I have an add-on for Firefox called Stumbleupon. You make an account (free), tell it what your interests are, install the toolbar and once you’ve restarted Firefox, you click the “Stumble!” button and it will send you to a random website based on your interests. I highly suggest it to anyone who has an interest in anything.
Now and then, i come across some tepid attempt at mediocrity trying to pass itself off as ‘art’. In reality it’s usually someone who indulges in what can be described, at best, as masturbatory, flat, poorly composed and incomplete illustrations. Some of it is manga based images, some of it tries very hard to be ‘edgy art’ that is the direct result of someone who thinks because they can draw in some sort of ephemeral style in a notebook, they all of a sudden have artistic license.
So at my Stumbleupon page, i notice i have a mail. It’s from some girl named Rivenheart who asks the simple question, “why in the world is illustration not art?” And i thought about it and realized, Wow. That’s a great question. I’d love to engage her in a discussion about aesthetics and the distinction between art (fine art in this case) and illustration. Keep in mind this is a huge part of my life. My degree is in the fine arts, i see and hear art every day and the philosophy of aesthetics is something very central to me. So i answered with the following:
Why is illustration not art? That’s an outstanding question. Without writing too much, i’ll say the defining quality is the end means of the work in question. That is to say, art is the culmination of the process of self expression within time and/or space to be used an end means of self expression. I think art often has a quality of judgment (this can be introspective judgment or even political based on someones observations, take Picasso’s Guernica for instance or Copolla’s The Godfather). Illustration serves to satisfy a client and generally speaking, does not survive the test of time. Some illustration has excellent technique, such as LeRoy Niemen but has no depth. Depth is perhaps a subjective quality but i think it’s similar to “soul”. Virtually everything published in Juxtapoz magazine is flat & ephemeral. Some of it’s good, some of it’s really good (Coop, for instance), but does Dalek or Coop get held to the same aesthetic standard as deKooning or Kline or Twombly? I’m inclined to think not.
But most of what i’m seeing these days in that genre that might be considered “lowbrow art” is self indulgence with no consideration to aesthetic, composition nor effective use of color. Again, Juxtapoz magazine is extremely good at documenting this.
And there are crossover artists who go into the mainstream, such as Keith Harring. And of course, Andy Warhol could be argued to belong in either genre.
I recognize what i consider illustration could well be considered the most important art in the world- especially by the illustrator. Is it going to be considered illustration because i say so or likewise, is it going to be art because i say it’s art? Of course not- but the test of time separates the slag from our aesthetic history. If something can withstand a few decades of existence and still be considered as art by those who understand aesthetics (admittedly, we all have different interpretations of that), then it will eventually be considered art.
For what it’s worth, i’m sure some of my work, were it to ever be examined in the future, would be considered to be trite and ephemeral to some. On the other hand, other than me, i don’t care what anyone thinks of my paintings (watercolors) and prints (itaglios).
Thank you for your time and please accept my thoughts in the spirit in which i send them.
A bit long? Hardly when considering the depth and complexity of aesthetics, the distinction between art and illustration and not knowing at what level she’s at. Well, on the latter, i was to soon find out. She wrote back with:
w/o writing too much?? ROFLOL!!! thats so sad that you had to give me two messages explaining what you think art is “without writing too much”. you poor long winded and artistically close minded person. dance is considered an art for gods sake and you think ppl who illustrate dont do art? theyre just doing what clients want? im not even an illustrator and i feel like i have to defend these poor ppl who just want to do what they love. some ppl, like you for instance, just want to do their art and they dont care what other ppl think but now all art have to “stand the test of time”? like other those who created all of the techniques we use today? im sure no one will remember your art, just like they wont remember mine.i happen to think that graffiti can be a beautiful art form, just like dance and sculpting…so maybe you should stop being such a snob! lol youre just too funny! how many art history courses have you taken?
So now begins my moment of schadenfreude.
