Visual artists use paintings, sculptures and other creative methods to express their ideas or the ideas of an employer. They might work in a variety of mediums, including oil painting, drawing, computer design, photography and more. Formal training in an artistic field often is a steppingstone for those who want to become a visual artist, although some artists are entirely self- taught. Training to become a visual artist can include attendance at an art and design school or a university or college art program.
Art and design schools might offer everything from certificate programs to master's of fine art degrees. Art school programs are often much more focused on hands-on studio work than arts programs at regular four-year colleges. Art programs at traditional colleges and universities typically offer a more rounded education that includes liberal arts courses in addition to studio art classes. Internships also might be offered in college programs and can expose the aspiring visual artist to a variety of careers in the industry. Artists focused on the fine arts might gain exposure via gallery showings of their works through art school and university art programs.
The exact subject that you major in during school will depend on what type of visual artist you want to become. If you want to work as a photographer, for example, then majoring in that field will be your obvious choice. If you want to create line art, cartoons, briefings and other visual arts pieces for an ad agency or corporation, a graphic design or graphic arts degree might be your best bet. Fine artists who wish to sell their sculptures, paintings and other works most likely should pursue degrees in fine arts, and those who want to teach fine arts as a supplement to creating art might also need a teaching credential or even a master’s degree in fine arts to teach at the college level.
During the school years, no matter what area of visual arts you choose, it is important to keep a portfolio of your best works. The portfolio can be online, in a book that you can carry with you to interviews or both. When you are close to graduating, start applying for visual arts positions by highlighting your specific art background on your résumé and including a link to your portfolio. If you plan to start a career as a self-employed artist, pieces from your portfolio can be shown in the advertising material that highlights your work. Your portfolio also can be used to help you get in the door at galleries that might display your work.
The skills you will need to become a visual artist include the obvious one: talent in your chosen artistic area. Computer abilities can be important if you want to become a visual artist, especially if you plan to work in computer design areas. If you plan to be self-employed as a visual artist, having some background in marketing and business can help you sell your work and manage your business.