The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average fine artist -- also known as the studio artist -- makes a little over $43,000 a year, and these artists earn a number of different types of income to make a living. While some of their monies result from selling sculptures or prints, they also come from other sources as well. All of these eventually add up to the income that the artist makes per year.
Often, when you think of studio artists, you envision an artist working at an easel in her studio. However, many savvy studio artists also use their studios as storefronts. If the artist has a mailing list and a reputation, he'll have people come into the studio and purchase works.
An artist can also make this type of income if his studio participates in local art walks. These usually take place in towns that have a concentration of artists in the area; potential art buyers wander through the studios and galleries in the area picking up art for their collections. This is also a way that artists can gain commissions because more people become exposed to his art.
In his book, "The Mystery of Making It," artist Jack White, who has sold more than $6 million worth of art in his lifetime, says that artists must have a website to survive in the 21st century. This allows artists to earn income from online sales.
Other artists use the Web to sell their work through online auctions, such as eBay or Etsy. In an NPR report, artist Matthew Cumbie shared that he has sold more than 1,000 of his paintings on eBay over the course of a decade. At first, the income he made from this pieces wasn't much, but eventually he began getting several hundred dollars for each piece.
Grants and Residencies
Not all of what an artist earns comes from selling his work. Many artists supplement their incomes with grants and residencies. The amount of money that an artist can make in grants varies, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 or more. This presents a viable income option for the artist who has experience with exhibition. Additional income can result from an artist being given an artist-in-residence award. These positions may not always provide income, but they often include rent-free living and studio space or artist supplies, allowing the artist to offset some of his costs and, in this way, contribute to his finances.
Teaching represents another type of income an artist can earn. The artist who decides to become a teaching artist lends his skills and expertise to schools or other organizations. He might earn some of his income by teaching part time at the local university or be invited to be the guest artist for a semester or year, going back into the art world full time after his teaching stint is complete. This represents a common type of income that many artists earn.