Fine artists create drawings, paintings, sculptures, and moving pictures, using a variety of media.

What does a fine artist do?

Fine artists explore and develop their own personal style through their preferred specialism, whether that’s painting, sculpting, ceramics, printmaking, or digital and media arts.

They use of a variety of materials and styles to produce and sell their work, either through art dealers or galleries, or from commissions to produce a bespoke piece of work. Many specialise in a particular subject, or concentrate on landscapes, portraits, or abstract art.

A fine artist often holds other jobs, as it can be a challenge to rely solely on income from selling art while gaining experience and building a reputation in the art world. Many run community art classes, or work in the creative or education sectors to support their income.

This role would typically include:

  • working up ideas through sketches or models
  • preparing and processing materials to visualise composition, perspective, colour, and space
  • developing a portfolio to showcase artistic talent to potential buyers
  • writing funding bids and entering competitions
  • finding places to exhibit art such as museums, shops, events, and festivals
  • creating displays and exhibits of finished work in museums, galleries, private homes, or online
  • building strong relationships with art galleries and art dealers
  • negotiating sales and commissions
  • making sure that commissions are completed on time and in budget
Fine artists are usually self-employed, and either work from home or from a shared studio. They need to find creative ways to get their work noticed into the market, such as building a website and using social media to showcase their work.

What do I need to do to become a fine artist?

You don’t need professional qualifications to work as a fine artist, but a high level of skill and creative talent, matched with entrepreneurial drive and ambition, are essential ingredients for success.

A degree course is useful for developing and broadening your experience and techniques, having access to studio space, and getting expert tuition and feedback. Degree subjects include:

  • fine art
  • ceramics
  • visual art and communication
  • art history
  • creative arts
  • illustration
  • art and design
  • fine art critical practice
  • animation

To do a degree, you will usually need five GCSEs (A – C) or equivalent, including maths and English, plus three A levels or equivalent level qualifications. You will also need a portfolio of work. You may be accepted on the strength of your portfolio, but check the entry requirements with the specific university or college you are thinking of applying to. Many students complete a foundation year as the first year of a degree course. This year is designed to explore and develop a range of skills and the subject knowledge required to undertake the full degree course.

Related skills

  • Attention to detail
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Discipline
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Patience
  • Technical ability
  • Time management

Academic route

  • Three A levels, including art-related subjects
  • A degree, perhaps as combined honours
  • Postgraduate study – a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Related subjects

  • Art
  • Design technology
  • Drama, music, and performing arts

Essential qualifications

  • Artistic portfolio

Where to find out more

Where could I be working?

Fine artists and other creative professionals work in a variety of locations. Home-based is the most affordable option, and some rent their own or shared studios. Workshops or even outdoor or public spaces are also an option, and there are limited artist-in-residence programmes available, but these are highly competitive.

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