Everyone else who gets money for their art is a commercial artist. Commercial art is how you make a living. Your mother understands commercial art. The Occupational Outlook Handbook, produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics has it pretty right.
Artists create art to communicate ideas, thoughts, or feelings. They use a variety of methods—painting, sculpting, or illustration—and an assortment of materials, including oils, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, pencils, pen and ink, plaster, clay, and computers. Artists’ works may be realistic, stylized, or abstract and may depict objects, people, nature, or events.You can check out the what else the BLS has to say about Artists here.
Artists generally fall into one of four categories.
Art directors formulate design concepts and presentation approaches for visual communications.
Craft artists create or reproduce handmade objects for sale or exhibition.
Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, create original artwork, using a variety of media and techniques.
Multi-media artists and animators create special effects, animation, or other visual images on film, on video, or with computers or other electronic media. (Designers, including graphic designers, are discussed elsewhere in the Handbook.)
The related occupations:
Other workers who apply artistic skills include architects, except landscape and naval; archivists, curators, and museum technicians; commercial and industrial designers; fashion designers; floral designers; graphic designers; interior designers; jewelers and precious stone and metal workers; landscape architects; photographers; and woodworkers. Some workers who use computers extensively, including computer software engineers and desktop publishers, may require art skills.I would include one more: The Bullshit Artist. More commonly known as the Sales Person. The BLS calls it Sales Engineer.
It's funny. Design schools used to be Art schools. Then they became all focused on "professional preparation" and forgot that they were Art schools. Maybe because Art was a hard sell to parents. Or that no self-respecting admin wants to say their outfit teaches commercial art. Or in the rush to teach "computer skills" they forgot the point.
More recently the buzz is Liberal Arts. "We've got to teach the students theory." Meanwhile there are very few in the liberal arts faculties who understand what theory is anyway. And "talk and chalk" teaching is pretty broken. And the reality is that the most efficient way to get learning to happen is 1. doing 2. thinking about what and why you're doing it. 3.Do it some more. Sounds like making art to me.
But whatever the reason, Art schools stopped using the right word to describe what they do.
It's ironic that the successful professionals are Artists. And every kid who wants to get in the field wants to become a great Artist. And the most sustainable path going forward is to be a self - employable Artist.
Some schools have figured it out. Sooner or later all the schools will figure it out. Or they won't be able to charge $30,000 a year to learn to be a graphic designer, much less a commercial Artist.
Is it this?
Or is it this?
The correct answer is yes.