Illustrations are not art

Art has become a very generic term nowadays that is thrown out there way too often in far too many situations to describe something that people usually do not understand completely. It is a term that has become something to describe anything marvelous and something that amazes a person to the point of being, well, amazed. As such, the term has lost its meaning. Good job people, art has become a concept on the same level as the word ‘cool.’

This is somewhat understandable, as it takes understanding, experiences and willful research  to realize the difference between graphic design and art. Of course, as we all know people either do not do any research or understand new things that challenge their existing paradigms. Nevertheless, it’s a paradigm shift that needs to take place not only on personal level, but on high-cultural level as well. There are somewhat healthy number of people who can make the difference between art and design, but that number is vastly smaller than the number of people who just go with the flow and ignore the difference.

In a way, I’m running a damn awareness campaign here.

One of the main reasons why illustrations are not art is the starting point with design, where the main goal is to appease the customer rather than commenting on cultural and historical phenomena, or depicting some issue that is innate to art. Design’s core purpose thus is very industrial and serves to make make the customer happy with while bringing in money to the designer/ company. A designer is tied down to serve the customer to the fullest extent and disregard any of his own opinions and wants; design is completely objective whereas art is subjective.

The second main thing is that design is actually problem solving. There is a problem, eg. a website has a need for a specific layout, or an amputee needs a new kind of artificial leg due to his choice of sports, and it’s a designer’s task to solve this problem through research, hypotheses and alternative to create the best solution possible. Through this design is also understanding people and their needs as the customer and user. Graphic design and illustrations that stem from it are this at their best; the designer needs to understand colours and shapes that trigger wanted reaction in the user, be it to guide the user to a point or inform the user of something. As such, graphic design and its illustrations serve the customer/ user.

Art on the other hand is creating something that might evoke a response of some kind from the audience, and it is about having a point of sorts in many ways. Art has no other purpose than being art and has no rules it needs to adhere to. Art serves art itself. Sometimes I hear an argument that contrasts selling art to other people and how this is the same as doing design, thus design being art. That’s not the case, as art has been always sold, and yet it’s main purpose has not been to make money even being an artist is a profession and a way of making dough. This is due to design stemming from classical arts just like many other things. Design has its roots in the Industrial Revolution and the design that we mean and know starts from there. While you could technically describe a pot from the Antique as Design retroactively, it’s more withing the lines of being a piece of work made by a craftsman. It’s something like what happened cars and the horse carriages, where cars were first know as the horseless carriages until they become known as cars. Nobody calls cars as horseless carriages in everyday language nowadays, unless they’re stuck up idiots.

Art is there to depict human need; design is there to fulfill it.

There’s a huge difference in how artists and designers think; an artist can wake up in the morning and think what he should do today while a designer wakes up in the morning and thinks how he could accomplish today’s task so that the customer is satisfied. While both people can get inspired and exaggerate, the way these often are realized are different as is the end result.

At this point we should already know a point where we can differentiate what separates illustration from art. Pretty pictures is something that illustrations and art share on very skin surface level. However, pretty illustrations are not art, no matter how you try to get around it. Sites like DeviantArt and Pixiv are filled with people calling their illustrations art and these people are dead wrong. Very few people do art there, and even less do good art.

I assume that you may have a poster in your room where you’re reading this. I have one that I bought in 1998 and it depicts Mai Shiranui. I also have another one depicting Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. Then, I have four pieces of art; three paintings and one drawing. The first painting depicts two young women collecting flowers and hay, the second depicts my old summer cottage, the third is a spray painting by my elderly brother depicting an interstellar icescape. The drawing depicts a rabbit sitting under a tree. Out of all these three, only the Mai Shiranui poster is design. The illustration is designed to attract the customer with the character’s own assets. It’s there to sell itself. It has no value as a piece of art, but it has every value as an illustration.

The three paintings and drawings on the other hand are art. They depict something that has a meaning and hold a value of something else than commercial money. They are subjective.

While art has become a throwaway term, it still maintains some level of caliber with it. Far too many people get offended when art is taken out of something. I’d compare it to people who call motorbikes as cars, and then somebody points out that the motorbike is actually a motorbike.

Fetishized art

I got into few discussions about art recently. Well, discussion is the wrong way to put when it’s people screaming from the bottom of their lungs and refusing to listen what other people had to say. Art, it makes people mad.

I generally refuse to outright say anything about what I think of art, or what is art. Here, I’ll come out clean; I consider things as art as long as they’re done by artists. If a person who is not an artist, say a movie director, calls his movie as art, he is a stupid director. If a musician calls himself as an artist, I wish him to show his art to me. If he were to put on some music, then I call him a liar. He is producing music he made as a musician.

