What is Commercial Art? By Melissa Klein


“Commercial Art” is a HUGE field including: comics, animation, photography, fine art, illustration, graphic design, advertising, architecture, industrial design, fashion, signage, murals, and store displays. Not only are there great opportunities for creative people in these fields but creative people are in demand–everywhere.

Students in Commercial Art sell their work, create murals for commissions, receive instruction and advice from professional artists, and collaborate with businesses, such as the Clallam Canning Company, creating logo designs used for their Splash products.

Art is an effective medium to learn business skills. It develops personal expression and self-awareness. Once the art is complete, presenting it, and selling it in the marketplace requires all the skill-sets any entrepreneur needs to run their own business.

“If you can explain your art, then you can totally rock any interview.” 

Some students interested in “the arts” tend to be introverted and shy. This is a wonderful quality for being able to focus on a project for long periods of time and be truly engaged. However, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to success in the real world is the inability to talk about the value of what you have to offer.

Being able to present yourself and your work, and being a part of a supportive group to get you there, can make all of the difference. For example, at the unveiling of the mural for the Port Angeles School District, almost all of the students took the microphone to express something about the project–-not because they had to, but because they were passionate about their work. And to think only a year ago almost none held that confidence to speak publicly.

Job opportunities for young people are limited in this area. Having entrepreneurial skills and being able to start your own business, for many people, is the best shot at earning a living wage. Many businesses are stressing a desire to develop a workforce that is creative and proactive. According to Forbes: CREATIVITY is one of the top 10 attributes of successful leaders. Art is a process of creative problem-solving and teaches valuable leadership skills for working with others.

In education, too often, there’s this focus on “Get the paper/project/test done. Get a grade (hopefully a good one) and move on.” Artists have a different perspective: “I’m getting more accurate with drawing faces–and that picture of my sister, looking serious, really looks like her. How can I get a drawing or painting that really captures how she smiles without her looking scary?”

It’s all about getting better. This is how things work in the real world, continuous improvement and feedback rather than just taking a test and being done with it. Beginners are definitely welcome!

Time to Develop Professional Skills
Having this class offered through the Skills Center, where classes are longer, gives students time to develop their artistic skills and their products as well as learn how to sell the work they create and even how to run their own businesses. They are given the time to really focus and hone their craft to a professional level and interact with community members and professional artists.

Who is Eligible?
Students who have completed 8th grade and not yet age 21and without a high school diploma.  Students will earn 1.5 credits for high school in a semester including one/half credit for English within the Commercial Art curriculum. You can enroll online at nopsc.org or fill out an application with your high school counselor or visit the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center 905 West 9th Street, Port Angeles WA 98363 or call 360-565-1533

About the Instructor – Melissa Klein
“What I wished I learned in college and could have learned in high school.”
When I graduated from an Ivy League college with a fancy art degree, I had no idea of how to make a living at it. Over the years, I’ve learned–slowly, through trial and error, as well as through marketing and business courses.  One thing that kept coming back to me through all of this is – “Why didn’t I learn this in college? Heck, I could have learned it in high school even!”


  1. Andy Warhol

    Commercial art and fine art are two totally different things. Just sayin’ …

  2. Concerned

    You seem to understand the basic concept that commercial artists sell or license their art. Yet your print edition reprinted a strip from Tom Tomorrow’s “This Modern World” without contacting him for rights permission and, presumably, without paying him. Would you like to explain how this fits into the business model outlined here?
    Editor’s Note: Please read up on the “Fair Use Doctrine.” Also, whom did you pay for reading the Port O Call?


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