Art Schools & Schooling

Successful artists need more than just creativity

Whether drawing, painting, sculpting or sketching, one thing all artists have in common is the urge to create. Some create art pieces they conceptualize, while others create art to fit the needs of their employers or clients.

If you've got busy hands or a creative mind, an art school program can help hone your talents toward one of many lucrative career directions.

How long will it take?

Fine artists don't require formal schooling, but it can be very beneficial. Many artists have trouble earning a decent living without an education or specialized training. A three or four year fine arts degree is the top-of-the line education and provides a good background in a variety of artistic styles. With a degree, graduates have their choice of almost any career path in the arts.

Artists who already know what area they want to specialize in can take courses lasting around six months to several years at art and design schools. These courses are often more focused on in-studio work and end with the student earning a certificate. In some cases credits for certificate programs can be applied towards a degree.

Skills and requirements

Depending on the degree or certificate program, art students will participate in courses such as art history and theory, as well as various studio courses in ceramics, drawing, sculpture and other techniques. As computers become more involved in art, schools are adding instruction on the use of design software.

Typical fields in the arts:

Craft art

These artists make a variety of handmade items using materials including wax, ceramics, glass, fabrics, wood and paper. Some specialize in working with one material, while others are adept at working with many materials. They create jewelry, clothing, furniture, quilts, picture frames and other functional art pieces. They may also make purely decorative items such as stained glass wall-hangings or ceramic figurines.

Fine arts (traditional)

Paintings, prints, sculptures and illustrations are the specialty of fine artists, who show their works in art galleries and museums, selling what they can to private collectors. Some fine artists are commissioned to complete a piece requested by a client but most attempt to sell their creations through dealers or galleries.

Not many fine artists are able to earn a living solely through their artwork. Many have a second job that pays the bills and allows them to continue their career. Fine artists often moonlight as art critics, consultants, or teachers. Anyone considering a future in the industry should be aware of the hardships that may await them. Only the most passionate artists will find satisfaction in such a challenging career.

Fine arts specializations

Fine artists usually specialize in one or more medium or go a step further and choose a more limited application of their specialty. For instance, some sculptors turn their focus to special effects prosthetics or some sketch artists pursue a career in law enforcement by drawing likenesses of suspects and victims. These careers involve more than simple artistic abilities.

Illustrators can work in many industries and perform a number of jobs. Their drawings can be found on greeting cards and calendars, accompanying articles in magazines and newspapers or in medical or technical textbooks or manuals. Some draw mock-ups of products or visuals for ad campaigns.


Multimedia artists use computers and hand-drawings to make the endless number of pictures that make up animated films or special effects portions of regular films. Other multimedia artists draw storyboards that lay out a movie scene or television commercial before it is filmed.