Critical Distinctions

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“The Distinctions of fine art bore me to death.” Maurice Sendak (from Brainyquote)

The debate has raged on and on over Fine Art versus Illustration. Is illustration fine art? Is fine art, illustration? Many a late night conversation among art students has debated this question. The snobbery on each side is rather humorous. Each believes his/her choice is the more worthy art. Blog posts abound on the topic. Will the question ever be answered? How will we sleep at night until we know the answer?

The lines cross so frequently it can make a body dizzy. This piece is fine art. That one is illustration. This work of fine art is also illustration. And this illustration is actually fine art. Some say illustration is in magazines and fine art is on gallery walls. But fine art also appears in magazines and illustration can be found in galleries. Maybe someone should put out a directional book so that viewers can identify which is which. The Complete Guide to Discerning Fine Art from Illustration would quickly become a best seller. The question then is who is going to write it? We can’t have a fine arts professional making the decision on illustration and vice versa. I can feel my head spinning!

What if the fine artists and the illustrators got together and decided they were really all the same group? An artist is an artist is an artist no matter what your chosen medium or place of commerce. It’s all one big happy family. Fine artists and illustrators are one in the same. The critics would be totally confused. They wouldn’t know who to criticize and who to ignore.

All could be harmony until the graphic designers hear about it and want to get in on the game. Since no one has settled the debate about whether graphic design is fine art or illustration or neither, they will have to join the family, too or that might set the debate spinning again. Perhaps it is best to just ignore the debate. Artists focus on art leaving the question of who’s who to the critics. Sorting it out gives the critics something to do and it is always better to keep them occupied. They get into trouble otherwise.

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