Profile of professional artists - Creation - Visual Arts

Visual artists often practice outside urban areas – and most believe it has a positive effect on their practice

According to Throsby and Zednik, around half of all visual artists (49 percent) and a third of all craft practitioners (34 percent) are located in a regional or remote area. In comparison, 47 percent of writers, 12 percent of dancers and 19 percent of musicians lived in a regional or remote area.

On average, living outside a capital city was viewed positively by regional and remote practitioners. Craft practitioners were amongst the most positive of any artists, with 74 percent agreeing the effects were more positive than negative.

Table 1- Proportion of visual arts and craft practitioners located regionally and effects on creative practice

Visual arts practitioners (%)Craft practitioners (%)All artists (%)
Proportion located in a regional, rural or remote area493431
More positive effect of living outside a capital city on creative practice607461
No effect of living outside a capital city on creative practice 8313
More negative effect of living outside a capital city on creative practice312325


Women are more likely to create visual arts than men

Significantly more women practice visual arts than men. This gender balance is reflected throughout different parts of the visual arts sector – from children’s participation, to hobbyists and the professional sector.

Throsby and Zednik estimated in 2009 that almost two thirds of professional visual artists and four-fifths of craft practitioners were women (63 percent and 79 percent), relative to 51 percent of all artists.

The Census figures for visual arts occupations show more women are employed in visual arts occupations than men (55 percent to 45 percent), with the exception of sculptors (68 percent men).

In visual arts related occupations (including design, art teaching and picture framing) the gender balance depends on the occupation. Women are more likely to be employed in occupations such as:

  • Art teachers
  • Fashion designers
  • Interior designers.

Men are more likely to be employed in occupations such as:

  • Photographers
  • Picture framers
  • Illustrators.


Income and career development - Creation - Visual Arts

Most visual arts practitioners work in a freelance capacity – and many face insecure economic conditions

Within their principal artistic occupations, very few visual arts practitioners work as ‘employees’. Throsby and Zednik found that 87 percent of visual artists and 92 percent of craft practitioners operate as freelance or self employed individuals.

Throsby and Zednik point out that a substantial majority of artists therefore face insecure working environments for their artistic work, forgoing the sorts of benefits that employees customarily receive, such as sick leave, maternity leave, and employer’s superannuation contributions.

Some visual arts practitioners believe they lack adequate skills to manage their business affairs as a freelance artist, and almost a quarter have no arrangements in place for their future financial security (such as superannuation schemes).


Large proportions of visual artists are emerging or mid-career artists

Throsby and Zednik found that visual artists are more likely to say they are ‘beginning/starting out’ or ‘becoming established’ than other artists.

Craft practitioners are more similar to other types of artists, in that larger proportions say they are ‘established’ or ‘established, but working less intensively than before’.

Both visual artists and craft practitioners believe the most important factors inhibiting their professional development are:

  • Lack of financial return from creative practice
  • Lack of time to do creative work due to other pressures and responsibilities.

Visual artists were less likely to say that a ‘lack of work opportunities’ was the most important factor, compared to other artists.


Visual artists are highly qualified and establish their practice through many years of formal training

Visual arts practitioners place a greater emphasis on formal training[1] than other professional artists, with 90 percent of visual artists and 87 percent of craft practitioners undergoing formal training to become a professional artist, compared to 77 percent of all artists. They are also the most likely of all practising artists to be still engaged in training, with a third indicating they are still in the process of establishing their careers.

More than two thirds of visual artists saw formal training as the most important type of training contributing to their professional career as opposed to private training (emphasised more by musicians) or learning on the job (emphasised more by writers).

[1]   Formal training is defined as training that leads to an award given by an institution such as a university or TAFE.


Visual arts practitioners are older than other artists when they establish themselves as artists

The visual arts practitioners surveyed by Throsby and Zednik were, on average, older than other artists such as actors and dancers.

The average ages of visual arts and craft practitioners at the moment of their establishment was 36 and 34 respectively, which is older than all artists (31 years).

The average age of a practising professional visual artist was 50 years, while craft artists were slightly younger at 46 years of age.


Visual artists earn amongst the lowest creative incomes, despite devoting more time to their practice than other artists

Visual arts practitioners spend longer hours on their principal artistic occupation each week compared to other artists (28 hours vs. 22 hours).

The gap between the time they actually spend on creative work and the time they would prefer to spend is smaller in comparison to other artists.

