Visual Artists forced to live on the breadline

A recent study by the Scottish Artists Union reports three quarters of visual artists are living on an income of less than £5000 a year.

The SAU, which is lobbying and campaigning on behalf of visual artists working in Scotland states that the present figures are a worrying depiction of their earnings.

Only 5% of artist taking part in the survey are earning more than £15000 after tax and expenses.

Simon Hynd, a successful film director from Edinburgh, is now working for the BBC but says that the first years after graduation are the hardest: “When I started out, I was definitely in that category. For the first three years at least I was earning less than £15000 a year.”

Jonny Wilson, an unemployed film writer from Edinburgh, belongs to the same category and claims that being an artist is often a question of class.

“I fall into that category as I’ve only earned about 5000 this year. I have had some contact with BBC executives and people like that. They all seem to have come from privately educated backgrounds and have the means to fund themselves while chasing their dreams. Those from the lower socio-economic scale just can’t afford to do that. They have the reality of having to pay their bills and that eats into your energy and your ability to create.”

The recent report by SAU also states that most visual artists have never applied for a public funding or received a grant.

Mr Wilson’s observations are backed up by SAU’s report saying that 47% were forced to get a part-time job in order to keep their heads above water. Mr Hynd remembers being in the same situation: “That’s something that I did as well. I was working in retail while I pursued my dream.”

However, Mr Hynd was in the lucky but unusual position to get financial support from his family: “I was in a fortunate position because I have a wife who has a regular job so she was able to support me to an extent. She took a bit of the pressure off. Other artists definitely don’t always have that luxury.”

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