It’s quite probable that you were already creating artwork by the time you were 20 years old. In fact, you were likely spending a good bit of time drawing, painting, sculpting, or crafting when you were 12. Those are two of the inferences that might be drawn by looking at the data compiled in Artist + Art Materials USA 2009, the first-ever study of its kind, which was sponsored by American Artist and the International Art Materials Trade Association (NAMTA) and conducted by Hart Business Research. Surveys were sent to 2,714 active artists and 78 art-materials suppliers asking about the supplies that artists use, the ways they make purchases, the changes in their creative interests, and the paths they follow to become professional artists.
Among the most revealing sets of statistics are those that emphasize how important it is for young people to have opportunities and encouragement to explore the arts. Of the artists surveyed, sixty-three percent said they first became active in art when they were elementary-school age or younger, and forty percent of professional artists and art students said an art teacher helped them with their first significant artwork. Considering the implications of those percentages, one might conclude that without early exposure and guidance, people are not as likely to become professional artists. Clearly, we all need to support art education and professional art teachers while we encourage young students.
Although the research indicates that artists continue to use traditional drawing and painting materials, the numbers also suggest that creative people are exploring a wide variety of new materials and techniques. For example, about 75 percent of the artists who completed the survey use computers as tools to improve their artwork, print or transfer images for artwork, or reproduce their creations. Similarly, although 87 percent of the artists surveyed continue to rely on printed books and magazines for information and inspiration, a high percentage are also using the internet to supplement their art education, purchase supplies, connect with other artists, and promote their careers.
Because NAMTA’s primary mission is to help companies do a better job of marketing their art products and services, much of the HBR survey focused on identifying opportunities for members to expand or improve their operations. The complete 190-page study is available to NAMTA members, and an eight-page executive summary is available to the public here.
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