Art Prof & Partner
“I’m studying architecture and visuals art in college which I am about to finish this fall. I took courses in graphic design, typography, illustration, and print production but I am more passionate and interested in painting, drawing, sculpting and crafting.
I don’t know any jobs that involve my interests. I’ve been having a hard time finding career path in art other than graphic design or web design. What are the career opportunities in fine art?”
If you want to work in fine arts, you have to take the self-initiative to carve your own path. The possibilities are endless, and it’s up to each person to find a balance that allows for them to maintain their studio practice while paying the bills. In order to find that path, you have to figure out just how much you want to involve your art in your paying job.
Some people like to keep their art completely separate from their paying job, while others like their art to be a part of their paying job. There are disadvantages and advantages to both options.
A former professor of mine wanted to be a fine art painter, so he opted to work as a professional portrait painter. You would think that this job would be great, since you essentially get paid to be making oil paintings all day. However, the reality is that being a portrait painter can be nightmarish. His clients always seemed to have a vision of themselves that had nothing to do with what they actually physically looked like, and they complained left and right about every single petty detail.
He found himself creatively bound by unreasonable demands made by clients, and having to pander to their desires. This basically dispelled any shred of creativity from the portrait paintings, making the process very mechanical and constrained.
One of my peers went to art school for animation and upon graduation landed a full-time job at a small, independent animation studio. Sounds perfect for an animation major, right? Well, it turned out that his job animating all day long (and many times all night long) was so demanding and exhausting that by the time he got home at the end of the work day, the last thing he wanted to do was animate more. Even worse, he often times had to stay late to work, with no over time.
The job was consuming to the point that he couldn’t muster up the mental space or the time he needed to work on his own animation projects outside of his day job. Within a year, he had left the studio. This is not always the case with animation studios, I know plenty of people who work at animation or production studios who are plenty satisfied with their work there.
There can be advantages to separating your art from your paying job. If your paying job is completely unrelated to art, you’ll have more mental space and energy for your own studio practice. One of my former professors told me that he was a movie theater manager when he first got out of school. He lived with his mother and was able to save a ton on expenses. Although being a movie theater manager isn’t a very glamorous job, he said it was a great schedule because he could focus all of his energy on painting all day, and then go to work at night.
A department head at an art school told me that he was a server for 15 years. Initially when he told me that, I couldn’t believe that he could stand being a server for so long! Actually, he told me that during the time he was a server, produced tons of paintings. His job as a server was so completely removed from his painting practice that he was able to make the space for his painting practice since his job wasn’t very demanding of his creative abilities.
By contrast, he told be that he now paints very little due to the administrative demands in his position as a department head and professor of fine arts. Certainly, a job as a department head and professor looks much, much better on paper compared to being a server, and it definitely pays better than being a server. However that’s the price you pay for having so little time to dedicate to your studio practice.
All of these situations are a case by case basis, and it all depends on what is the best fit for you. Some people would thrive in situations where others would not. While having a job that is completed unrelated to art works for some people, there are many of us who would not be willing to be a server for 15 years.
One of the most popular options for many fine artists is to teach. Teaching works for many fine artists because it’s a paying job that involves art. There are many benefits to teaching: you’re instantly plugged into an academic community, and you have all of the resources and facilities of the school at your fingertips.
I’m learning from my students all the time, I enjoy connecting with my colleagues when I’m on campus, and I milk the facilities and resources every chance I get. Teaching keeps your mind active, getting you to process and think about artistic ideas which can in turn positively influence your own art.
Just remember that making your art is a lifelong pursuit, while jobs and careers come and go. You don’t have to give up making your art to pay the bills.