COMMERCIAL ARTISTS (ANIMATOR, DESIGNER AND ILLUSTRATOR) California Occupational Guide Number 4 Interest Area 1 1995
Commercial art fields have an alluring and exciting image. They are a magnet for creative people who love to draw or sculpt, but these people, unlike many "fine artists," welcome the challenge of the fast-paced business world.
COMMERCIAL ARTISTS make products, services, or ideas more appealing to the public by means of their designs, illustrations, artwork, and graphic representations. They may complete work by hand in various media such as oils, acrylics, silk-screen, and clay. They might also use computers or offset printing presses to complete their jobs. In contrast to the "fine arts," that are characterized by the expression of beauty without regard to utility, the emphasis of commercial artwork is to communicate specific ideas or concepts in response to assignments or requests from employers and clients.
Commercial Artists are classified by the type of work they do.
Fashion Artists create wearing apparel and accessory illustrations for newspapers, magazines, and catalogs.
Graphic Designers design copy-layouts (pictures) for books, magazines, newspapers, television, product packaging, letterheads, brochures, and organizational logos and icons. They determine the size and arrangement of graphics to be used based on their knowledge of layout principles in printing and publishing. They write instructions for workers who prepare the final layout for printing. Some Graphic Designers do animated graphics for television using electronic video equipment.
Illustrators create rough sketches and finished art work to elucidate, to decorate, or to substitute for spoken or written messages. Working for various media, they create graphics with pen and ink, water-color, charcoal, oil, or the computer.
Illustrators may specialize, for example, Title Artists create lettering or icons for motion picture or television credits. Medical and Scientific Illustrators create graphics and three dimensional models to demonstrate medical or biological concepts for fields such as anatomy, pathology, or surgical procedures. They may also devise visual aids such as computer graphics to be used in teaching and research programs.
Motion Picture Cartoonists (Animation Artists) draw a series of cartoons with very slight variations in each successive drawing or frame. When filmed and projected at a specific speed, the cartoons seem to move. This imitation of motion is called animation. For feature length films, drawings are traced onto clear acetate before they are painted or colored. Most of the conceptual drawings (story boards) are still done by hand, but the painting and backgrounds are routine tasks largely done with computer graphics by support staff.
Most Commercial Artists work for advertising agencies, organizations with art or publicity departments, publishers, and television and film studios. In most cases, the art department is small, consisting of art directors, perhaps an assistant director, and a small staff of design and production workers. Free-lance illustrators are frequently hired to create illustrations in styles that cannot be done by the staff. Beginning illustrators may successfully compete with established professionals for these assignments.
Work environments are brightly lit and temperature-controlled, with drawing tables and easels arranged for the quick and efficient production of commercial art. Because Commercial Artists work with a variety of people under sometimes stressful situations, they must be resilient, efficient, and able to relate well with people. Much of the design, illustration, layout, and paste-up work is done sitting down, sometimes for extended periods. The work generally requires visual acuity and color vision.
The following information is from the California Projections of Employment published by the Labor Market Information Division. The figures represent the broad occupational group Artists and Related Workers which includes Commercial Artists.
Estimated number of workers in 1990 15,150 Estimated number of workers in 2005 21,280 Projected Growth 1990-2005 41% Estimated openings due to separations by 2005 5,590
(These figures do not include self-employment nor openings due to turnover.)
Self-employment as a freelance artist is common in the commercial art industry, especially for the experienced worker with a network of contacts. Competition is stiff for both the entrant and the seasoned artist in the current job market. The animation sector enjoyed a boom over the past several years, but is now in a decline that may last two or three years, according to the trade union. While the animation concepts (story boards) are done in this country, much of the routine cell painting in computer graphics is done overseas. This practice further limits job opportunities for beginning artists.
Artists skilled in the use of computers and other mechanized methods of graphic design are usually hired first. Job openings will be more plentiful in the State's large metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles or San Francisco since most firms with art departments are concentrated there.
WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS
Salaries vary widely in this occupation. Experience, talent, education, and the size and location of the firm are all factors influencing the salaries offered to the Commercial Artist. Data from various surveys indicate that annual salaries range from $20,000 to well over $50,000.
Commercial Artists normally work standard hours and workdays. Overtime may be required to finish big projects or to meet unchangeable deadlines in the news or motion picture media. Paid vacation, sick leave, health related insurance, and retirement plans are common benefits.
ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING
The talent to communicate effectively through artistic means is the basic requirement for success. However, talent alone does not guarantee employment. Artists must learn styles, techniques, and types of media that allow them to translate ideas into finished art projects. Formal training programs may range from two to four years of academic or vocational art education. It is important to select a school where students train under the direction of professional, working artists.
Both generalized and specialized training are important. Commercial Artists need a solid base in design and color, practice in drawing and lettering, and knowledge of photography and reproduction techniques. Aspiring artists also need the latest computer-graphic techniques. Career preparation in a specific field, such as design or fashion illustration is also very important. For example, the screen cartoonists' union sponsors an institute offering basic and advanced course work in animation techniques. Such specialized training should be enhanced by hands-on training for both professional development and networking contacts.
Commercial Artists may work several years before acquiring the skills and reputation for higher paying jobs with more responsibilities. They may advance to the position of art director or become director of projects within an agency or organization. Many freelance artists work as consultants while continuing in their craft.
FINDING THE JOB
Artists need an art portfolio which contains at least ten samples that exhibit practical applications along with creative ability and technique. Job seekers should apply directly to newspaper and magazine publishers advertising agencies, motion picture and television studios, and government agencies. Students and recent graduates should register with graduate placement centers and network through professional associations. Job seekers should also register with the nearest State of California Employment Development Department Job Service Office.
ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Society of Illustrators 128 East 63rd Street New York, NY 10021-7392 (212) 838-2560
Graphic Arts Guild 11 W 20th Street, 8th Floor New York, NY 10011-3704 (212) 463-7730
Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists, Local 839 4729 Lankershim Boulevard North Hollywood, CA 91602 (818) 766-7151
National Cartoonist Society 2676 Gerritsen Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11229 (212) 627-1550
RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES
Fashion Designers No. 185 Interior Designers No. 189
OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES
DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th ed., Rev. 1) Fashion Artist 141.061-014 Graphic Designer 141.061-018 Illustrator 141.061-022 Illustrator, Medical and Scientific 141.061-026 Cartoonist Motion Pictures 141.081-010
OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System Artistic and Related Workers 340350
Source: State of California, Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group, (916) 262-2162.