However, this investment of time is not reflected in the earning patterns of artists. Visual artists earned an estimated median annual income of $4,500 from their creative work in 2007-08. This is two-thirds of that earned by the other artists ($7,000) and less than half of the median creative income of craft practitioners ($10,000).

All artists earn less than similarly-educated professionals in other industries. Cunningham and Higgs found that that the mean full-time annual income of those in arts occupations was 16 percent lower than para-professionals and advanced clerical occupations.

Full time visual arts practitioners (including painters, sculptors, potters etc.) earn a median income that is between $14,600 and $24,600 less than that earned by the average workforce.



Visual arts practitioners often work in the wider cultural industries, and earn most of their income outside the core arts sector

Visual arts practitioners often work in the wider cultural industries, and earn most of their income outside the core arts sector

Income earned by visual artists from their core creative work is well below the income required to meet their basic needs. Like other artists, many visual artists work in other occupations and/or rely on family or other kinds of financial support.

Throsby and Zednik found that compared with other artists, visual artists earn proportionally less in arts-related fields such as teaching arts, earning only $5,500 from this work. Instead they rely more on non-arts related work (eg graphic design, hospitality) to be able to support their artistic practice, earning a median non-arts income of $15,800 annually. Visual artists and craft practitioners are more likely than other artists to work in wider cultural and related industries, such as advertising, design and media industries.


Many visual arts graduates go on to careers outside the arts

In 2009, the ABS reported that almost 77,000 Australians aged 15 to 64 had a non-school[1] qualification in ‘visual art and crafts’.

Of those qualified in visual arts and craft, 36 percent had a qualification in Fine Arts, with other common qualifications including Photography (21 percent) and Crafts/jewellery-making/floristry (20 percent).

Whilst adopting a wider definition of ‘visual art and craft’ than other sources, these figures confirm that significant numbers of Australians are qualified in visual arts. The ABS estimates that the number qualified in ‘visual art and craft’ is similar to ‘architecture and urban design’, and above the performing arts.

When compared with estimates of those practising professionally, these figures suggest that many visual arts graduates go on to careers in other industries.

[1]   Non-school qualification refers to educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary or secondary education.


Arts and craft are the primary creative activity for Indigenous Australians, but main-job employment has declined

Indigenous ‘arts and craft’ are important forms of creative expression for Indigenous Australians, with 17 percent of those aged 15 and over (almost 56,600) estimated to participate in 2008. The 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) also found that 5.7 percent of Indigenous Australians (15,950 people) received payment for making Indigenous ‘arts or craft’.

However, only 524 Indigenous Australians were employed in visual arts and craft activities as their main job according to the 2011 Census. These artists were more likely to be employed as painters.

This figure is lower than that found in the 2006 Census, when 676 Indigenous people were employed in visual arts and craft occupations as their main job.

In 2001, 26 percent of Indigenous communities had access to an arts or cultural centre, relative to 65 percent who had access to a sporting facility.


Cultural tourism in Australia - Global - Visual Arts

The Australian economy benefits from international visitors to museums and galleries

Tourism Research Australia’s International Visitor Survey 2009, showed more than half (51 percent) of all overseas visitors attended at least one cultural attraction while in Australia.

Of these, 57 percent had visited a museum or art gallery and 17 percent had visited an art/craft workshop or studio.

Many also experienced Indigenous culture, with 20 percent ‘experiencing Aboriginal art/craft and cultural displays’, and 11 percent ‘visiting an Aboriginal site/community’.

International cultural and heritage visitors create economic benefits through longer stays and higher spending patterns than other tourists. In 2009, the average amount spent per trip was $6,280 compared with other international visitors who spent on average $3,832. This resulted in total spending of $16.3 billion in 2009.

Visitors from Asia accounted for 36 percent of all international cultural and heritage visitors. The United Kingdom and New Zealand accounted for a further 15 percent and 13 percent respectively.

The most popular destinations for both international and domestic cultural heritage visitors were New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, while rates of participation in cultural and heritage activities were higher in the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania.


Household consumption - Industry - Visual Arts
Tag : craft

Australian household spending on visual arts has been growing over time.

We now spend over $100 annually on paintings, carvings and sculptures, art and craft materials, and art gallery and museum charges – a 26% increase on 2003-04 levels in real terms.


Households spend more on paintings, carvings and sculptures than computer games or tickets to sporting matches

Australian households spend almost $2.13 billion on things related to visual arts and craft each year (including cameras).

