Saturday, January 28, 2017

Fine Art vs Illustration..OR..Fine Art and Illustration, IMHO

This blog post topic came out of a discussion about the differences between Fine Art and Illustration. I know it's not a burning question for most folks (!) but can be for artists....and is a topic I've wanted to take a swing at for a long time. These are some IMHO thoughts, and I'd luv to hear what YOU think about it.

So the set up is this: In a lot of educational settings instructors will bring up the topic of Fine Art vs Illustration. Most students, who haven't had the time to look at a lotta art, of all types, will not feel too much one way or another about the topic. Most instructors will give a wikipedia definition of each discipline and let it go. Personally I've been seated, quite happily, on the fence (fine art vs illustration) for most of my artistic life:

For your reading pleasure here's my feelings on rough definitions:

1)  Fine art is made solely by the artist; illustration is made by committee

2)  Fine art is meant to “last for the ages”; illustrations only have to last till they get to the printer.

3)  Fine art is most often used to express emotion by the artist; illustrations are more often created for a specific purpose

 A watercolor, colored pencil, acrylic illustration in Easter Day Alphabet (Pelican Publishing 2003)

Now I realize that all three of these are in no way defining....for instance:

 1) Fine artists are often influenced by gallery and other people's market preferences; illustrators often make art on speculation that is later purchased for a publication.

2) Fine art is often put on surfaces that are vulnerable to the ravages of time; A lot of 20th century illustrations were done in oils and on canvas

3) Fine art is often commissioned for a specific person/concept/installation; illustrations can be and often are extremely emotional.

                            Just Messing About, an acrylic painting for a juried art show

Now to suggestions about the real life uses of such musings. When an artist is learning their craft, most techniques, guidelines (i.e. style, composition, colour,value etc), and practice is centered on learning the things that they need to know to produce a visual image that matches their intent. Most educational settings don't give a lotta guidance about what happens to the artwork after it's finished and to the artist who graduates.

Many artists go onto careers as teachers/curators, fine artists, and/or graphic design/illustrators, to name a few. Since all these careers are based on the notion that an artist's work/vision/knowledge will be exchanged for money, we automatically open our selves up to the regard of the public. The gate keepers of our work's exposure, be it schools, galleries, or art directors will usually be responsible for guiding our work to a appropriate it fine art or illustrative publication.

They make such decisions based on having experienced looking at a WHOLE LOTTA ART. Years and years worth! We as artist can do the same thing. If we, as artists can get a feel for what constitutes a illustration vs what makes up a fine art piece, we are ever so much better placed to get our artwork seen in the best venue.

And that leads me to offer this advice:
1) Look at all the art you can manage. Fill up your FB feed with art of all types, whether it's gallery work, or magazine illustrations or's all a chance to see what your perspective buyers,bosses,judges will be looking for.

2) Go to any art shows that are around, look at any and all print materials. After a while you'll begin to get a feel at what you might expect to see on a shampoo bottle vs what might be shown in a gallery or something you might pick up at a Hallmark store.

3) See what the folks in charge consider the best of the best. In gallery shows, it'll be the prize winners. Often, but not always, the little red dots (which means a sale) will go along with the prize winners. In illustration, specifically children's book illustration, the “oscar” is called a Caldecott award. Each kind of publication will have a different one.

 A Picture + Words artwork; CHOCOLATIER, using acrylic paints, watercolours, colored pencils. Accepted in a KAC Traveling Art show: The Illustrated Word.
And finally......I really feel that the statement should be Fine Art AND Illustration. I have never been able to stop telling a story, no matter how big or small. And I always want to tell it with the most possible COLOUR, and richest detailing that I can manage. I believe that the happiest way to pursue my own art, is to continue to work to find fresh and engaging ways to both paint in a “fine art” style, while continuing to tell a story. At least that's IMHO!

No comments:

Post a Comment