is it Art? or Illustration?

Does it matter?

I make fine art and I make non-illustrative paintings. I’ve spent some time stewing over the perceived difference between the two categories. Illustration can be loosely described as an image created to be used in conjunction with text. I say loosely because, when coming up with definitions for almost any concept related to art, there are many fuzzy areas and exceptions. You could say that almost every image created prior to the Impressionist era was an illustration. Michaelangelo illustrated stories from the Bible on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Other artists illustrated battles and religious events. They were considered craftspeople, like any other, although when it came to portraits and other works which would define the patron, some were given higher social status than others because of their associations. The impressionists gave the perception of shedding the skills they had laboriously acquired, thus equating an ‘artist’ with a ‘craftsperson’ just wouldn’t do. It had to become an intellectual exercise with pretensions to supernormal creativity and sensibilities. The commercial work, illustration, was left to those who needed to earn their living, so it remained merely a skill, carried out by mere workers for the book and poster trade. Michelangelo, daVinci, N.C. Wyeth and Norman Rockwell were all illustrators who could never be classified as ‘mere’. There is, however, a profusion of ‘fine art’ painters who could easily be classified as ‘mere’. If the viewer deems it to be art, then, to that viewer, it is art. In ignorance, everything is black and white. The more one explores a subject, the grayer it becomes.
Ron Stacy

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