Visual Artist Job Description

Visual Artists use their talent to produce sculptures, paintings, videos, drawings and other types of artwork. Because Visual Artists make many creative decisions, the job comes with a great deal of independence. In addition to creating works of art, a visual artist must be able to communicate with clients and use their input to create visually appealing pieces. Some Visual Artists design websites, making technology skills essential for success in this field.

When employed by a for-profit or nonprofit organization, Visual Artists are usually mid-level employees. They have some degree of creative control, but they typically don’t have any managerial responsibilities. Some Visual Artists are self-employed, giving them the freedom to choose their clients and work only on projects they enjoy. Architecture firms, film companies, museums and art associations are just some of the employers that hire Visual Artists. There is little growth expected for this job through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which forecasts about 270 annual Visual Artist job openings per year through that period.


Visual Artist Duties and Responsibilities

The overall objective of a Visual Artist is to produce visually appealing works of art. Reaching this objective requires the artist to perform several tasks. We reviewed several job listings and identified the following as the core duties of a Visual Artist.

Develop Ideas

Before starting a project, a Visual Artist must come up with a viable idea. Visual Artists also create sketches and project plans to help them stay on track and ensure the finished piece meets the specifications of the client or employer.

Create Graphics

Some Visual Artists create graphics for use in marketing materials and advertising campaigns. To ensure the graphics complement the rest of the campaign, a Visual Artist works closely with creative directors, advertising writers and marketing experts.

Build Visual Presentations

Sales departments often rely on Visual Artists to produce presentations for pitch meetings, business expos and other sales events. Before working on a presentation, a Visual Artist must meet with sales personnel and determine the overall goal of the project.

Select Project Materials

Visual Artists are responsible for choosing the right materials for each project. To choose the right materials, a Visual Artist must take several factors, such as where the finished piece will be displayed, into account. In some cases, Visual Artists use several materials to create mixed-media pieces.

Modify Materials

While creating a sculpture or model, a Visual Artist may have to modify raw materials. Molding clay and bending metal are just two of the tasks a Visual Artist must perform when working on sculpturing and modeling projects.


Visual Artist Skills

Because Visual Artists have a great deal of freedom, they must be able to manage their time effectively. Success in this field also depends upon an artist’s ability to listen to client specifications and come up with visually appealing ideas. In addition to these minimum qualifications, a Visual Artist must possess the following skills.

Core skills: We reviewed several job descriptions and determined that employers are looking for Visual Artist candidates with the following skills. Develop these skills if you want a chance to break into the field.

  • Sketching diagrams and illustrations
  • Transforming raw materials into paintings, sculptures, illustrations and other works of art
  • Collaborating with cross-functional teams, such as advertising, marketing, and sales professionals
  • Managing creative projects from start to finish

Advanced skills: Although the following skills are not required for every Visual Artist, we saw several job postings that listed them as preferred qualifications. Improve your career by adding these Visual Artist skills to your résumé.

  • Understanding the principles of effective marketing and advertising
  • Creating greeting cards, book jackets and other commercial forms of art


Visual Artist Q & A

Considering a career as a Visual Artist? Artistic talent is only one part of the equation, full-time sculptor Kevin Caron tells us. “The part people don’t often talk about, though, is the business side,” he says. “You must be prepared to run a real business, to know how to market, schedule, communicate, invoice.” We talked to a few Visual Artists to find out what the job is all about. Here’s what they had to say.

What’s the most rewarding part about being a Visual Artist?

– The most rewarding part for me in being a Visual Artist is the complete freedom to do what I love, which is create works of art that find their way into people’s hearts and homes. Tracy Miller, painter

– The idea that you can create something out of nothing. The fact that you have the imagination and skill to bring something from your head to the page, canvas, sculpture, etc. is a skill not many people have. Whether it’s a great ad campaign or a cool design in an animated film, it’s always cool seeing the finished product and thinking how it all started from nothing. – Jabril Mack, animator

What is the biggest challenge faced by Visual Artists?

– Some of it is tedious. Right now I’m working on a commission that involves prepping a lot of railroad spikes. Often it’s a long way between beginning a job and seeing it done. – Kevin Caron

– The biggest challenge is juggling both the business end of things with the time for creating paintings; needless to say, I get up very early and have long days. – Tracy Miller

What skills do you use every day?

– We use a combination of business, production, social and artistic skills on a daily basis. As wonderfully romantic as being a Visual Artist sounds, you never escape the day-to-day responsibilities of also being an entrepreneur.Melis Steiner, photographer

– Focus. I have to stay very engaged mentally and physically to do my job. If I start daydreaming while I’m, say, welding, it can get really ugly really fast.Kevin Caron

Who succeeds in this job?

– The person who excels at being an artist is determined, thick skinned and stubborn. We outlast, outwit and outplay the people who are not willing to sacrifice and work hard. In my opinion, these attributes are more important than talent in the art world. Debra Keirce, painter

How should someone prepare for a career as a Visual Artist?

– I would have said years ago, go to college. But now I would advise taking business courses, social media courses and then taking workshops with the very best artists in the genre or medium you want to do and then just do it.Tracy Miller

Are there any misconceptions people have about being a Visual Artist?

– People tend to think we have our heads in the clouds, aren’t very professional and take drugs to pull the creativity out and onto the canvas. I believe I’ve heard it all! It takes guts and perseverance and a very thick skin to make it in this business. It is not for sissies or people who
expect constant ego gratification.
Tracy Miller


Visual Artist Resources

We looked high and low for resources to help you jumpstart your career as a Visual Artist. The list includes LinkedIn groups, industry associations, and books for painters, sculptors, illustrators, and other fine artists. Use these resources to connect with industry professionals and learn more about working as a Visual Artist.

On LinkedIn

Visual Artists and Their Advocates – Share ideas with other Visual Artists.

Fine Artists – Discuss your work with artists, art collectors, and agents.

Artists@Work – Learn about the business from experienced artists.

Industry Groups

National Association of Independent Artists – Raise your profile in the art community by joining the NAIA.

International Digital Media & Arts Association – Join iDMAa for access to conferences, journal articles, and marketing opportunities.

AIGA – Share your portfolio, access training opportunities, and meet like-minded artists by joining the Professional Association for Design.

Visual Artist Books

Taking the Leap: Building a Career as a Visual Artist – Build your art business by learning how to negotiate royalties, sell your artwork, and work with gallery personnel.

Career Opportunities in the Visual Arts – Learn about the 65 careers available to Visual Artists.


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