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Careers In Culture

Visual Arts and Crafts - What You Need to Know

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Make room in the workplace

Worth a Thousand Words

Visualize the visual arts – the spectrum covers painting to printmaking, sculpture to photography, video art to multimedia. Although artists use these different media, they all share a passion for expressing themselves. Is this something you love to do? Then build your skills while developing your personal style. To learn all you can about art concepts and techniques, take high school art classes, attend courses at art school, or hone your skills in a college, Cégep or university fine arts program. And keep trying out your own artistic ideas. As any artist will tell you, one of the best ways of learning is doing. Plunge in and experiment!

Worth a Thousand Words

Craft a Career

Wood, clay, metals, paper, precious stones, fabric – these are just some of the media that craftspeople use in their work. Do you enjoy natural materials? Are you skilled with your hands? Craftspeople create a wide variety of objects – from decorative pieces to items for daily use such as vases, jewellery, mugs, rugs and tables. Made from original designs, your products will have greater eye-appeal than those mass-produced in factories. You'll sell your work directly from your workshop or your website, or through crafts fairs, co-op, stores, retail outlets or galleries.

Designing Women and Men

Graphic design is all about communication – getting messages across through the imaginative use of colours, photos, illustrations, typefaces, text and interactivity. Look around you and you'll see graphic design everywhere – in magazines, books, the Internet, television and packaging. Demand is strong for designers with flair and know-how. If that describes you, consider a career designing print materials or websites, illustrating books or magazines, animating films or television programs. This means getting savvy about the media and dreaming up fresh ways of delivering a knockout message.

Copyright: Do You Own Your Art?

Protecting your copyright – your ownership of the art and images you create – has become increasingly important and complicated in the digital age. A digital photograph of your work can be used in myriad ways and all over the world. Whether your reproduced work is used on a CD or DVD, in a magazine, in an advertising campaign or as part of a website, it is important that you protect your rights by signing and dating all of your work, and by negotiating contracts for the use of your work. If you are not sure of future uses of a work, only include specified rights in any contract you sign, leaving the option to negotiate other media rights later. What may be true today may have changed tomorrow, so keep abreast of copyright issues. CARFAC Ontario has published “Artists Contracts: Agreements for Visual and Media Artists” that includes do’s and don’ts and many model contract templates for your works. Associated Designers of Canada offers templates for professional designers of sets, costumes, lighting and sound (see their “Standards and Working Procedures”).

For more help learning how to protect your copyright, check out these websites:

High Demand for High Tech

Art never stands still. New electronic technologies both challenge and inspire visual and graphic artists. The Internet has created a highly accessible global marketplace, where visual artists are in much demand. To take full advantage of these new opportunities, many artists and graphic designers master an array of computer software tools that likely include bookkeeping, contacts management, desktop publishing and website design. The Internet is also a great place to reach buyers, communicate with other artists, and see some of what is being created around the world.

International Marketing Savvy

Many artists and craftspeople have been able to build their audience by selling their works outside of Canada. For great tips on how to market your visual arts or crafts products in other countries, check out these tools:

  • CHRC’s HR tool called “The Art of Export Marketing of Cultural Products and Services”, especially the Export Ready Checklist and the Tips and Tools as well as the comprehensive lists of resources

A visual quiz


Trivia Challenge

Question 1: Canadian households spent _____ a year for visual arts alone.

  1. $5 million
  2. $250 million
  3. $1 billion

Question 2: In 2001, ______ people in Canada worked in visual arts and crafts.

  1. 75,000
  2. 120,000
  3. 162,000

Question 3: The average incomes of self-employed visual arts and craftspeople are ______ those of other Canadians.

  1. less than
  2. more than
  3. the same as

Question 4: Of all those working in the visual arts, the largest number work as _______.

  1. artisans and craftspersons
  2. graphic designers and illustrators
  3. architects

Question 5: As visual artists and craftspeople get older, they are _______ younger ones to practice full time.

  1. less likely than
  2. more likely than
  3. just as likely as


1. C
$1 billion sounds like a lot of money, but only about one-half of this amount goes to creators. Most art galleries and retailers take a sales commission of between 40 and 50 per cent.

2. C
Unfortunately, the correct answer is C. Over the period 1991 to 2001, the number of people working in these occupations increased by 29 per cent.

3. A
Many visual artists and craftspeople make financial sacrifices in the early stages of their careers. However, established artists can develop well-paid careers eventually. You'll be able to work anywhere in Canada.

4. B
Graphic artists and illustrators comprise the highest per cent of the visual arts workforce at 28 per cent followed by artisans and craftspersons at 12 per cent and architects at 8 per cent.

5. B
Visual artists and craftspeople tend to devote more time to their careers as they become better established.