Art careers are as varied as artists themselves. Cartoonists are artists. Some of them syndicate their strips online and start out cheap with free hosting at Keenspace and other comics websites. Illustrators are needed not just for children's books but movie posters, television storyboards, advertising, there's art on almost everything you see and it was all designed by artists.
Some art careers, especially those involving jobs at large companies, require formal art education. Happily, many do not. It's no drawback for any self employed artist to learn by less formal studies -- if anything, I suspect the skilled can get past some of the college requirements if their portfolios are strong enough in the kind of work that's wanted even in art jobs like advertising. I know some people in commercial art just trained up within the company from entry level paste up and other assisting jobs.
This page will link to a number of articles on different types of art careers with basic information and tips on making it work. It'll focus more on the self taught, self employed type of career because if you actually went to art school or college with an art major and got a degree, chances are that you also got some placement assistance and counseling in how to turn that degree into a job.
This includes people who took commercial art courses online or by mail order. I used to doubt the effectiveness of the Famous Artists School correspondence courses, though I got plenty of ads from them that I think might have been routed from my art teacher when I was in high school. Then I wound up with two out of three of the instruction volumes secondhand, old ones dating from the 1950s. I was stunned.
Essays from Norman Rockwell and other presently famous artists helped me overcome numerous drawing problems and I got a better overview of what commercial art was all about. I would have enjoyed taking the correspondence course as a kid and it would've been a much better alternative than college -- cheaper and stabler in the long term because it focuses on representational ant in practical ways.
I haven't been able to judge the current program, but I'm sure it still exists and may still be sending out the same good Norman Rockwell essays with updated material on say, photography and use of references. What counts in doing any commercial art job is whether you can do the work in the style required and get it done on time.
Art careers may be helped by college art programs, art schools and commercial art programs but the bottom line is that anyone who can draw well never needs to go unemployed or broke. The more skilled you are, the better your current body of work, the less likely you'll have to worry about survival and the more choices you'll have in what direction to take your career.
Online resources for art marketing
Many times commercial art jobs go to freelancers. The process of bidding on illustration jobs and finding them may be similar to copywriting freelancers. I would suggest reading
for any self employed artist.
First, if you want advertising jobs the process of finding them and bidding for them may be similar to copywriters. Most importantly, even if you're not going out for advertising assignments, you still need to market your own art.
That means that you need good copy.
You'll need an artist's statement (why you paint, what your paintings have in common, what they mean to you), a short biography, resume, curriculum vitae, cover letters for applications to agents and galleries, website copy for your personal website. Website copy is the one that'll continually need to be updated.
Even if your direction is so informal that you never need to post anything else, building a personal website is a huge advantage to any artist. For a street sketcher, a website can mean art income during bad weather or off season months.
Another good website I can recommend for artists learning how to market their art, especially online, is
which has a free newsletter linking to its latest articles. New articles are usually posted about five times a week. EmptyEasel has a huge section on art marketing and online resources. I've found it immensely helpful as a resource. I am one of the staff writers at EmptyEasel.com and naturally will be writing more on oil pastels, but I have been an avid reader for a couple of years now and it's one of the most useful art sites I've found.
A third art website I've found useful and stimulating is
This art website has an enormous library of art instruction in different mediums and subjects as well as lively forums and a reference image library free for members that I love and use often. I hang out a lot in the Oil Pastels forum. Authors of articles in major art magazines like The Pastel Journal and Artist's Magazine post in the forums, so do signature members of fine art societies and other professional artists with great careers.
The atmosphere is stimulating, fast paced and encouraging. You can find mentors, critique and help in almost anything there and the nuts and bolts of these successful artists' careers come up all the time in forum discussions. WetCanvas also includes The Art Business Center with forums on Internet sales strategies and on legal issues involving art and artists.
Street sketching is an art career I've been successful in. Those were the happiest years of my life before now. It can be rewarding, exhilarating and lucrative. Many artists live on art fairs, street drawing and selling sketches in malls or tourist areas. This article shares my personal experiences and observations on this joyful type of art career.
Gallery representation is a traditional direction for a fine art career. While the markup is substantial on your paintings, galleries give vital exposure, prestige and a tangible sense of professional art that many artists enjoy. They are good for launching and maintaining fine art careers, their success rests on how well they market your art.
Commissions are something most artists accept at least sometimes during their careers. Some artists build a career entirely on commissions, dealing directly with buyers and planning art to their tastes rather than just painting and then selling what's finished. How much of your art career rests on commissions is up to you. Realistic time management is essential to doing commissions on time.
Online Art Sales
Selling art online is a modern way of doing business that's helping many professional artists thrive regardless of local conditions. Art that may not be popular in the area you live could be appealing to someone halfway across the country. Online art sales begin with a personal website but also include prints sales through different sites, merchandising by putting your art on cups, shirts and calendars, selling prints or originals at auction sites and other online art markets.