Of this, $860 million in spending relates to direct participation in visual arts, with households spending almost $550 million on paintings, carvings and sculptures, and $250 million on art and craft materials.



Spending on particular items has changed, but total spending on goods related to visual arts is steady

Overall, spending on items related to visual arts remains steady over time.

Between 2003-04 and 2009-10, spending on artworks, cameras and art and craft materials increased.

Over the same period Australian households decreased their spending on studio and other professional photography, photographic film and developing costs – changes which probably relate to the developments in digital photography.

Spending on gallery charges also decreased 22 percent to $0.14 per household per week.

Table 6 - Household spending on items related to visual arts including cameras - 2003-04 and 2009-10 (shown in 2010 dollars)

$ per week
$ per week
Change since 2003-04 (%)
Studio and other professional photography0.590.56-5%
Paintings, carvings and sculptures0.831.2551%
Art and craft materials0.550.574%
Art gallery and museum fees and charges0.180.14-22%
Cameras (excluding video cameras)1.391.4822%
Photographic equipment (excluding film and chemicals)0.22
Photographic film and chemicals (including developing)1.270.64-50%


Attendance - Participation - Visual Arts

Almost 40 percent of Australians attend visual arts and craft presentations, exhibitions and festivals each year

The Australia Council’s survey of arts participation showed that thirty-eight percent of Australians attended a visual arts and craft event in 2009, with over half of these attendees (54 percent or 21 percent of all Australians) going to an exhibition of a painting, drawing or street art.

Digital or video art was the least attended type of visual arts event with only 17 percent of visual arts attendees (or seven percent of all Australians) going to these events.

Visual arts and craft events were attended, on average, twice as often as other artforms over a 12 month period. Among those who attend each artform, visual arts were attended 14 times a year compared to six times for music and theatre and dance audiences.

Craft events had the highest number of attendances at 16 times a year, while sculpture and installation art events had the least number of attendances at 10 times per year.


Tag : craft

We found 9% of Australians over 15 years of age attended an Indigenous visual arts and craft event in 2009 – equivalent to over 1.66 million people.

Looking at the arts overall, attitudes to Indigenous art are increasingly positive. Almost half of all Australians (47%) say their interest in Indigenous art is growing. A further 17% say they already have a strong interest and will continue to.


Visual arts are particularly popular among older age groups

In general, attendees of visual arts events are significantly older than attendees of other arts events (47 percent being aged 55 to 64 years).

  • Painting, drawing and street art are the most popular type of visual arts, attended by  50-60 percent of all age groups
  • Sculpture and photography is enjoyed by around a quarter of all age groups
  • Attendance at craft events increases from one in five 15-24 year olds to one in three of those over 65


Audiences are less likely to use the internet before, during or after attending visual arts events compared with other artform events

The very nature of visual arts attendance is more spontaneous than attendance for other art events and there is often no need to plan or research the event prior to attending (particularly since attendance at most events does not require a booking).  As such visual arts attendees were less likely to engage online before, during or after the event.

However, visual arts festival attendees were more likely than other visual arts attendees to engage online before and after the event. For example, visual arts festival attendees were more likely to engage in online word of mouth before (36 percent vs. 22 percent) and after (37 percent vs. 26 percent) the event.

Craft festival and fair attendees were also more likely than other visual arts attendees to engage in online word of mouth before (39 percent vs. 22 percent), but less likely to do this after the event (18 percent vs. 26 percent).

With current low levels of online engagement, private gallery attendees were interested in the prospect of accessing online images and videos before attending events in future.

Table 7 - Use of the internet at each stage of the 'attendance journey' - arts attendees and visual arts and craft attendees

Total arts attendees Visual arts attendees
At the event31%29%
After the event66%60%


Creative participation - Participation - Visual Arts
Tag : craft

1.2 million kids do arts and crafts for fun, and almost 2 million adults make crafts like woodwork, jewellery and ceramics.

Creating visual arts and crafts is also the most popular form of creative activity by Australians, with one in five participating.

This makes craft more popular than Twitter, which has 1.2 million users in Australia.


There are more Australians creating visual arts than any other type of art – with craft and photography among the most popular sub-forms

Just over one in five Australians created visual arts and craft (22 percent) in 2009. These individuals were engaged creatively in visual art or craft work every five to six days.

Of these, two fifths creatively participated in craft or photographic work (as an artistic endeavour) every five or six days.

Digital and video art creators participated more frequently in the production of work (every four to five days).



