A Statistical Portrait of Quebec Visual Artists

(Les artistes en arts visuels québécois : un aperçu statistique)

Author: 

This brief report examines the situation of the estimated 3,632 visual artists in Quebec, based on a survey of 1,220 visual artists (excluding craft artists) who have at least two years of professional experience. The survey, conducted in 2011 based on the member lists of professional artists’ associations and applicants to Quebec’s arts council (Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec), had a response rate of 64%. A longer report (Les artistes en arts visuels : Portrait statistique des conditions de pratique au Québec, 2010) is also available from the Observatoire’s website.

The report estimates that 60% of Quebec visual artists are women and only 12% are under 35 years of age (compared with 37% of the overall Quebec labour force). The average personal income (from all sources) of all Quebec visual artists is $35,400. The average is much lower for women ($27,600) than men ($40,900). Fifty-seven percent of Quebec visual artists have total individual incomes below $30,000, with a higher percentage among women (64%) and artists under 35 (66%).

On the whole, creative activities do not contribute much to visual artists’ incomes. In fact, about one-half of Quebec visual artists earn less than 20% of their personal income from creative activities in the visual arts. However, at the other end of the scale, 15% of visual artists earn all of their personal income from the creation of works of art. In general, visual artists who dedicate more time to their art than to other occupations have lower personal incomes.

When net income from creative activities is examined (i.e., after subtracting expenses), the report finds that the median revenues related to creative activities amount to a net loss of $162. (The average, or mean, net revenue from creative activities is $2,100.)

Using net personal income as well as time spent on the visual arts, the report proposes a typology of six groups of visual artists:

  1. Occasional visual artists, representing 21% of all Quebec visual artists, are predominantly young and female, tend to spend relatively little time on the visual arts, and earn most of their personal income (average of $17,900) from non-arts occupations.
  2. Versatile artists, 15% of Quebec visual artists, have relatively high incomes (average of $43,600) that are largely drawn from non-visual arts activities. On average, these visual artists spend about one-third of their time on visual arts activities.
  3. Precarious visual artists, 19% of the total, are young professionals with low average incomes ($9,300) that spend substantial time on the visual arts.
  4. Prolific artists, representing 28% of all visual artists, spend almost all of their time on the visual arts but have low personal incomes (average of $10,900).
  5. Senior visual artists are somewhat older than other groups (two-thirds over 55 years of age) and spend a large majority of their time on the visual arts. Members of this group, representing 12% of all visual artists, have moderate personal incomes (average of $36,700).
  6. The masters group, representing just 5% of Quebec visual artists, has many years of professional experience and is predominantly male (62%). While master visual artists have high average personal incomes ($86,400), much of this income is earned through teaching the visual arts at the college or university levels.
Summary: 

This brief report examines the situation of the estimated 3,632 visual artists in Quebec. The report estimates that 60% of Quebec visual artists are women and only 12% are under 35 years of age (compared with 37% of the overall Quebec labour force). The average personal income (from all sources) of all Quebec visual artists is $35,400. The average is much lower for women ($27,600) than men ($40,900). Fifty-seven percent of Quebec visual artists have total individual incomes below $30,000, with a higher percentage among women (64%) and artists under 35 (66%).