Looking for art careers? Today’s post should help you get a better idea of what the pay, hours and day to day work is like. Plus, how you can combine your love of art and travel.
Today’s spotlight falls on Scott, who is a very talented artist. His paintings look like photographs, but in actual fact are his very own masterpieces. In this post he gives you an honest low-down on his art career, as well as actionable tips so that you can follow in his footsteps.
A 101 on Art Careers
Artist Pay and Perks
Scott says: The pay all depends on what you produce, the channels you sell your work through and how often you sell.
I know some artists that sell paintings for £25,000 per piece. That’s more than my annual salary in one sale.
In order to build up funds I also draw or paint private commissions. I’m busy working on one at the moment. These can be hard to get sometimes but they keep you inspired and productive. I’m hoping that I sell a few pieces currently on show at the gallery in London. Then and only then do I think I could consider going travelling to see potential subjects face to face.
A Day in the Life of an Artist
Scott says: I usually spend my evenings tinkering with small areas of my paintings and weekends on larger, more involved areas.
It’s a shame really as all I want to do is paint, but I’d have to sell five-ten paintings a year to give up my job, which is quite a challenge. I could probably produce that many a year, but you can’t judge what people will buy so it could take a year or longer to sell a painting.
Why Work as a Part-Time Artist?
Scott says: Unfortunately I don’t paint full time because of money. When I graduated and started to contact galleries it was towards the middle/end of the recession. Most people, including wealthy people in London, weren’t spending big money on extravagant items, including art.
I therefore have to work full time in order to keep my house (and partner!) and my two dogs fed and watered. Working full time also allows me to buy art materials without worrying too much about the cost. Paints and brushes are hellishly expensive these days.
How Long Does it Take to Paint Someone?
Scott says: My paintings take anywhere between six weeks and six months to complete, depending on the size and amount of detail. The gallery I’m with in London like big paintings so I usually only complete one or two a year (at a push). The sizes of my paintings range from postcard size up to five feet in height.
How to Start Painting Someone
Scott: My technique is to draw the image onto paper as tightly as possible, making sure the proportions are correct. Shadows, mid tones and highlights are all essentially abstract shapes, that when put together in the right way, slowly build up the overall shapes and features of the face. I then transfer the image onto canvas or wood (usually MDF).
I complete a warm brown underpainting and work on top of that layer with alkyd paints, which are fast drying oil paints. This is called the Dead Layer. The Dead Layer is the fully rendered painting, but in tones of a relatively neutral grey, black and white. After all the paint is mixed and ready to use I work on small areas at a time and build up the three dimensional forms until they look as realistic as possible. This can take quite a while, perhaps a number of weeks.
Once the Dead Layer is complete I dilute artist quality oil paints as thin glazes to add the colour and contrast. The paint is scumbled onto the surface and then wiped off. It could take anywhere between 10-20 glazes on the same area before I am satisfied and can move on. A lot of patience is needed at this stage as it could take a day or two before the glaze is sufficiently dry enough before adding another layer. So that could mean it could take 10-20 days before that area is complete.
How to Choose a Subject
Scott: I find that deciding what to paint is often harder than the execution of the painting itself. So much has already been done so finding that ‘original idea’ is getting harder and harder.
Real life inspires me. I’m attracted to images of people that have an almost expressionless face but with a hint of personality coming through. I am mostly drawn (pun intended!) to older people with kind faces. All those wrinkles, lines, scars and pits really help to describe that person’s life and personal journey.
When I walk down the road I take mental pictures of people, colours, shapes and situations and then bring them back into the studio environment. I then note down words or statements and make doodles.
Sometimes I take photographs too. I’ve been taking a lot of self portrait photographs to then paint. It allows me to practice my photography skills, experimenting with the lighting and exposure to my hearts content.
Advice for Budding Artists
It may sound like a cliché, but practice, practice, practice. Find what interests you about the world and study it.
Fall in love with your subjects and push your ideas as far as they can go. Only then should you concern yourself with technique.
As far as that’s concerned find classical, modern or contemporary artists that you have a connection with and copy their work. The point of this is not to be copy cat, it’s to help you understand the processes involved in the creation of art; be it drawing, painting, printing, sculpting etc.
You must invest a lot of time before you get to the point where you know what you’d like to say with your work and how to produce it. Also, try to see the initial frustration you feel as a learning curve. You’ll get there; you just have to be patient.
How to Become an Artist
Scott: I guess I was born with a talent that I’ve honed over the years. I don’t doubt that anyone could draw or paint if they were taught, but it’s the interest, passion and willingness to learn (constantly) that makes you an artist. The first signs of my ability to draw were at school. One of my art teachers said that if he had my talent then he probably wouldn’t be a teacher.
When I left college in late 90s I didn’t really want to pursue a career in art. I was too busy spending money, going clubbing with my mates, and dating. It wasn’t until 2004 that I really started to get sick of the corporate world. I was in sales and marketing at the time (and a bit of recruitment). I remember one day I asked myself what I was doing.
I then decided that I wanted to go to uni. It was the best decision I’d ever made. I studied Illustration with Animation. I had the idea that I wanted to work for Pixar. Unfortunately the animation part of the course was awful. Thankfully I rediscovered painting and spent the rest of the course working towards improving my skills. I truly believe that drawing and painting almost solidly for three years brought out my talent. The rest, as they say, is history.
How to Get Into Art
My process is self taught. I originally wanted to be a comic book artist and fell in love with the work of a British artist called Simon Bisley. I spent a lot of time staring at his work, trying to dissect his technique.
It wasn’t until the mid/late 90s that I stumbled across a series of photos online that were taken whilst he was painting a cover for a graphic novel. The photos answered a lot of questions so I started to paint cartoon characters in the same way. Up until recently everything I painted was done in my own version of his technique.
Inspiration for Art
Scott: I am attracted to countries and cultures that are very different to my own, especially as I am a white British male who has been brought up in English cities and towns.
A market in India is very different to my local market. An old wise man from China or Japan who sits in front of a temple is also something I cannot see from my window. I would love to travel to these places and immerse myself in the environments and cultures.
I have a lot of contacts on Flickr that I work with from time to time. Some of these photographers actually live in the countries that I would like to visit: South America, India, Africa, China and Japan. Some of them have been travelling there so they have large portfolios I can draw inspiration from.
Culture Inspiration for Art
Scott: I have a strong passion for indigenous people – people from tribes or developing countries. They live their lives so simply, perhaps with no knowledge or care for technology. The irony is that when I’m looking at photos of these sorts of people I’m using on my iPad! My life and their lives contrast with one another, but in a beautiful way I think.
What’s your favourite painting and why?
It’s called ‘Sadhu’. It was my first portrait painting. I was so pleased with the result that it made me organise a portrait exhibition in Bristol with five or six other graduates. This then led to a solo show. A lot of people love that painting too which means a lot to me. It’s currently hanging on the wall in my living room. I always smile when I look at it.
Have you ever shown your painting to the subject before?
Scott: I’ve never met the subjects I’ve painted, but that to me is part of the attraction. I feel that the distance factor plays a part in my process and adds to the mystery of who the person is and the life they’ve led.
Sometimes I wonder whether the subjects feel a cold shiver when I paint their faces, not in an uncomfortable way but in such a way that they feel someone is communicating with them, I guess on some sort of spiritual level.
It just shows that you can combine your love of travel with your career, even if you don’t travel full-time. If you want to see more, you can see some of his work on his Facebook page
Have you ever thought about being an artist? Is it a career that you’d love to combine with your passion for travel? Do you have any more questions? I’d love to hear from you in the comments box below. X
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