Careers in Applied Art

A disheveled look and uncompromising attitude were the hallmarks of a struggling artist until a few years ago. Today, you wouldn’t be surprised to find art students cavorting their way into the corridors of power in the corporate world. This transition can be attributed to a rapidly globalizing world, opening doors to countless opportunities for students, who can communicate a message aesthetically. Students of applied art (as commercial art is known in the academic parlance) can find employment opportunities with animation companies, work as illustrators or graphic designers in Internet firms, and the electronic and print media. They may also work in the fashion or textile industry, or in furniture designing and interior decoration set-ups. This is all, of course, in addition to the traditional prospects in the advertising field, as visualisers, designers, art directors, illustrators, photographers and editors. They may also choose to teach in schools and colleges or other art institutions.

True to this statement applied art is all about translating your artistic talent into a marketable discipline. The thin line that differentiates commercial art from fine art is that in case of the former, your art is aimed at satisfying a purpose i.e. communicating an idea and not your creative soul, as is the case with the latter.

For any youngster, who has an inclination towards a career in commercial arts, it is mandatory to gather information about the course much before you take the final plunge. Browsing through websites of art colleges in India and aboard will answer you queries and you will find that in most cases, the first two years will build your foundation in art, after which, you will have to choose your specialization.

We were taught traditional drawing board techniques of graphic representation in the first year. After that, we had to choose one of five electives, which included typography, illustration, photography computer graphics and display, informs who holds a BFA degree from Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai.

The earlier the better: Once you know that the bug has bitten you, focus on sharpening your skills, so that by the time you appear for the art college entrance exams after class 12, you have an edge over others. An intern with a leading publication house and a fresh graduate from the JJ School of Arts, recollects, ‘When I was in class eight, I had made up my mind to become a commercial artist. I visited art college campuses that year and collected information on what I need to arm myself with, before I set sail on this ship. On the advice of my professors and taking a few cues from some seniors I spoke to, I enrolled myself in an art foundation course. This helped me a great deal when it came to cracking the Maharasthra ART CET’.

As the canvas of work for commercial artists is vast, students aspiring to make a career in this field, not only need to be good artists, but also need to be adept in the art of communication marketing and publicity. As a commercial artist, you will be expected to be creative, but will also need to follow an established style or direction, and keep abreast with the latest technologies. In some roles, you will need to have customer service and business skills as well

If you are attracted to this field because you think this will turn out to be a hobby class, where you can candidly let your creative juices flow, and acquire a university degree at the end of it, you are thoroughly mistaken. There is no doubt a very lucrative and versatile career choice and your options are unlimited. However, it is very demanding. You need to clearly understand that fame and money will not come overnight in this profession. You really have to slog it out if you want to be a successful professional.

Your aptitude for art and basic communication skills will be put to the test in any entrance exam that leads to admission in an institute of repute. You will need to constantly update your skills and never stop learning. Reputed career counselors, believes that an aspiring commercial artist must be able to reason logically create new ideas, understand the meaning of words and use language effectively, and interpret feelings, ideas or facts artistically. Another important requirement is normal color vision to work with paints, watercolors and other art materials.

A BFAW course will teach you the basics of arts, but it is your own initiative that will make you a master in your chosen field. Don’t crib and complain about lack of infrastructure or quality teachers in your institute. If you are passionate, nothing can stop you from being the best in your chosen vocation. For students of commercial art, your personal enterprise is most important.

Although the syllabi at art institutes are revamped according to industry requirements, most often, what sells like hot cakes in the market, may not essentially be a part of your curriculum. In such cases, colleges can come to the student’s rescue. Students are exposed to a variety of new concept, and colleges can help with some hand holding by offering short term courses, holding exhibitions and organizing seminars. At one institute students have been making the most of short term courses being offered. Campus placement is rare at art institutes but students who are well networked with their seniors and mentors can look forward to gainful employment close on the heels of their graduation.

Unfortunately some parents have always believed that a student, who takes up art as a career, could never earn a decent living. Contrary to this perception however, this industry produces some of the most highly paid professionals. However, it is also true that an artist’s marketability depends more on his or her aptitude and skill sets, rather than the degree that he or she holds.

The starting salary of a commercial artist today can range from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000, depending on the industry they pay gets better as you move up the ladder. Graphic designers, visualizers and art directors today, can command very high salaries, often in six digits, and there is no shortage of money if you are good. Freelancers can also make a decent living, starting from Rs 2000 for designing visiting cards, to Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 for creating a company’s logo.

To ensure that you have a rewarding career in commercial art, you can never stop learning. Students of commercial arts can become good managers too. A BFA student can go on to do an MBA and this combination will give him an edge in positions, where both his skill sets will be optimally used.

There is a lot of talent today. But professional often lack continuous focus and thus remain mediocre throughout their life. If you want success, have an unflinching focus to do the best. —