The difference between art and illustration –
©2008 Cricket Diane C Phillips, Cricket House Studios
In an illustration, there is little, if anything, for the viewer to do. All the information is there available for the viewer to see. It can be powerful. It can be mundane. There can be several themes at once but it precisely includes all the visual information the audience is expected to use upon viewing it. An illustration is a visual approach to a verbal story. Illustration is easily given words to express it that are appropriate to it.
The fact is, art is something else and represents a more interactive form of visual communication. It does require something from the viewer in order to be recognized. Art is not intended as a verbal communication represented in a visual format. Then, what else could it be? What other options are there, if it is not that?
Most art, even representational art, defies the use of words to interpret it. While its communication is often clearly evident, words pale in comparison. Art speaks in a language that exceeds the capacity of words. It is a direct link between the mind of each viewer and an intangible idea in a specific moment of an artist’s life.
While an illustration could be repeated, recreated, reinterpreted or done again, art can only be done once. Each time, art is different and each time, there is only one. While art may tell a story, its use of communication is different than that used in an illustration. Art may very well tell the viewer the entire story in one moment of time as a whole experience. Illustration will construct that story logically such that words could be used to describe each element and why it was included.
Both art and illustration have value in our world. Art is necessary to our lives and so too, is illustration, written communication and design. If a quick view is taken anywhere, there is art, illustration, design and written communications on nearly every item in some form or another.
Art is interactive to a greater degree than other forms of visual work because it is created from a different place. It isn’t pure, yet neither is it diluted. Art is a captured instant from the artist’s psych. Does it matter if anyone likes it or not? Probably, not. Does it matter if anyone “gets it,” or not? Probably, not. Those things belong to a part of the viewer’s identity and the logical mind, respectively. Art by its nature, goes beyond what can be logically defined and is neither an expression of identity nor intended to be, although influenced by it. Nor is art a reflection of the personality of the artist, although that also influences it.
Art encompasses more than that and different than that. It is impossible for any two people to see the same rainbow even standing side by side at the same moment in time. Art is like that and when it is created, even more so. Its as if the whole world has melted away and only that one moment exists. All the information of that moment flows into the artwork at once, not logically, not progressively, but completely. It is true of great art and true of all other art, as well. Two people sitting side by side creating from the same moment along the same theme would never be able to produce the same thing. That is art. It is original and unique each time. It can be copied, reproduced, printed, repainted to a precise rendition but they are no more than copies. To sit down and recreate the original from scratch, so to speak, will never yield the same thing, ever. No matter how similar, it can’t be made the same as the first. An artist that tries to do that usually ends up with two originals along a similar theme – not two of the same.
Why does it matter to own an original of anything? I don’t know that. Why is it important to own something there is only one of or is the first of its kind in the world? I don’t know that, either. Those are questions the audience or the individual viewer must answer for themselves. It may be important for art to be purchased and owned by someone beyond th artist who originated it, but probably not.
An illustration after all, demands an audience to be effective. Art draws the audience into an interaction effectively whether it is sitting in the studio or on public display or owned by someone somewhere. Once art has a tangible form, it is in existence and is part of all that has been created from that moment forward. Even when it is destroyed, its tangible form still exists in the mind of its creator and any who experienced it.
Art is powerful because it forms its interaction with the viewer the moment it is seen. The communication it carries is conveyed in its entirety across all barriers of language, time, circumstance and culture. Its effects are not limited by the status of the viewer nor where it is found and experienced by viewers. A diamond in a shoebox is still a diamond.