Artists create art to communicate ideas, thoughts, or feelings. They use a variety of methods—painting, sculpting, or illustration—and an assortment of materials, including oils, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, pencils, pen and ink, plaster, clay, and computers. Artists' works may be realistic, stylized, or abstract and may depict objects, people, nature, or events.
The visual arts includes media such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, photography, video, filmmaking and architecture. Many artistic disciplines (performing arts, conceptual art, textile arts) involve aspects of the visual arts as well as arts of other types.
Artists generally fall into one of three categories. Art directors formulate design concepts and presentation approaches for visual communications media. Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators create original artwork using a variety of media and techniques. Multi-media artists and animators create special effects, animation, or other visual images using film, video, computers or other electronic media.
Art directors develop design concepts and review the material that is to appear in periodicals, newspapers, and other printed or digital media. They decide how best to present the information visually, so it is eye-catching, appealing, and organized. They decide which photographs or artwork to use and oversee the layout design and production of the printed material. They may direct workers engaged in art work, layout design, and copy writing.
Fine artists typically display their work in museums, commercial art galleries, corporate collections, and private homes. Some of their artwork may be commissioned (done on request from clients), but most is sold by the artist or through private art galleries or dealers. The gallery and artist predetermine how much each will earn from the sale. Only the most successful fine artists are able to support themselves solely through the sale of their works. Most fine artists must work in an unrelated field to support their art careers. Some work in museums or art galleries as fine arts directors or as curators, who plan and set up art exhibits. Others work as art critics for newspapers or magazines, or as consultants to foundations or institutional collectors.
Usually, fine artists specialise in one or two art forms, such as painting, illustrating, sketching, sculpting, printmaking, and restoring. Painters, illustrators, cartoonists, and sketch artists work with two-dimensional art forms. These artists use shading, perspective, and color to produce realistic scenes or abstractions.
Training requirements for artists vary by specialty. Although formal training is not strictly necessary for fine artists, it is very difficult to become skilled enough to make a living without some training. Many colleges and universities offer degree programs leading to the Bachelor in Fine Arts (BFA) and Master in Fine Arts (MFA) degrees.
Independent schools of art and design also offer postsecondary studio training in the fine arts leading to an Associate in Art (AA) or Bachelor in Fine Arts (BFA) degree. Typically, these programs focus more intensively on studio work than the academic programs in a university setting.
Formal educational programs in art also provide training in computer techniques. Computers are used widely in the visual arts, and knowledge and training in them are critical for many jobs in these fields.
Those who want to teach fine arts in schools must have a teaching certificate in addition to a degree.