Avenues for artists

Your caricatures of your teachers have your classmates in stitches and the art work on your schoolbag is the envy of everyone, so how about turning your artistic talent into a career?

Despite the fact that careers in the arts are still perceived as low-paying, creative talent can be channelled into a variety of fulfilling careers.

A vibrancy in the arts has created a climate in which it is becoming possible for artists to survive purely by selling non-commissioned works. However, many artists employ their skills and talents to work for commercial clients, while continuing to create their own art on the side.

There are opportunities for artists at magazines, ad agencies and in companies that need art for corporate brochures, logos and signage.

Knowledge of computer-aided design can broaden the scope of career options, so a short course in this area should be considered.

Cartoonist and artist Alistair Findlay says what is most important is being able to think outside the box when it comes to thriving in careers linked to art. Findlay completed a fine-arts degree and went on to work as an art director at an advertising agency. It was about translating ideas into images, and required things such as a creating story boards for clients and overseeing that whole process.

The company folded, but Findlay says it was a blessing in disguise. When I was retrenched it was the opportunity for me to give it a go on my own. I started producing illustrations for magazines and I would think up my own cartoon strips, which I would present to newspapers and magazines, he says.

Now, 15 years later, he is an established cartoonist whose work appears in newspapers. He continues to create cartoon strips and illustrations for a range of publications. Cartoons are wonderful because they are more than just about creating a pretty picture, they are about coming up with a concept that includes the images, narrative and the wording all coming together.

Findlay believes there are many opportunities for young artists in the corporate sector.

Every company has a newsletter or a publication or something like that and young people can approach these companies with their ideas for cartoons or illustrations, he says.


Because the pitch is the lousiest part of getting started, Findlay suggests: Prove your creativity. Dont just phone asking for an appointment; rather deliver something unusual and creative that grabs their attention and gets you noticed.

Findlay also believes its not absolutely necessary to have a formalised tertiary education in art.

You learn by looking, by practising and by finding out more about the works that interest you. Be enthusiastic; dont expect anything to happen too quickly and find a mentor if you can, he advises.

The Johannesburg Art Gallery runs a number of short courses and programmes. For more information contact the gallery on Tel: (011) 725 3130

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