Artist Career Information
What an Artist does
Fine art includes drawing, painting and sculpting. Trying to express a specific and unique vision through painting, sculpture, drawing, or mixed media characterises an artist's life.
Commercial art is the application of various art media for commercial purposes like creating attractive illustrations for advertisements, displays, books, magazines, posters, packaging, etc.
The extension of these arts to the industrial field translates to exhibitions, window displays, hoardings, technical catalogues, cinema slides, etc.
Fine Arts could be broadly classified into Painting and Sculpting.
Painting: It involves painting or sketching portraits, landscapes, scenery, still life, abstract design, murals, etc. The medium could be watercolours, oil paints or even pastel colours charcoal and even computer paint programmes. Your choice of surfaces could vary from the traditional canvas to creating graffiti walls a La New York.
Sculpting: You will use your hands to give shape to your thoughts. Material like stone, wood, clay, plaster of Paris or metals such as bronze will be your resources. Computers, lasers, sound, plastics, fibre and textiles are some other materials you could dabble with. Successful sculptors continually study and learn new techniques, experiment with different materials, keep abreast with world trends and attend art exhibitions.
Pottery: You could also take up pottery and create designer pots. You'll keep yourself busy with throwing, glazing and firing pots. Many potters consider pottery as more of a lifestyle than a career even though they may have their wares located across the nation in speciality shops or art studios.
In fine arts unless you are a M.F Hussein or an Anjali Ela Menon, you don't really have much opportunity to make mega bucks. So you better find yourself a proper job to fall back on. But if art is what you live for you could earn a decent living as an artist too.
You can offer your skills and vision to commercial clients like corporations, retail stores, advertising agencies, design houses or publishing firms. If you don't want to be tied up in a full-time job you could work be a freelancer, or work for an advertising agency, graphic-design firm or other organisation that has an advertising department on a part time basis.
Commercial art involves using different art forms for creating advertisements, billboards, book jackets, window displays, cinema slides, technical catalogues, packaging and so on. You will use your creativity skills to give form to someone else's ideas.
To join this field, apart from being a good artist, you also need to understand the art of marketing and publicity. Selling your skills at times affects your ability to produce your own work. But this is where the moolah is. Apart from this you can also work on other forms of art like cartooning, computer animation, clay modelling and so on.
As a sculptor, you could design themes for worldwide events, seasons, specific promotions or a particular message. Sculpting is not a career, which can be taken up off-hand. It is an art that has more to do with in-born talent.
Specialists in Fine Arts can work as freelancers or can be employed by TV and film studios. They can teach art at the school level.
Specialists in commercial art have various job openings:
• Art studios
• Advertising agencies
• Publishing houses
• Departments of commercial establishments, etc.
• Fashion houses
• Art critics
You can also earn money by being a freelancer. Art and culture is getting increasing attention in the media these days. You could even write features and articles for newspapers and magazines.
The methods and mediums of art may change, but the intention has remained the same: to reinvent, to communicate in a new and fascinating way. In the future, the role that art plays will not change drastically, but painting, photography, sketching, sculpting, metalworking, and many other mediums will be joined by computer art.
This is an industry where your reputation counts a lot. You need to produce work that creates hype and buzz in the artistic community. Your contacts in the advertising business and art dealers should get you steady amount of work. Be prepared for a lot of frustration though. You may not always get what you want. Corporate support and encouragement to artists is also on the rise.
Abilities & Traits Required
The most essential traits in this field are:
• A strong desire to express your feelings in art form
• An eye for form
• Ability to utilise colours
History is rife with examples of self-schooled artists with no formal educational training who are both brilliant and innovative; unfortunately, history is also rife with examples of starving artists, dying in obscurity. Formal training in this field is becoming the norm.
You can go for a Bachelor in Fine Arts (BFA). It is a four-year degree programme segmented into two courses, namely Foundation course (1 year) and specialisation course (3 years). Further professional study can be pursued through a Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) usually spanning over two years. Eligibility for BFA is HSC. You can also have a degree or diploma in Visual Arts.
Diploma in Fine Arts is another option.
You can specialise in Commercial Art and better your chances of getting a job. To better your prospects you should also learn computer technologies used in commercial designs these days."
Only a small number of artists can make a living by painting and sculpting alone. Though this profession doesn't pay too well the reason why people choose to join the unremunerative and very selective fine arts is because they love what they do.
