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Is it really as hard to find a well-paid career in art as it sounds?

Art is something that I enjoy, but I keep getting the impression that an artists live off ramen noodles and paint water. Concept art, graphic design, and traditional art are what interest me most. Will it be years before I get considered to join something like Marvel or Disney, or is it just down to luck? #art #artist #movie-production #graphic-design #design #conceptual-art

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Ellen’s Answer

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Hi Bella


Yes and no. I'm not sure what you mean by concept art, but here is my response in terms of graphic design and fine art. There is no doubt about it, well paying jobs in the art are not easy to get....there is lots of competition, the funding for such jobs is often shaky and the first to go when money gets tight, and getting to a stage where you will make decent money often takes time, hard work, patience and, yes, sometimes being in the right place at the right time--luck..


Being a "fine artist", one who makes money from art can be especially challenging in terms of finances, those are the ones who probably eat the most ramen, and those are the ones who usually have to have a part time or full time "day job" to fund their painting. I realized quite soon after leaving art school, that the fine art route was going to be a hard one. I believed in my art, I believed that it would be saleable at some point, but, at the time, I needed a feeling of financial security. I tried some graphic design work, but my heart was not in it, so I eventually went into art education. I don't want to squash your dream of being a fine artist, but that was my experience.


However, since you seem to be interested in graphic design, that is your good news. There are graphic design jobs out there that will allow you to make a decent living. My sister in law is a graphic designer, and she works for a large power company and loves her job. Graphic designers work in my different fields: publishing, website design, advertising, retail, museums, entertainment, businesses, utilities, non-profits, and so on. Some graphic designers have full time jobs in design studios or businesses, but many are "free-lancers", which means they work for themselves and take on jobs. Like all art jobs, graphic design can be a competitive field to land a job, so be prepared to work really hard in school to come up with a strong portfolio.


Becoming an illustrator is sort of a combo of fine and commercial art. This route takes a lot of practice and hard work to hone your illustration skills, especially if you want to work for someplace like Marvel. You could always see if you could get some freelance work while you are improving your skills, but again, there is little financial security. (I have no direct knowledge, but I wonder how many artists at a company like Marvel or Disney actually started out there on an entry level, and if they did, what kind of work they were responsible for....).


Wherever your interests take you, I strongly recommend you get an internship or part time job in some sort of graphic or art design studio while you are a student. Interning is a great way to meet people in the art field and to get recommendations and references, which will be helpful in finding an entry level job. You might even contact companies you would like to work for one day, such as Marvel or Disney, (why not?) to see if they have any internship programs.


Another option you might consider is art education, this is, if you enjoy teaching and working with children and teens. I eventually went into art education, and was a middle school art teacher. I loved my job, because I was immersed in art 5 days a week, I got to share my knowledge, enthusiasm and love for art with my students, and I had time during the summers to work on my art. I'm retired now, but I look back as having made a good decision to go into teaching. Different school systems have different pay scales and benefits ( you can check them out online; pick a school system near you and go to the employee section), but my experience was that the pay started out low, but I got regular raises as the years went by, and the time off for the vacations and the overall benefits made it all worth it. It was not an easy job, I was often exhilarated but exhausted at the end of the week. Jobs in teaching art can be difficult to obtain, you will need a degree (bachelors or masters, it depends on the state requirements) in art or general education, and you may have to be willing to relocate, but once you get with a school system that supports their art program, you'll be happy. One website to check out for art education would be the National Art Education Association's (NAEA). It is easy to google their website.


So don't give up on a career in art. I would talk to your art teachers to see what they have to say about careers in art, and if they know anyone you could talk to. If you school or local library has a career center, I would also check those places out for up to date books and websites. Best wishes!

Thank you comment icon I would agree with Ellen. Great feedback. I'm a self-taught Graphic Designer. When I pursued college, I majored in everything accept the arts because I thought I wouldn't be paid a good salary. However, 10 years later I am working for a respectable company with a decent salary as a Presentation Designer. Yes, presentation design is a niche industry and growing each year. Graphic Design roles grow as your experience grows. The higher paid roles are Creative Directors, Art Directors, Production managers and etc... I recommend giving yourself some options on the direction you'd like to take with graphic design and fine art. One of my colleagues is an illustrator for a well-respected tech company and his drawings are seen around the world. Your future is bright. Good luck! Javaris Stevenson
Thank you comment icon Hi Javaris, thanks for your comments; so nice to hear from someone who has been successful in the art field. Yes, it can be done. Ellen Rosenthal
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much!! This is so helpful to know from someone who's been through it all. I'll definitely take all of this awesome advice to heart. Bella
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Zaara’s Answer

HI Bella, it is cool that you have a professional career dream! I would urge you to give it your 100%! It takes years of hard nonstop work and complete dedication to get there. However if this is your passion you will love every minute of it. People who create amazing art did not get there overnight or by luck, they worked their butt off and loved every minute of it. This passion shows thru their art and that is what gets them hired. So it is a process, and it is fun. Who are your favorite artist working at Marvel and Disney? Do they inspire you? You could find out how to contact them and ask about their career path. Or just read about them and get inspired. Keep going, one step at a time, don't get overwhelmed by pressure and having to achieve a huge goal all at once. Enjoy, the world wants to see your uniqe art!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for your encouragement! I'll definitely take this advice to heart :) Bella
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Cuong’s Answer

Hey Bella,


There are many answers to this question, but it is possible through discipline and consistency. That being said, finding a job in fine arts and graphic design is one of the competitive jobs out there, especially in the big name corporations. And it will definitely take some time depending how much work you put into your work. Finding the area where you want to be is very important, it is a good aspect that you are realizing what area you want to focus on, in concept art, graphic design, or traditional art. Concept art and traditional art is in the fine arts degree department, finding a job like that is difficult but if you want a job in that. You have to start interning for companies before you graduate in your college years. The internship is your foot in the real world before you actually get the job.


If you keep at this passion, whichever area you want to focus on, it will help and guarantee you a job somewhere. And yes, sometimes luck comes in places that you will not expect and if you are in the right place at the right time.

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Alan’s Answer

Hi Bella

I work as a technical illustrator and make pretty good money. I definitely don't live off of ramen noodles. I also do some graphic design including GUI design now on but it's almost all focused on technical audiences. Concept art, graphic design, and traditional art are very different careers. You have to find your area and then specialize even within that area to stand out.

I would suggest you look at the differences between these areas and then the specializations within them. If you're most concerned about making a living, graphic design may be the way to go. If you're wanting to use art techniques on the job, concept art or illustratation might be the right route.

The more you get to where there's a cross between feeling like you're doing something artistic all day and making a living, like getiing into concept art, comic book illustration, etc. the more competitive the job market is. What this means is it is more difficult to get into that line of work because so many others are also trying. This also means employers and clients with the work don’t necessarily have to pay much as so many will be willing to start at low pay to get the work. That's one of the considerations with choosing an area to work in.

There's sort of a balance or spectrum between something feeling artistic and the ability for most to make a living in that area. Another example would be game concept art. It sounds more creative and fun than my work, but it seems most people in Austin where I am who do that for a living get laid-off every couple years or so and have to find a new gig. I don't have to go through that. So there can also be a balance there between feeling artistic and having job security.


Good luck on whatever you choose. Keep in mind though, it's not all ramen noodles. :-)

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