Important New Research on Artists and Art Materials

20 Nov 2009

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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on 20 Nov 2009 6:28 AM

Steve, one of the things I've had time to do over the years is to give private lessons to young people who wanted to learn to draw and paint. Most of the times, these young artists were in their teens.

Sometimes, I've done this for free. I believe it's important for professional artists to share their knowledge not only with those who can pay for workshops and classes, but also with young people who want and need some guidance. While I was growing up with a single mom, all I had was loose-leaf paper and a #2 pencil with a Walter Foster, "How to Draw Dogs" book, and that's what got me started. But oh, if there were someone who was willing to put in some time with me for free. I could have advanced much faster.

Artists who teach: Please consider mentoring (for free) someone who has the passion and a bit of natural ability. It can mean the difference between giving up on art or following through to a professional career.

pdrapala wrote
on 20 Nov 2009 12:08 PM

November 19, 2009

Dear Artist Daily,

In reference to today's article on - "Important New Research on Artists and Art Materials."  I agree that children who are educated in the arts will continue to be interested in the arts in the future.  

It is for that reason that I created the Vincent A. Carvajal Art Scholarship for high school students several years ago and is given each year at our Yuma County Fair.  Amazingly, I receive many "thank you" notes from students that receive the scholarship.  The student's write:  "Thank you for believing in my art."  "Thank you for the scholarship; now I can purchase paints and brushes."  

I started out early in the arts as a child; I am fortunate to have made art my second career after my retirement.  

I truly believe that art is my passion and without it, I would not be who I am today.


Pamela Carvajal Drapala

Published Artist, Poet, and Writer

rhoustons wrote
on 20 Nov 2009 6:50 PM

I agree Lori. A couple of years ago I collaborated with another artist to give free group lessons to kids who were unable to afford to pay for lessons. I would definitely like to do it again because it is rewarding for the kids and the artist.

Great article Steve. Thanks.