Initially you'll have to start your career by presenting your works to people for free! You could exhibit your work in a gallery and earn anything between Rs 10000 – 15000 on an individual piece of work. Gradually, this could move on to the Rs 30000- 45000 bracket. Once your work is recognised then an individual piece could cost up to Rs 2 lakh or more.
Interview with an Artist
B Prabha, Painter
Trained at the J.J School in Bombay, Prabha came to Mumbai from Bela, a village near Nagpur. At first Prabha experimented with different media and themes, but contemplative women in oils were to become her hallmark. Her paintings cover a wide range of subjects, from landscapes to social issues like droughts, hunger and homelessness. B. Prabha held about 50 exhibitions since 1956, both in India and abroad. She was also the recipient of several prestigious awards.
Did you always want to be a painter?
No. Actually I dreamt of being a singer. I had a good voice. I was also good at painting. My elder brother cautioned me that I couldn’t master two subjects in one lifetime. So I had to choose between painting and singing after my matriculation. And that was very difficult indeed. After a lot of introspection I decided to opt for painting. I thought, main apne hatho se paint karungi aur kano se gana sunugi.
What was your inspiration to take up painting?
There were not too many women painters in India at that time. There was only Amrita Shergill. So I set out to create another Amrita. I respected her a lot. I also wanted my paintings to reach all parts of the world. It was my ambition to be a renowned painter based in Paris.
How did you think of coming to Mumbai and studying at the prestigious J.J. School of Arts? How was the experience?
I first studied art at Nagpur School of Art. Then I wanted to test my ability as a painter. So I came to Mumbai and enrolled at the J.J School of Art where I got a scholarship to specialise in mural painting.
The atmosphere at J.J those days was like a big family. We used to help each other. The dean bought panels especially from Khadakvasla for us to make mural paintings. That helped us to make huge murals.
Tell us something about your struggle period?
Struggle has taught me a lot. I came to Mumbai with only Rs 2 and 11 paise. I had to sell my only piece of jewellery and a finger ring gifted by my grand mother to go to Kashmir on our honeymoon. I remember we had taken along with us a stove and few utensils to cook in Kashmir.
After coming back to Mumbai we didn’t have a place to stay. So Vithalji’s friend who had moved to a bigger house gave us a room to stay in. He was kind enough to lend us a few essential items.
Madhuri Ben Desai and Soali Batliwalawala gave us a place to put up our paintings. They never charged us a penny. They said you could pay us back when you start earning.
Do you remember your first show?
I put up my first show as a student, much before I got married. I exhibited 100 paintings. Can you imagine who was my first customer? My first customer was the great scientist Homi Baba. He bought three paintings.
It’s said that an artist is born. So where does that leave art schools?
Yes it is true that artists are gifted. But it is also important to go to an art school for training. In a school environment you prosper because of the healthy competition. You learn from other students. This way you can also rate your talent vis-à-vis the other students in your class. It’s like a race. How far can you go? If you sit and paint at home you will obviously like your own paintings. It’s only when you look at the world that you will realise where you stand. And that’s important.
What are the most important qualities for a painter?
First and foremost you have to be a good human being. Then you have to have an appreciative nature, to be able to see the beauty around you. You have to be sensitive. There is so much beauty around us. Just look at the sun, moon and the stars. One life is not enough to study and appreciate all this beauty.
Why is the central theme of your paintings always woman and their sufferings?
I have seen many women and even studied them closely. And I have yet to see one happy woman. Women can create beauty. Here I am not just talking about the urban woman but even the women in our rural areas are extremely creative. Women crave for happiness and appreciation all their lives. Moreover they have so many emotions to portray.
What is your advise to youngsters?
Just enrolling in an art school and passing the exams is not enough. You have to practice from day one. Haath saaf hona chahiye. The more you practice the more you will be spontaneous in your work. If artists don’t work even for a month their hands become stiff. Like musicians and singers indulge in regular riyaaz, even artist like painters and sculptors have to do regular riyaaz.
You should learn to draw human beings in different actions. Anatomy is very important. Your paintings should reflect emotions. Tonal value in a painting is very important. If the tonal value in your painting is not correct then your painting will look flat. You have to be able to highlight your subject in the painting. Or else it will get lost in the surroundings. You should be able to feel the distance in the painting.
- Nivedita Jayaram Pawar