Tag : craft

In 2012, over 43% of children aged 5 to 14 did arts and craft as a recreational activity outside of school hours.

Similar numbers of kids visit museums and galleries each year (43%), making visual arts one of the most common way children engage with the arts.


Over 40 percent of children create visual arts and craft as a recreational activity

The ABS 2012 study of children’s participation in culture and leisure activities found that 43 percent of children participated in recreational art and craft activities outside of school hours, while seven percent of children participated in organised art and craft outside of school hours.

Girls were more likely than boys to participate in art and craft activities (54 percent vs. 33 percent). Girls also spent more time on average than boys on these activities in the weeks before the survey.

The study showed older children were less likely to participate in arts and craft activities. Participation decreased from 57 percent children aged five to eight to 26 percent of children aged 12 to 14.

The decrease in participation rates with age is more marked than for other recreational activities such as reading for pleasure and bike riding.


Visual arts and craft is the one of the most popular cultural activities in Australia, but paid employment opportunities are low

Arts and craft’ were among the most common creative activities for Australians in 2010-11. Over 2 million people participated in some form of visual arts activity, and around 1,916,600 participated in some form of craft activity.

For example, almost 1.25 million Australians participated in sculpting, painting, drawing or cartooning (including digital pieces), while over 1.5 million were involved in textile crafts, jewellery making, paper crafts or wood crafts. In comparison, around 950,900 were involved in singing or playing an instrument, and 840,800 were involved in writing any fiction or non-fiction.

Although females are more likely to participate in both visual arts and craft activities, this difference is notably larger for craft activities – 74 percent of participants involved in craft activities are female, while 56 percent of participants involved in visual arts activities are female.

Most involvement in visual arts and craft is unpaid, with around 100,000 participants in sculpting, painting, drawing or cartooning (including digital pieces) earning some form of payment from their participation. Photography and filmmaking or editing fares slightly better with around 122,000 of those involved earning payment from their involvement.


Private sector support - Support - Visual Arts

Visual arts organisations generated $53 million in private sector support in 2009-10 – more than any other art form

In terms of philanthropy and sponsorship earnings, art galleries outperform other parts of the arts sector generating almost a quarter of total earnings.

In an AbaF survey of 318 arts organisations, it was estimated that $221 million in private sector support was generated by the arts in 2010-11. The visual arts generated $53 million of this amount.

Art galleries earn most of their support through philanthropic giving ($40 million), with sponsorship making up a smaller but still notable share ($11 million).

In contrast, visual arts, craft and design organisations participating in the survey were estimated to earn just $2 million in private sector support, and most of this was generated through sponsorship (increasing from $0.9 million in 2008-09 to $1.5 million in 2009-10).


Visual arts organisations generate higher levels of private sector support than other arts organisations regularly funded by the Australia Council

Looking at organisations regularly funded through the Australia Council, visual arts organisations (including galleries, arts and craft centres, festivals and service organisations) earn well above other arts organisations from private revenue sources – although earnings in 2011 were lower[1] than 2010 levels.

In 2011, 40 surveyed visual arts organisations earned an average private sector income of $302,500 (compared with $360,000 in 2010), generating over $12 million in total.

However, ‘It’s a given’ found that earning levels were not uniform from organisation to organisation, and identified four visual arts organisations who earn 81.2 percent of total private sector support for visual arts.

This sample includes organisations operating on a biannual cycle, such as the Biennale of Sydney, which may influence the fluctuations in the data.

[1]   The overall decrease in private sector support for funded visual arts organisations has been driven by a decrease in corporate sponsorship for visual arts companies. This trend is consistent with a 20 percent decline in sponsorship revenues across the arts sector from 2010 to 2011.


Role of grant funding - Support - Visual Arts

Grants are an important source of creative income for visual arts practitioners

According to Throsby and Zednik, an estimated 57 percent of visual artists and 60 percent of craft practitioners applied for a grant, prize or other funding between 2004 and 2009. This is higher than most other art forms (e.g. 24 percent of musicians, and 49 percent of dancers applied for a grant, prize or other funding). An estimated 1 in 3 visual artists (35 percent) and 2 in 5 craft practitioners (41 percent) were successful in their applications over the course of 5 years.

Earnings from grants, prizes and fellowships are a particularly important source of income for visual artists, making up an estimated 10 percent of their creative income. Although craft practitioners are among the most successful grant applicants across the artforms, earnings from grants, prizes and fellowships only make up 4 percent of their creative income since their creative income is higher.