Apr 26, 2013 12:19 PM
Over the decades working as a graphic designer, illustrator and a fine artist, I am often asked "What is the difference between illustration and fine art?"
First lets look at the dictionary tells us. Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
Illustrate has it origin in the early 16th century and means to illuminate or shed light on. An illustration is used to explain or make something clear or to serve as an example.
All artists pursue their own conceptual goals through expressing their creative skills in their own artwork. An illustrator is usually under a commission to produce a creative piece of art, use their creative skills as requested by the client. Many see this as a hindrance to the artists creativity, but this is not always the case. The Artist is usually hired for their creativity not just in the execution of the art work but in the concept development, or the artists own take on the idea, as well as compositional skills to create the artwork.
Sometimes an illustrators creativity can be stifled by the client, by over directing the project, including conceptualization and composition, and not allowing the highly trained artist do what they were hired to do. This can hinder the artist as the client may not actually be able to communicate their ideas easily.
On some occasions, the client has done the research and has a correct feel for their audience. The conceptual ideas they offer to the artist to follow can work perfectly and gives the artist a firm foundation to apply their creative ability to the project and can produce a very successful piece of artwork.
The difference between Fine Art and Illustration is blurred, and it is only the intentions that seem to separate the two.
For example, Michelangelo was commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Julius II to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. In essence, the client (the church), gave Michelangelo a brief, outlining the direction of the artwork and the subject matter, which was limited to the Old and New Testament. Michelangelo still had the creative freedom to conceptualize, interpret, and create using his own imagination and creative skills. Taking over four years to complete, this artwork was a commissioned job and therefore is actually Commercial Art or Illustration. But it is considered one of the artists finest pieces of artwork and one of the world’s greatest and most famous fine art achievements.
Whether we agree or disagree that the line between Illustration and Fine Art is very defined or not, we must agree any artwork produced has part of the artists emotions, creativity and feelings amongst the colours and visuals.
Ultimately the viewer, or the buyer of the art is the one who decides. Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century, believed that anything perceived as art, is art. It's how we perceive it, and have we "created a new thought for that object.”
“Art is not about itself but the attention we bring to it.” Marcel Duchamp