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What is a Visual Artist?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

Visual arts are made for observation by an audience that looks at them. They are generally complete prior to the audience encountering them. Visual arts are often contrasted with performing arts, which are performed in front of an audience. The visual arts include two-dimensional and three-dimensional arts, for example, the decorative arts, drawing, graphic design, painting, photography, printmaking, and sculpture. A visual artist is a maker of visual arts.

A visual artist with any of the specialties named could work in very different ways. For example, a painter might work with watercolors, acrylics, or oil paints. A photographer might specialize in black and white photography or might create color photographs that were highly manipulated by means of a photo-editing software program. A sculptor could work in wood, clay, marble, granite, or wood, or use found objects to create sculptures. A visual artist who draws might favor charcoal, pencil, crayon, pastels, felt markers, or pen and ink. There are also visual artists who work in multiple disciplines or combine disciplines in new ways.

A visual artist may receive training in an art school or through a college or university art department. Often the degree received will be a Fine Arts degree. The degree candidate will often study art history and theory as well as a variety of media before choosing a particular medium to focus on. There are bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts available. Often the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is considered a terminal degree, but it is possible to receive a PhD in visual arts, though doctoral degrees are often more theoretical, focused on theory and criticism.

There are a number of different jobs that a visual artist may hold besides the job of making art, which is often done by visual artists who are self-employed. A visual artist who draws, makes prints, takes photographs, or paints may become a book illustrator, for example. A graphic designer might join an advertising agency or become a web designer. A number of visual artists become teachers, either in school districts, colleges or universities, or in art studios or museums with art education programs. Other visual artists may take jobs in museums or become critics.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for Practical Adult Insights, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
By Qohe1et — On Feb 25, 2011

Art competitions involve understanding what it is that really will speak to people and implementing techniques which are new and cutting edge. Putting the full effort of time and thought into a painting is important, and so is putting soul into it. Nothing is complete if it does not involve the whole of a person.

By TrogJoe19 — On Feb 24, 2011


This is true, I really feel like people have a "sixth sense" for art. Even if a form of art doesn't seem to make sense in the conscious mind, it nevertheless can have a profound effect on the soul of a person and make them feel feelings that are deeper than words. This is why they say "a picture paints a thousand words," but the truth is, some pictures are way too deep to be fully explained in even that many words.

By JavaGhoul — On Feb 23, 2011

Understanding the human subconscious and NLP are important parts of creating good art that really speaks to people in ways that they can't explain. If someone can explain why they like something fully, then it isn't good enough. The best visual arts and sight experiences have something about them, an aura, or a generator of deep feelings, which really speak to viewers.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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