Posted in Career Insights
how much do artists make a year

People often wonder “how much does a typical artist make?” 

According to Recruiter, the average fine artist’s annual salary ranges from $40,000 to $60,000. 

Many people think that artists work for themselves and create whatever they want. While that is true some of the time, artists often take on other artistic work to make money.

When it comes to how much artists make a year, it all depends on the work they create, the type of artist they are, and the mediums they use for their work.

If you are a starting artist, or an experienced artist looking to find ways to increase your salary, review these factors that influence an artist’s salary.

Factors that Influence an Artist’s Salary

Here are a few ways that an artist can boost their annual earnings.

Having Art School Training

You can take art classes in high school that will teach you how to be a professional artist. But you might want more training than that to become an artist. 

Many professional artists go to a four-year college to obtain a degree in fine art.

There are also other certification programs or associate degrees from community colleges where you can learn to become an artist.

Artists who have more schooling will typically earn a higher income and have better job prospects for future work.

If you specialize in a specific medium or subject matter while in school, you can earn even more money due to your expertise. Additional schooling in specialized skills like portraiture, drawing, or painting is a common way to increase your artist salary.

Depending on your aspirations, it also might make sense to take some business school classes.

If you eventually want to own your own business (like a gallery, art studio, or retail shop), knowing the basics of commerce can help you in the long run.

Opening your own art business is also a great way to control the kind of art you create and sell. Plus, people who own their own businesses make on average $70,000 per year, according to CNBC. 

Once you finish art school, you can officially consider yourself a trained artist. An artist starting salary might be a bit lower than you are expecting as you begin your career. ZipRecruiter reports that some beginning artists earn between $33,000 and $60,000.

Don’t get discouraged by the lower-than-expected beginning artist annual salary. If you keep with the trade, you will soon find ways to increase your income.

Explore a New Career!

Working on Commissions

An artist who takes on commissioned work throughout the year will increase their income.

These commissioned pieces can be anything that a client wants in the form of art, including:

  • Portraits,
  • Family photo paintings,
  • Sculptures,
  • Abstract pieces, and
  • Landscape paintings.

If you are considering taking commissioned work, be sure you understand that this type of art is much different than creating a piece for yourself (or to sell upon completion).

Usually, the commissioner will have a vision in mind for the piece. As someone they are paying to bring that vision to life, you have to take care to meet their expectations. Commissioned work can feel limiting and frustrating for some artists.

However, if you are stepping out of your comfort zone, you might learn a new technique or medium that you enjoy. You also can charge a higher price for more difficult pieces, therefore increasing your income.

Prices for commissioned work are typically determined by the artist, making it a great way to earn a higher salary.

Most artists chose to charge an hourly rate plus the cost of materials for commissioned work. You can set your hourly rate based on your skill level and experience.

Teaching Classes and Workshops

As a fine artist, your skill with whatever medium you prefer could be in high demand. Even with basic artistic training, you can teach art classes at your local community center, an art school, or run courses of your own.

No matter what, teaching art classes is rewarding and will earn you a higher salary. It is always good to teach the basics to new artists as this can help you polish your own skills as well.

Depending on how you chose to teach, you could be adding hundreds of dollars a week to your artist annual salary.

A typical community center art teacher earns $10 per student. If you run your own course, you can profit more without the overhead costs of an organization. 

And, bottom line, It is always good to teach the basics to new artists as this will only increase the popularity of artists’ work. Plus, teaching others can help you polish your own skills as well.

Creating Commercial Art

Commercial art is any art used for a business like in advertising, media, and the entertainment business. Fine artists who specialize in commercial art tend to have higher salaries and often work for companies that specifically sell commercial art.

How much you can make in a year as a commercial artist depends on if you are finding your clients or are working for someone else. On average, though, you can expect to earn at least a few thousand dollars more than the average artist salary.

Are you Interested in a Career as a Fine Artist?

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a fine artist, take a look at Stratford Career Institute’s online art course. You will learn everything you need to know about a career as an artist, including:

  • Introduction to art and drawing,
  • Survey of famous artists,
  • The elements of design,
  • Painting with pastels,
  • Painting from a photograph,
  • Basic watercolor tools and materials,
  • Fundamental concepts of composition and design,
  • Figures, portraits, and working with landscape,
  • Acrylic painting,
  • Innovative stenciling and linework,
  • Reflective paints, effects, finishing sheens, varnishing, and care,
  • Oil painting, 
  • Capturing the illusion of three dimensions, and 
  • Putting it all together.

Our course covers the basics of an artist’s career, and it is a good way to understand how much an artist makes and the demands of the job. If you are passionate about art and want to learn more about it as a career, enroll in our art course today!


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Become an Artist

Become an Artist

Stratford Career Institute offers a convenient and affordable online course to teach you the ins and outs of an artist career!