I've always loved to draw, and I consider myself an artist above any other description of myself. When I graduated from high school, I decided that I would earn my living doing art. What that was, I had no idea. I just knew that I wanted to turn my love for art into a career. I became a commercial artist.
To me, there is no difference between commercial artists and fine artists in terms of talent. To be successful, you have to have talent. And you can make money being a commercial artist or a fine artist. The only way that you can't make money is as a "starving artist", which is what I wanted to avoid.
When I started my career in the 80s, the term "graphic designer" was not common. Before that, people who did graphic design were just called "commercial artists". The degree that I got at ASU was in Graphic Design, under the Fine Arts College.
I define a commercial artist as someone who works on assignment. If you have a client, for example the Pope, and you are asked to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, you are a commercial artist. If you just take your sketch pad out somewhere and make drawings of whatever you like, even if you sell them later, in my opinion, you are a fine artist. In fact, even if you don't sell them later, you are a fine artist.
If you want to be a commercial artist, as all Graphic Designers are, you have to learn to work on assignment. You have to know how to deal either with a client or an art director, who will tell you what the client wants. If Michelangelo had painted a bunch of bunnies on the ceiling of the Sistine, he would have lost the commission. But he took a bland assignment and made a masterpiece of it. Being a commercial artist can be cool.
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