Professional Practice in Visual Art

How do artists make a living? The most common concern of art students and parents is the difficulty of making a living with artwork. This ELO is an opportunity to develop an understanding of how artists make, share, and sell their artwork.


  • Essential Question: How do artists make a living?
  • Areas of study:  Visual Arts, or elective credit, (potentially a business credit)
  • Type and amount of credit earned: 1/2 credit either in arts or elective credit
  • Community partner:  artist who lives and or exhibits their artwork locally. (Examples: handbag designer, print maker, potter, painter.)


  • Application of skills, ideas and visual art language to create works of art
  • Career exploration: understanding and identification of the range of careers associated with visual arts
  • Self-management skills: responsibility, dependability, punctuality, perseverance
  • Public speaking skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Collaboration skills: listen to others, gather and share information, cooperate and help team

See the detailed ELO description for the full text of these competencies.

Student activities

  • Research artist careers on, and/or Naviance.
  • Meet with art teacher and/or ELO supervisor to review artwork and interests.
  • Contact and visit at least 3 local creative professionals (examples: painter, potter, printmaker, children’s book illustrator, craftsperson, metal-worker, sculptor, art professor, conceptual artist, jeweler, paper engineer, gallery workers, family photographer, wedding photographer.) See sample interview questions.
  • Establish a sketchbook/journal practice for brainstorming, graphic organizing, visual notetaking, drawing, and reflection.  Work with art teacher to visualize and generate plans for creating artworks based on their strengths and goals.
  • Listen to at least five hours of fine art podcasts or vlogs (Art for your Ear, Bad at Sports, The Art Assignment, videos). (This is part of the 50 studio hours).
  • Practice working in an art studio for at least 50 hours throughout the semester. This could take place in the school art room, in collaboration with a community partner, or in a dedicated space in their home.
  • Share a selection of their artwork (works in progress, inspiration, and final pieces) on at least one of the following venues: behance, deviantart, etsy, Instagram, or Pinterest
  • Maintain a sketchbook reflecting on tasks completed, studio projects, podcasts, vlogs, etc. (Examples picture below are teacher and student examples of reflective visual notetaking on professional artists.)


Student compiles a portfolio of their artworks (in process and finished) throughout the course of the ELO.  They are assessed based on their portfolio and the final portfolio presentation to an audience, which may include peers, teachers, community partners, and/or other audience members they select; their final reflection; and the community partner’s final evaluation . Students self-evaluate their work throughout the semester on the school-wide problem-solving and self-management rubrics, and their final presentation on the speaking rubric.

More information

I work in a community that has a very vibrant arts community, and therefore we have an array of potential community partners for this type of ELO. I would encourage other schools considering a similar ELO to ‘cast a wide net’ and reach out to many makers in the community. Suggestions for locating artists: talk to people who exhibit artwork in the community- galleries, cafes, local libraries. Search Etsy shops in your area. Reach out to graduates of your school who have creative careers.

This ELO was submitted by Mary Goldthwaite-Gagne, Art teacher at ConVal Regional High School. Email teacher for more information