Job descriptions and industry overviews

Fine artist

28 Feb 2023, 15:04

Creates original artistic work in a variety of mediums, such as painting, drawing, sculpture, video, film or performance.

woman working on a tablet

Fine Art is the traditional term used to embrace painting, sculpture and printmaking, produced for its own sake and not concerned with whether it is functional or practical. Recently the term has come to include photography, video and the modern technologies that generate visual imagery.

Fine artists create original artwork using a variety of mediums. Their work is best described according to their area of specialisation which can be two-dimensional (such as painting), three-dimensional (sculpture) or even four-dimensional (moving images). In addition, many artists choose to also specialise in a subject such as landscapes or portraits.

Fine artists can be hired or commissioned to produce pieces of artwork or create their own pieces to be sold at a later date.

Work activities

  • Creating and developing ideas, producing sketches and making models.
  • Promoting their work and persuading galleries to display their pieces.
  • Writing project proposals for galleries, artist residencies or competitions.
  • Negotiating for a sale or commission of an artwork.
  • Sourcing of materials and establishing business relationships with suppliers.
  • Performing a range of administrative, marketing and other duties associated with self-employment as well as managing their tax issues.

Work conditions

Travel: work may involve travel during the working day on a regular basis and occasional absence from home overnight to attend art/craft shows and fairs.
Working hours: mainly self-imposed but can involve unsocial hours including weekends and evenings on a regular basis.
Location: throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: probable.

Typical employers

While some artists are self-employed, there are opportunities to work for companies or organisations on a project-by-project basis.

Career development

Many artists combine their creative work with jobs in related areas such as art education, art administration, community arts or gallery management.


Salaries will vary considerably from artist to artist particularly for freelance artists who must work to ensure a constant stream of income. Much will depend on the type of work they produce or whether they take on residencies or receive bursaries or grants that link them with an institution such as a university, hospital, business or government organisation. Few make their living exclusively from their art so many take up careers such as art therapy or art teaching to supplement their incomes.

Entry requirements

A degree though not essential is an advantage.

Specific degree subjects required

Entry is open to graduates of all disciplines.

Other relevant degree subjects

  • Art
  • Art history
  • Ceramics
  • Design
  • Fine art.

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not a requirement.

Specific entry requirements

A portfolio of designs will more than likely be required to showcase your talent to potential clients.


Mainly on the job and through regular updating of skills to keep pace with ever changing technology and design concepts.

Tips and applications

Work on your portfolio, create your own projects. Illustrate what has been your major design influences by way of mood boards. Attend craft shows and craft markets as an exhibitor.

Two factors that are crucial to your success are thoroughly researching your chosen career area, and making contacts through networking.

Skills and qualities

  • Creative talent and self belief.
  • Ability to cope with criticism and to withstand rejection from galleries and exhibitions.
  • Dedication and determination
  • Keen eye for design and know what will make a good work of art.
  • Understanding of the commercial value of art, and how the art world operates.
  • Knowledge of materials and the ability to use them effectively.
  • Strong business acumen to market work to the public.
  • Excellent organisational, administrative and project management skills combined with a thorough understanding of the creative process.
  • Excellent team working skills including the ability to work collaboratively with other creative professionals if required.
  • Flexibility/adaptability
  • Negotiating skills (especially to secure funding for projects).

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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