Commercial Art: Booming demand for commercial artist

Professionals in art have many career options available to them depending on their talent, personality, and perseverance

With the rapid growth of the electronic media and related businesses which has created multinational global markets, careers in commercial art, often called ‘applied art’, have received a new lease of life and have become more interesting, glamorous, and rewarding. The field includes several categories of art techniques including illustration, graphic designing, photography, television commercials, music videos, animation, and computer arts. The demand for commercial artists is booming as advertising agencies, publishing houses, interior design and decoration firms, television film production houses, television channels, and dotcom companies scramble for their services.

Basic training in fine arts (including commercial art) is best acquired by enrolling for a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) study programme which is offered by almost all universities in their colleges of art or colleges of arts and crafts. The BFA programme is usually of four to five years’ duration and can be commenced after successful completion of the Plus Two or equivalent examination. Admission to BFA programmes is generally based on performance in an aptitude test in which artistic talent is evaluated. Some universities also refer to their BFA programme as B. Fine or BA (fine arts) or the bachelor of visual arts (BVA) programme.

The most reputed BFA programmes in the country are offered by the following institutes:

Sir J.J. School of Arts, Mumbai
Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda
College of Art, New Delhi
Kala Bhawan, Viswa Bharati University, West Bengal
Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Arts, Mumbai
Government College of Arts and Crafts, Chennai
College of Art, Chandigarh
College of Art, Lucknow
Faculty of Fine Arts, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi

Not a few BFA graduates tend to enroll in the two-year Master’s degree programme (MFA). The MFA programme is usually a specialised study course open to BFA graduates. BFA degree holders are also qualified to pursue advanced diploma programmes in visual communications or textile design at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Commercial art courses offered as two to three-year programme in polytechnics are also open to school leavers (class XII) on the basis of aptitude tests. Extensive qualifications are not required in this field and the only certification you need is a degree or a diploma and a decent work portfolio.

Professionals in art have many career options available to them depending on their talent, personality, and perseverance. Advertising agencies employ fine arts graduates in their creative departments as visualisers at attractive salaries and perks; the textile industry needs the skills of fine arts professionals to create new designs; the electronic media, films and theatre productions require newly designed sets all the time for their studios, and the publishing industry — newspapers, magazines, and books — is a big employer of skilled commercial artists. Moreover artists are needed to design stamps for the postal department as also to design travel brochures for the transport and tourism industry. Teaching fine arts is another career option.

There’s no shortage of employment opportunities for qualified commercial artists and pay packages at all levels are excellent.

An individual who has no regrets about having qualified as a commercial artist is Hital Pandya (27), former art director of the well-known advertising agency Hindustan Thompson Associates (HTA) which is now known as J. Walter Thompson (JWT). A bachelor of applied arts of Mumbai’s L.S. Raheja School of Arts, Pandya also completed a course in film-making from the Xavier Institute of Communication, Mumbai, before joining Everest Advertising in 1998 as a junior visualiser. Within a year Pandya was promoted to senior visualiser and in 2000 he got a big break when he was taken on board HTA.

GLOBAL TRENDS. “An important aspect of this job is to learn how to communicate with clients. Clients tend to be very smart and to do well as an artist you’ve got to come up with great ideas very quickly as the ability to meet tight delivery deadlines is very important. Ads have to be simple, eye-catching, and original to make an impact. And you’ve got to be in touch with advertising trends the world over. For example, Brazil and Argentina produce some of the world’s most creative advertising. Also, to do well as a commercial artist, you have to be familiar with new trends in music, films, and books. In today’s competitive environment agencies require commercial artists who are well informed and clued up,” says Pandya.
Pandya believes job opportunities have multiplied with the growth in the reach of the electronic media and related businesses. “A good hand for drawing and sketching and the ability to think creatively and to visualise campaigns are important attributes of a commercial artist. But a good educational foundation is also necessary as it provides the creative, theoretical, and technical inputs required to equip graduates with the basic skills and attitude necessary to begin their careers,” says Pandya.

But for those with rosy illusions about a career in the big, bad ad world, Pandya has some cautionary advice. “Though with so much going on in an ad agency, life can never be dull, a high level of professionalism is required to survive the environment of creative chaos and competition. Behind all that glamour and slick creativity a lot of hard work is required,” warns Pandya.