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How art students can launch their careers

If you are studying or considering studying the arts at university you probably aren’t expecting to be rich.

That said, when you leave university you will still need to put bread on the table and it would be nice to earn money in the field you’ve trained in. A part-time job could be a way to gain some extra cash while you’re studying, and will improve your chances of making a living in the arts at the end of your studies.

Broadly speaking, artists run their finances in one of two ways: they seek out a profitable sideline earning enough money to live and make art in their spare time; or they earn money in an art-related business.

Getting your head around these two different options while you’re still studying will help you become much more employable when you graduate.

Some German art colleges offer a dual education periods of time studying the arts are interspersed with an apprenticeship. The latter gives art students a more profitable technical skill such as welding, stone carving or metal casting. You might use this skill to make art, or you might use it to earn money to fund your art making. Either way it’s pretty useful.

You might not be a student at a German art college, but it’s worth making the most of the facilities your university or college has to offer before you graduate. Chances are that learning how to weld after you’ve left will be more of a challenge.

Art students should also be thinking about other types of part-time jobs they could get that will help you after university.

Chelsea College of Arts graduate John Hughes is a sound artist, but at the moment most of his income comes from his day job. Hughes works for the London underground if you ever travel on the Jubilee line through Canada Water Station it may well be his voice that you are hearing over the tannoy.

“When I was at college I was wise to the fact that I would always need a paid job. I applied to work on the underground as I saw it as a means of giving me the time, space and money to continue making my artwork,” he says.

You might get a part-time job that’s completely separate from your degree, or try and find something in a similar area.

Central St Martins graduate Noah Angell makes artworks using film, writing and performance. He supplements his art earnings by working as a freelance video editor in a post-production company which specialises in producing museum exhibitions, as well editing video works for other artists, and occasionally doing commissioned writings.

He says: “I made a conscious decision to allow my work freedom from economic pressures, but editing work has taught me a lot. For instance if I want to invoke the authority of documentary or educational films, I know exactly how, on a technical level to signify these things to the viewer.”

Getting work experience or freelance work in a company that’s in the same area, but not directly related to what you want to do after uni, might be a way of creating a sideline source of income that you still find fulfilling.

Students should also consider trying to find a job assisting an artist. Working as an assistant is a great way to learn skills and earn money at the same time.

Eddy Robinson is a student at Newcastle and works part time as an artist’s assistant.

He says: “My first job was for Neil Bromwich and Zoe Walker. I helped them make the work for their solo show at the Baltic. Then I helped Andrew Burton: he makes loads of little bricks out of ceramics. For his show at the Glass Centre we had 35,000 glass bricks to stick together over a week and half.

Getting an assisting job while you’re still studying could really help you in the future.

“People hear about you, they hear that you help so-and-so and they ask you to help them,” says Robinson

Robinson is currently working for Markus Karstiess, who has a show coming up at the Hatton Gallery. Robinson says: “I’ve met loads of artists and curators doing this. It doesn’t pay lots, but it’s been really useful meeting this massive range of people. I’m confident that I will get more work in the future from the contacts that I’ve made. It’s much better than slaving over a cappuccino machine.”

— Guardian News and Media Ltd