Careers: Working as an Artist in Public Art

By Khaula Siddique

I am a professional artist and I do several public art projects a year. If my dad had known back in the day that the above image would represent his daughters career path he would have had some words for me. Probably a couple of flying chappals as well. However, I did try diligently to make his dreams come true by becoming a doctor. It just didnt happen though. Can you imagine if all of us desis were able to make our parents dreams come true and become doctors or engineers? Wed have a country dripping with well-constructed hospitals and possibly nothing else.

Art is not something I had planned ( I had no plan B!) and I did not go to school for it, but if you have any skill with sketching and writing that is about all you need. And both can be developed through practice luckily.

I get many questions from emerging artists in the community, I will answer some of those here.

  1. There is no secret ingredient! You are the secret ingredient, how hard you are willing to work and persist is the secret. You have to have tough skin and be ready to face a lot of rejection (it is not you, it is a lot of competition and a different audience for everything!) and keep going.
  2. Practice, your art and your writing skills. Take a workshop on writing proposals and applying to calls, you can find these on your local arts organizations website. Which reminds me, sign up to become a member of your local arts organization! You may have to research these, not all will be suitable for you but the best fit will most probably be your citys art council.
  3. Look for artist calls on arts organizations websites and artist call websites ( should be your new best friend!)
  4. Understand the call, is it something that you do and are passionate about? Not every project will be for you, understand what you can do, want to do and what the call is asking for. Start with small projects to build up your portfolio.
  5. Practice!
  6. Did you get another “no thank you” email? Have a good cry then get up, dust yourself off and find the next artist call.
  7. Practice! Practice painting big on a large piece of plywood, it is worth the investment and you can cover it up with white paint and start again. And again and again. Dont go for expensive material, use the exterior acrylic latex samples available at your local hardware store. You need to use this type of paint for outdoor murals/street art.
  8. Follow other established artists and see what they are doing and how they do it. Artists are very generous, they will often share tips and advice (when they have time) on their social media.
  9. Find YouTube tutorials!
  10. Invest your time in taking good photographs of your work and process. Use it wisely on your social media, people need to see what you are doing. Make sure your social media is professional, that is, not a million of your bathroom mirror selfies! Post your work, your work in progress etc. You can slip in the occasional fur baby post.
  11. Did I mention practice?

I do share what I have learned (when I can!) on my YouTube channel and you can see the videos here. I share some financial tips, grant writing tips and mural painting tips as well as some painting tutorials.

Here are some of the projects I have completed…










About the Author

Khaula Siddique, artist at Khaula’s Art, has written for Dawn Pakistan and now paints stories on large walls. She loves bringing art to the community and achieves this through interactive art activities and public art projects. When she is not painting, she is over-indulging her large eccentric orange tabby who part-times as her critic and her muse. You can find her art shenanigans on her website, Khaula


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