Okay honey, since your idea of communicating is by sodomizing the English language then sticking your feces covered dick into your own mouth, i’ll fully understand that you might not be able to follow. Did you bother to even look at what you wrote? Did you mistake me for someone you were jacking off to via AOL instant messenger? At least try and have an eighth grade mastery of English before showing up at my doorstep.
You raised your hand in the classroom and asked a question. Unknown to you, you accidentally asked something of merit and something of which i happen to know a bit about and enjoy discussing. Looking back, i can see that your brief sentence was too short for me to tell that you are, in fact, a limp minded prat. For my part, i made the mistake of thinking that you, 1) were genuinely interested in a thoughtful conversation and 2) were remotely capable of afore mentioned conversation. Then when you received an answer that required some sort of intellectual acumen on your part, you instead became embarrassed at your own ignorance, which you then decided you were going to wear on your sleeve as it were something to be proud of.
Believe me, honey, it’s not.
So let me be blunt- your ignorance of what illustration is, is surpassed only by your wholesale, deliberate ignorance of what constitutes art. The fact that you mention graffiti in a discussion of illustration versus art demonstrates you are, in fact, as stupid as a bag of wet hair. I was not discussing urban art, i was not discussing primitive art, i was discussing the distinction between an illustration and fine art, a point that you missed with all the grace of going to work to find that everyone is laughing at you because they found pictures of you having anal sex on the internet. In other words, you’re an ignorant little insecure twat who derives her sense of culture by what you see at Hot Topic and see painted on the bottom of skateboards. And so you know, at no point did i deride dance as not being art. In fact, were you to use the reading skills most people master by the time they’ve watched a few episodes of Sesame Street, you will notice that i gave a definition for what i believe art is. Please notice the parts about “self expression” and that it be contained within, “time and/or space”. Do please try paying a bit more attention and perhaps you won’t make such an utter embarrassment of yourself next time, you dimwitted dunderpate.
And just so you know, i’ve taken about ten to a dozen art history classes. You see, sugar tits, art history was my minor and the emphasis was on critical thinking and analysis. We incorporated ideas of architecture, film and industrial design into our conversations about aesthetics. We also discussed the role of religion, warfare, economics and politics in a way that helped put art movements into context. We started with those spear pitted drawings in Lascaux and moved up to Grandma Moses, Cy Twombly, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, John Ford, Georgia O’Keefe, Minor White, Le Corbusier and dozens if not hundreds of women and men in between. My major is in painting with an emphasis in gouaches and watercolors but i also have a specialty in itaglio. I won’t bother explaining to you what itaglio is nor now it’s pronounced because, let’s face it- you’re too fucking stupid.
I’m so tired of little runts like you that continually lower the bar so that nothing is a challenge. Anyone with a degree of intelligence is now an “elitist” or a “snob”. You drag things like knowledge and your small understanding of aesthetics to such a level that you, with a profound ignorance, are incapable of responding with the smallest iota of intelligent thought. Instead, you decide in your small little sanctimonious way of thinking, that your ignorance somehow gave you enough of a fucking clue to try and insult me with your incoherent little prattle. Grow up.
And finally, princess, i’ve spent more than my fair share of time wading through brambles, under bridges and negotiating railyards slick with rain where you have the constant threat of 1000 ton leviathans moving at 40 miles an hour. Why? Because instead of clicking on some links to see the works being done on railcars, i actually wade in and hunt them down. And since apparently you’re too fucking stupid to get it on your own, there is a distinction between illustration and urban art. Just because you flipped through some issues of Juxtapoz and heard that Karen Finley crammed a yam up her ass onstage and called it art [which to the best of my knowledge, never happened], does not give you any more understanding of dance than you have of illustration or urban art.
So go away you inbred little twat. It’s clear the best part of you dribbled down your mommy’s leg and ended up in the Naugahyde cracks of the back seat of your uncle’s Trans Am. Go back to the mall to play with your friends. If you want to think that someone with a bag of sharpie pens and some notebook paper is making the next Guernica, fine- but next time you accidentally ask someone a question worth answering, be sure to let them know what an idiotic scab you are so they won’t waste their time making a response that you’re too dim-witted to understand anyway.