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Job Photographs

  • A woman is sitting at a desk in an artist's studio.  She is using a laptop.

    Uploading images of artwork to an online gallery website.

  • Two women are standing next to a table looking at some colourful images.

    Discussing a new commission with a client.

  • A woman is standing at a table in an artist's studio.  She is using a laptop.

    Artists need to have good business skills. Here, the artist is using a computer to work out budgets.

  • A man is drawing onto a large white canvas, placed on an easel.  Behind the easel are some other paintings.

    Artists produce work for artistic purposes, not to be functional or practical. They work in different types of media.

  • A man is standing in front of a painting, placed on an easel.  He is holding a sheet of paper with images on it.

    Artists often use sketches and photographs before creating art. They may be referred back to once a piece of art is under way.

  • A group of people are standing around a long table covered in various artistic tools and papers.

    Some artists get involved with local community art projects.

  • A woman is standing next to a large table in an artist's studio.  She is looking at some glasswork that is on the table.

    Most artists work in a studio. They usually work on their own.

  • A woman is standing, using the telephone.  Behind her are shelves with art materials on it.

    Negotiating an exhibition with a gallery.

  • Artist



As an Artist, you will produce fine art. You might specialise in one area such as painting or sculpting. All artists spend some time producing sketches and developing concepts or ideas. You may do a study of a particular subject, such as the human body.

Also known as

  • Painter (Artist)
  • Sculptor
  • Fine Artist

Video: - Helen: Artist

Work Activities

As an Artist, you will produce fine art. You'll produce work that people appreciate for its beauty or for its ability to make them feel different emotions.

Artists use a variety of methods in their work such as painting, drawing, graphic arts, printmaking or photography, etc.

You could also work using a variety of different materials. Painters may use watercolours or oil paints to paint a portrait or landscape, or sculptors may work in metal, wood or clay to produce a statue or object. Some Artists use a combination of materials.

Whatever the finished product is to be, you will spend some time producing sketches and developing concepts or ideas. You may do a study of a particular subject, such as the human body, and use the resulting sketches and photos as the basis for a series of works.

You will need to promote your work and have to persuade gallery and exhibition managers to display your pieces. You may spend quite some time meeting people and identifying potential clients. Many Artists display their work on the internet, for example, through online galleries or art websites.

Only very few Artists manage to live on money made from the sale of their work. The majority take commissions, for example, to paint portraits, or take residencies in industry, education or community centres.

Other Atists may teach or work in art therapy or art restoration. A lot of artists may need to find other part-time work to supplement their income.

Personal Qualities and Skills

As an Artist, you need:

  • Creative and artistic skills.
  • A good understanding of colour, shape and form.
  • To enjoy working on your own.
  • Self-motivation, determination and self-confidence.
  • Business skills, if you're self-employed.
  • To be able to cope with fluctuating work and income.
  • Marketing skills.
  • To work to deadlines and budgets.
  • To be the kind of person who can cope with rejection.

Pay and Opportunities


The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £24,000
  • With experience: £25,500 - £29,500
  • Senior Artists earn £31,000

You may face long periods without work. To help, you may be able to claim benefits. Take a look at our information article on Universal Credit to see if you might qualify.

Hours of work

Artists can choose their own hours of work, which may be irregular, and include weekends. Some artists work long hours, especially as a deadline for a particular piece of work approaches.

Many aspiring artists find it necessary to take initial employment outside the art world or in a related field such as teaching.

Where could I work?

Some artists are offered a residency in, for example, a school, hospital or cathedral.

Opportunities for artists occur in towns, cities and rural areas throughout the UK. However, the ability for individuals to promote their work online via the internet means location is less important.

Some artists choose to base themselves in Europe, for example, France and Italy are popular, where some offer teaching holidays to increase their income/sales.


Artists often work on a freelance basis or become self-employed, which helps provide artistic freedom but reduces long-term job security.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

A common route into this career is via a Foundation course in Art and Design followed by a degree, HND or foundation degree in a subject such as fine art or visual arts.

For relevant Higher Education courses, you'll need a wide-ranging portfolio.

All degree courses in fine art include art history as part of the course. You should check the proportion of practical work to theory on each course, as this varies considerably. Most courses offer experience in a wide range of fields, with specialisation in later stages.

Departments of art put on exhibitions of students' work, which may help establish a reputation and provide a basis for a career as a full-time artist.


There are postgraduate courses available in art, which are useful for specialised areas such as arts therapy or teaching.


Many artists become self-employed.


To enter any course in art and design, you'll need a portfolio of your work.

The usual entry requirements for a relevant Foundation course are:

  • 1/2 A levels. You'll need an A level in Art or in an art-based subject.
  • GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in 4/5 subjects. Some courses ask that you have a pass in English
  • .
Alternatives to A levels include:

  • A BTEC Level 3 qualification in Fine Art or related subject
  • A Design Advanced Level Apprenticeship
  • The International Baccalaureate Diploma

Many other qualifications are also accepted so check college/university websites for more details.

The entry requirements for relevant HNDs and foundation degrees are similar to those needed for the Foundation course mentioned above.

If you go on to a degree directly, you'll usually need:

  • 2 or more A levels. Many courses ask that you have at least a B grade in an art-based subject.
  • 4/5 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above. A pass in English is often required.

For the International Baccalaureate Diploma, many courses will ask that you have Art at Higher level.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.


You need a good portfolio to enter art and design courses.


If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course (eg, Access to Art and Design) could be the way in. No formal qualifications are usually required, but you should check individual course details.

They can lead to relevant degree/HND courses.

Distance learning

Relevant courses in art and design subjects, at various levels, are offered by a large number of centres, by distance learning.


The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust offers grants of up to £18,000 to people wishing to set up craft/design businesses.

The Elephant Trust offers grants for artists working on particular projects.


  • 78% of people in occupations such as artist are self-employed.
  • 13% work part-time.

Further Information

Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far

National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

Tel: 0800 015 0400




Skills for the creative industries



Creative Choices

Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills



Creative & Cultural Skills

Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts



Getting into Art & Design Courses

Author: James Burnett Publisher: Trotman


Get into Theatre



London Art College

Address: PO Box 719, Lancaster LA1 2WT

Tel: 0800 3280465



Design and Art Direction (D&AD)

Address: Britannia House, 68-80 Hanbury Street, London E1 5JL

Tel: 020 7840 1111




Publisher: Arts Hub UK



Address: PO Box 5, Driffield, East Yorkshire, YO25 8JD

Tel: 01377 255213


a-n The Artists Information Company



Creative Scotland

Scottish enquiries



Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust

Address: No 1 Buckingham Place, London SW1E 6HR

Tel: 020 7828 2268



Elephant Trust

Address: 512 Bankside Lofts, 65 Hopton Street, London SE1 9GZ

Tel: 020 7922 1160



Art Business Today

Publisher: Fine Art Trade Guild



Writers & Artists

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc



Arts Professional


Wales Arts International (Welsh Enquiries)

Address: Bute Place, Cardiff, UK, CF10 5AL

Tel: 029 2044 1320



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