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I want to be an artist. What will my salary be?

Canadian artist Pamela Masik creates art as part of a performance.

Pamela Masik

Job: Artist

Salary: As artists are quick to tell you, it's not about the money. Still, they have to eat. Pay can range from a few dollars for a photo, painting or sculpture, to millions for the bodies of work by artists who find success. "Art is, above all, subjective, as are the salaries," Canadian artist Pamela Masik says.

Education: No formal education is required. Some artists are self-taught, but increasingly they attend specialized postsecondary schools such as the Emily Carr University of Art & Design in Vancouver or the Ontario College of Art & Design University in Toronto.

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The role: Being an artist is all about the act of creating, says Barry Patterson, executive director of communications at Emily Carr University. It's also about being an entrepreneur. "You have to continuously find opportunity to fund creating your work; this includes renting a studio space, purchasing materials," he says. Some artists have day jobs related to their training as artists, or they maintain a creative practice on the side.

By the numbers: More than 87,000 people in Canada classified themselves as artists in 2011, according to Statistics Canada. That includes producers and directors, as well as musicians, painters, dancers and singers. About 15,000 were in the category of painters, sculptors and other visual artists. About three-quarters of them were self-employed.

Job prospects: It's not likely something your parents would recommend as a career. Still, the job prospects may not be as bad as people think. "The fields of art and design have expanded greatly," in recent years, according to the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design. Ms. Masik says artists who have studied at university can work as professors or consultants. "There are other avenues suited to the artist's own interpretation of what it means to be successful," she says.

Challenges: Defining your own success as an artist. "The challenge exists in finding a balance between honing your craft and becoming the best artist that you can be, while encountering those moments of vulnerability that exist only between you and your work," Ms. Masik says.

Why they do it: "People don't choose the career, the career chooses you," Ms. Masik says.

Misconceptions: "The beginning of an artist's career is not glamorous, though does have a level of romanticism," Ms. Masik says. Also, artists do more than create art. "Ultimately, the artist must realize and confront the importance of not only actualizing an idea but also introducing it to the market in hopes that it is understood, and ideally, appreciated," she says.

Give us the scoop: Are you an artist in Canada? Write a note in the comments area of this story or e-mail your comment to careerquestion@globeandmail.com and let us know what you would tell others who are interested in the profession.

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About the Author
Contributor

Brenda Bouw is a freelance writer and editor based in Vancouver. She has more than 20 years of experience as a business reporter, including at The Globe and Mail, The Canadian Press, the Financial Post and was executive producer at BNN (formerly ROBTv). Brenda was also part of the Globe and Mail reporting team that won the 2010 National Newspaper Award for business journalism. More

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