are usually preferred, especially for solo exhibitions, grant awards, and commissions. However, much depends on the artist's background, portfolio, and knowledge in his or her specific area of art.


Read about visual art, visit galleries, and talk to curators and gallery owners. Volunteer at a local arts commission. Visit and talk to artists doing similar types of work. Make a realistic appraisal of the possibility for success in your chosen field. Set goals and time limits for reaching those goals. Understand the business side of art by taking classes or reading about business concepts. Courses in liberal arts are also helpful. Find ways to get pictures of your artwork published or teach art classes in your community to gain exposure.

Costs to workers

Costs vary from artist to artist but generally include tools, supplies, reference books, and portfolio production expenses. Some fine artists must pay rent for studio space. Additional costs may include professional workshops or college classes to stay current with changes in the field and professional association dues.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators (SOC 27-1013)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $12.17 $13.54 $17.00 $30.70 $48.10
Monthly $2,109 $2,346 $2,946 $5,320 $8,336
Yearly $25,300 $28,160 $35,360 $63,850 $100,050
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $12.69 $14.16 $18.71 $35.20 $50.30
Monthly $2,199 $2,454 $3,242 $6,100 $8,717
Yearly $26,385 $29,464 $38,915 $73,223 $104,618
    Vancouver Hourly $11.82 $21.67 $26.94 $36.71 $58.28
Monthly $2,048 $3,755 $4,669 $6,362 $10,100
Yearly $24,587 $45,068 $56,034 $76,357 $121,222
United States Hourly $9.63 $15.26 $23.74 $33.74 $46.98
Monthly $1,669 $2,645 $4,114 $5,847 $8,142
Yearly $20,020 $31,750 $49,380 $70,190 $97,710

Wages vary by employer and the artist's reputation. Many fine artists are self-employed and sell their work by the piece. Others work for a commission, which is a percentage of the amount a painting is sold for. Some artists obtain grants to support the time they devote to their art. Others win prize money in competitions.

About half of all fine artists are self-employed. They must provide their own benefits. Fine artists who are not self-employed and work full time for an employer may receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

In Washington State, the outlook for fine artists depends on the personal and aesthetic interests of art buyers, art collectors, museums, and galleries. Economic conditions also affect the sales of art. People are more likely to purchase art when the economy is doing well than when there is a downturn.

Some fine artists are finding employment opportunities with the growing interactive media market. Employers look for artists who are creative with traditional artistic skills. There are also a growing number of schools offering programs in art and digital media.

#PSBJ "Techflash" 3/8-14/13 pp13-17 lh updated from wftb http://www.wtb.wa.gov/Documents/NGAconferenceinteractivemedia.pdf 2/24/15 lh. Don't know how many game tech publishers there are now; decided to leave this in for time being, 3/28/18 cj. edited 2/27/19 lh

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Fine Artists, Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators (SOC 27-1013)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 976 36.2% 16.1% 162
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 174 33.3% 8.6% 27
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 25 40.0% 15.2% 4
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 37 35.1% 14.1% 6
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 42 -7.1% 14.6% 2
    King County 561 42.1% 19.6% 100
    Pierce County 25 20.0% 15.2% 3
    Snohomish County 56 50.0% 12.4% 11
    Spokane County 20 20.0% 13.9% 2
United States 28,600 0.7% 5.2% 3,100

National employment

About 59% of fine artists are self-employed.

Major employers:

National outlook

Growth in this occupation will show little to no change over the next few years. New technologies have increased the sale of inexpensive, machine-produced items that are designed to look like handmade crafts. However, there is increasing public in locally made products and crafted goods.

Competition will be very strong for several reasons. There are more qualified individuals than open positions. In addition, many independent and self-employed artists use the same online marketplace to sell their work. Talented artists with a mastery of skills will have the best prospects.

Other resources

Allied Artists of America (external link)
American Artists Professional League (external link)
47 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003
American Craft Council (external link)
1224 Marshall Street NE, Suite 200
Minneapolis, MN 55413
American Society of Artists (external link)
PO Box 1326
Palatine, IL 60078
Artist Trust (external link)
1835 - 12th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122
Artist-Blacksmiths' Association of North America (ABANA) (external link)
259 Muddy Fork Road
Jonesborough, TN 37659
Association of Medical Illustrators (external link)
201 East Main Street, Suite 1405
Lexington, KY 40507
College Art Association (external link)
How Can I Become a Medical Illustrator? (external link)
Association of Medical Illustrators
International Sculpture Center (external link)
14 Fairgrounds Road, Suite B
Hamilton, NJ 08619-3447
National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (external link)
4845 Pearl East Circle, Ste. 101
Boulder, CO 80301
National Endowment for the Arts (external link)
400 - 7th Street SW
Washington, DC 20506
Society of American Silversmiths (external link)
PO Box 786
West Warwick, Rhode Island 02893
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (external link)
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Western Washington (external link)
Society of North American Goldsmiths (external link)
PO Box 1355
Eugene, OR 97440
Textile Society of America (external link)
US Small Business Administration (external link)
Seattle District Office
2401 Fourth Avenue, Suite 450
Seattle, WA 98121
Western States Arts Foundation (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster