Fine artists usually specialize in one or two forms of art, such as painting, sculpting or making prints. Artists may work with pencils, pen and ink, oil or acrylic paints; they may use clay, fabric or even computers. They may work at home, in studios or outdoors. Formal training is not a requirement for an artist, as the talent is innate, but many artists do take classes or obtain a degree in art or a related field. Artists may sell their work privately, offer it through a gallery or work for an organization that has the rights to their work. Most fine artists are self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, although many hold another job as well.
The average annual wage for a fine artist was $53,400 in 2011, according to the BLS. Fine artists in architectural, engineering or related services made the most, with an average annual wage of $75,430. Fine artists who worked for software publishers had the second- highest average annual wage of $73,310. Those in the motion picture and video industry were next, with an annual average wage of $65,980 in 2011. Independent artists earned the least, with an average annual wage of $49,930. The BLS does not distinguish between wages earned solely through the sale of artwork and wages earned at a secondary job.
Geographic Location and Artists:
Maine artists earned the most in 2011, with an average annual wage of $95,830, according to the BLS. California employed the most fine artists in 2011, according to the BLS, with 4,240 artists employed in the state at an average annual wage of $63,880. New York was second, with 1,120 fine artists employed and an average annual salary of $55,770. Although Washington had considerably fewer artists, they made slightly more money than average. Washington reported 450 employed artists with an average annual salary of $64,090, according to the BLS.
Artists in Metropolitan Areas:
The BLS reports the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale metropolitan area in California boasted more fine artists than any other metropolitan area in the United States, reporting 2,960 in 2011 with an average annual salary of $67,390. The next closest metropolitan area, New York-White Plains-Wayne, New York, employed 890 artists who had an average annual salary of $58,880 in 2011. The top-paying metropolitan area, however, was San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara in California, which only reported 60 employed artists; the artists averaged $78,530 in wages in 2011.
Career Outlook for Artists:
The overall state of the economy affects the wages and potential job growth for fine artists, since the purchase of art is usually optional. The BLS expects that employment for fine artists will grow by 5 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is slower than the average growth rate for all other occupations. If you want to be an artist, you might need to work part time on your art while earning your living at another job.