Not everything is art. Everything doesn’t need to be art in order to be appreciated. Books, films, games, music, plays and advertisement are not art. They are what they are. Writers, directors, coders, musicians, actors and visual designers are not artists. These people are what they are.

It is incredibly insulting to call thing X as art if it’s not. Otherwise you’re showing ignorance.

Then, what DO you regard a art?
you may ask. Read it from above; art is done by artists. But isn’t art all about expressing yourself in various ways? In that case me farting at you because of that comment is a form of art. No, expressing yourself is not art. It is widely believed that all things can be considered art, but in same vain everything could be considered porn.

To make a proper argument we need to forget ifs, coulds, and perhapses. Art is art. Saying that a certain film could be art automatically invalidates the proposition. Are you saying that things can’t be two or more things at the same time? No. Dissecting things into lower categories automatically open this door, and a film can be many things. A book is a labour of the writer, the person who designs the cover, the person who is taking care of the machines that ultimately compile the physical book and the person who edited it. The text itself is made by the writer and the editor/s, and if there has been no editor then there’s something wrong.

Whenever I see a product made by an artist that is not art, I see a pile of scraps. People tend to call themselves artists and this sort of false artist-hood is lifted into an icon status.

I call this the bullshit-hood.

It seems that a lot of people connect art with experience, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, I find it very laughable that a lot of people start spewing words about being touched, moved and other emotional stuff. If art is supposed to touch you on some emotional level, then I guess punching your nose in is art as well. I mean, you will feel something because of it, right?

But sarcasm aside, art has become a some sort of super-cultural thing in that nothing has value if it’s not considered art, or that if it’s considered art then it’s something you can drool over and feel good about. Art has become intellectual masturbation during the last century and has been passed to current generations. Isn’t it the nature of things such as language to evolve with time? Yes, that would be a valid argument if you didn’t look like an asshat while making that argument. During the 1900’s art itself was expanded in many ways, and because of this certain people managed to put their own twist in there. Perhaps the most robust and stupid example of things going to hell are all the anti-art movements we’ve seen, most prominent being the Dada. I won’t hide my personal dislike when it comes to Dada. [Eww.Edit]

Perhaps nowadays we hare having sort of overt pro-art movement without realizing, where everything, almost literally, needs to be art. You can’t have experiences unless it’s artistic or made through art. When you have not enough words to describe something, it’s called artistic. Everything needs to be creative; art. It’s a fetish, where over a certain limit you can’t seem to enjoy a thing unless you begin to regard it as art. Why not think that thing as something extremely well crafted product aimed to give you the experience? it doesn’t drop it’s value, and if it does, then you have a problem.

I see no reason to hide behind the veil of art. I don’t do art, I’m not an artist of any sorts. I’m a craftsman who really tries to be designer. What I do is not art, and I won’t argue against my customer if he wants to see it as such when I am working. Outside work, outside the field where I don’t need to be the one serving, I will tell this person on my views about art and everyone involved when it comes to my products. Then again, I’ve had many good discussions with my customers on the different views on art, and most of them agree that when thought a little deeper, many things are not art. It’s very easy to throw that term in there and let it sink, but sometimes we just need to stop thinking rather than spewing out opinions we don’t really back. Belittling a well made product by calling it art is something I wish to avoid with my clients, just as I never play Visual Novels.

If you ask a proper designer if design is art, they will grudgingly answer you no. Taking pride on your work is important, but as a customer I wish you’d also recognise the value of their profession.

An artist has the opportunity to live in the artscape where a lot of people want to go into. Art is born from artscape, and artscape thrives on creativity. Still, if you need to consider things that were not made by artists as art, then I guess we all are artist, everything is art from BigMac to the lenses of my glasses. You can’t have double standards.

Then who is an artist? Who decides what makes an artist?
I know a slew of people who have a certified paper from an artschool that allows me to call them artists. You may want to call people without education artists, but then again you don’t call your friend a teacher when he teaches you on something. You don’t call your mom an artisan when she weaves you a nice pair of socks.

While this is an extreme way to put it, it’s also completely true; you are not an artist just by someone calling you. You need something more than nice pictures to become an artist. Even artist needs to be schooled, and without a question there is a number of artists that have taught themselves everything they know. Jack Kirby learned everything from the streets by observing the everyday life. The again, Jack Kirby wasn’t an artist, he was a master comic illustrator and a storyteller.