Creating the likeness of people onto a piece of paper is an art form like no other. The portrait painter needs an eye for details and a set of tools that can help capture an intimate and personal image of a person's face.
You could use paint, pastels or almost any other sort of medium to get it done, but if you can produce art that looks like the person you are painting you may be set for a career as a portrait artist. The most famous portrait in the world today is the Mona Lisa and its painter, Leonardo Da Vinci, was commissioned by a wealthy man to make the painting using based on the likeness of his wife. Similarly, portrait artists today get paid by either wealthy individuals or celebrities.
This is the kind of talent that needs to be well-rounded. There is often a lot of practice involved in getting this art just right and the portrait's key selling point is the resemblance of the subject's face to what is on the canvas.
An expert in this field needs to be well rounded and have a background in arts. The training provided in art schools will help an artist looking to do portraits using different mediums.
A love for this art form and a skill set that helps to work with different mediums is what helps artists get better prospects in this job.
What's it like working as a portrait artists?
It's actually pretty good. Artists who work to make portraits do so in many different environments. Almost half of all portrait artists are expected to be self employed and most of them work from home. About 51,400 people were recorded as employed under this profession by the Bureau of Labour Statistics. This survey was done in the year 2012. A home office or a personally built studio is what suits the artist's best to get this work done right. The comfort level that the home office or studio offers is great for any artist who wants to focus on his or her work.
Some artists like to work with the public directly. They will set up shop in Jackson Square in New Orleans and simply ask people if they want their portraits done. This is a big chunk of the artist labour market. Some artists, on the other hand, are employed full-time and get to use a professional studio supplied by their employer for use.
If you are an aspiring portrait artist and find that working as a self employed person from home is too risky, then you can look for employment. Many companies hire artists, like video industry experts or motion picture studios. The publishing and special design service industry also has a high demand for such talent.
What sort of education is needed?
A portrait artist doesn't really need a formal school education to do what needs to be done. Talent can often speak for itself and making a career in this field requires a heavy dose of the right sort of talent. Most expert government officials do recommend that artists get a bachelor's degree in fine arts or an associate degree to boost job prospects, but many established artists would disagree.
Getting a formal education can improve some of the skills involved in making portraits but it doesn't guarantee a career in the arts. Most people will consider a resume with some formal education as having a clear advantage but with the right experience and skill this can be overcome.
Through the year 2022, the number of jobs in this industry is expected to grow by a marginal three per cent. The economy and the location where the job is being looked for can greatly affect this opportunity. Taking digital media or computer arts courses is a good way to boost the prospects of an artist. California, Texas, Washington and New York are the states where the most artists are employed. These are the states that call for artists the most.
The career could be one of the most exciting and interesting ones on the planet, but the growth rate in this sector is much lower than in other fields. In the year 2012, the Bureau of Labor Stats tried to figure out how much money someone working as a portrait artist could expect to make.
They estimate that most artists get about $44,380 a year. This may seem like considerable amounts of money but the median wage in the country is closer to $50,000 and the bottom earners in this group could take home less than $19,000.
The top, like in other industries, can take home about $93,000 or upwards in annual salaries.
Most artists aren't part of the industry to make money. They simply want to do what they are passionate about and making a decent wage allows them to do that. The states with the highest pay for artists of all types are Michigan, New York, Washington and Connecticut.
Words: Paul Gilbert
Arton30th is an Art to Market Community that offers Art Classes, host regional & national Art Shows and Call for Artists (opens in new tab) events in a lively & classic gallery setting, honoring the artists mentored by taking their art to market.
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