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Forums > Art & Creativity > Art vs. illustration

Do you all feel that there is a distinction between art and pictures/illustrations? If so, what divides them? If not, then how do you define art? (I know it's a tough question. :P) Gimme yo' thoughts and journeys of discovery and whatnot.

When I was little, and especially once I started roleplaying, my creativity began to hone in on illustrating my characters and my friends' characters... and when I realized people would pay me to do this, it was pretty much set in stone. XD For a long time, "art" and "illustration" were synonymous to me. In high school I did paint a lot of images that were at least somewhat "artistic," and some of my illustrations are pretty artsy as well, but they're still on the "illustration" side.

About a year and a half ago I was undergoing some major changes in my life, and it began to be painful to just render characters, especially because I was in a drawing class where some of the projects were really freeform. I made some art then, which intensified my craving for it. I finally succumbed to my muse and created this and this (flaccid, mostly-hidden penor alert). (If anyone is interested, it's part of a series, sorta, more pics in it are here and here.)

That got long-winded; sorry for the wank there. <.<

Anyway. I think I finally know the difference! (for me, anyway) Illustration is a representation of something physical, while art is a representation of something not-physical (ideas, emotions, memories, times).

So, uh, yes. Go on, ramble at me. :3

Heimdall wrote:
Do you all feel that there is a distinction between art and pictures/illustrations? If so, what divides them? If not, then how do you define art? (I know it's a tough question. :P) Gimme yo' thoughts and journeys of discovery and whatnot.

When I was little, and especially once I started roleplaying, my creativity began to hone in on illustrating my characters and my friends' characters... and when I realized people would pay me to do this, it was pretty much set in stone. XD For a long time, "art" and "illustration" were synonymous to me. In high school I did paint a lot of images that were at least somewhat "artistic," and some of my illustrations are pretty artsy as well, but they're still on the "illustration" side.

About a year and a half ago I was undergoing some major changes in my life, and it began to be painful to just render characters, especially because I was in a drawing class where some of the projects were really freeform. I made some art then, which intensified my craving for it. I finally succumbed to my muse and created this and this (flaccid, mostly-hidden penor alert). (If anyone is interested, it's part of a series, sorta, more pics in it are here and here.)

That got long-winded; sorry for the wank there. <.<

Anyway. I think I finally know the difference! (for me, anyway) Illustration is a representation of something physical, while art is a representation of something not-physical (ideas, emotions, memories, times).

So, uh, yes. Go on, ramble at me. :3
I think you just about nailed it. Illustration is more like Graphic Art- It serves a specific purpose, whereas fine art is purely about aesthetics and what sort of emotions and ideas they might represent.

I'd agree with that and add that while illustrations require creative talent to produce well, the end result may not be looked upon as a creative piece of work. Road signs come to mind as an example.

Art on the other hand, is all about expressing oneself creatively.

Heimdall wrote:
Anyway. I think I finally know the difference! (for me, anyway) Illustration is a representation of something physical, while art is a representation of something not-physical (ideas, emotions, memories, times).

I spent many painful years having this debate, endlessly, in art school(s). It was like my own private hell. Trying to define what is and is not art is an outrageously dangerous past time that will never, ever have a satisfactory answer. No one will ever agree and someone always feels like they've been punted to the ghetto. These days when I hear the question come up my immediate reaction is whhoooooaaaaaa everybody take cover and assume crash positions.

I would put forth the alternate theory that all illustration is art (what *kind* of art, whether emotional or literal or otherwise can still be debated), but not all art is illustration.

I never really believed in a set definition of art. Art is art when people call it art. (Aren't I Mr. Genius here). Something that's art to someone might be garbage to another. Art is a bit like religion in that aspect (at least to me.); everyone has their own interpretation of it. I believe the 'official' definition maintained by most dictionaries/encyclopedias is something like:

Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, photography, sculpture, and paintings.
Traditionally, the term art was used to refer to any skill or mastery. This conception changed during the Romantic period, when art came to be seen as "a special faculty of the human mind to be classified with religion and science".[1] Generally, art is made with the intention of stimulating thoughts and emotions.

(Thank you Wikipedia! :D)

In my definition, art is all that we can create into a physical/digital form. Art is creativity, the ability to formulate our emotions and thoughts into visual, sensory and audible things. Drawings, sculptures, music, singing, writing...

Illustration is just one of many forms to express art with. I don't particularly consider something art or non-art based on the genre that it was forced into, such as illustration or non-illustration. As long as it's a product of creativity and a desire to express it, it's art to me.

I don't consider art and illustration to be two set-apart ideas. Art as a whole is considered "expressive" of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and so on, and an illustration can have the same stirring of emotions as a beautiful painting or a powerful, well-made sculpture.

Also I can look at a well-done illustration from a book or a graphic novel and say to myself from an artistic impression how good I think it looks, and how the artist(s) who made it utilized the different parts of art (shape, depth, color, perspective, texture, etc). Illustrations can be painted on canvas, digitally painted, printed, etc. but it still has the same basic creation process behind it. So essentially they are simply another form of artistic expression.

EDIT: ... I know I just repeated what Sanne essentially said. xD Sorry, I suddenly had a moment of "express thyseeelllf!"

Thanks for all your opinions! I guess I should clarify--the distinction I drew is primarily regarding my own work. I don't have a solid definition for the works of other artists. I have seen many artistic-feeling works in a huge variety of genres, yet some pieces do not feel "artistic" to me, despite being appealing. And some things that people call "art" I call contrived and terrible. XD

I'd like to think that any creative expression I do is art, but I've just been drifting from that belief. There is definitely some creativity and expression that goes into my illustrations... deciding poses, lighting, and expressions primarily, since usually my illustrations aren't subjects of my creation. :P But I simply don't feel like my personal illustrations are artistic--sometimes they are, but usually they aren't. I don't really know why! Maybe it's because I see a lot of my illustration like a job?

I’ve been dumpster-diving again and came up with this thread. This has been something I have discussed with people across the interwebz for many a year. My opinion on what the difference between ‘Art’ and ‘Illustration’ is the imagination behind the end product. My example is (of course) Lord of the Rings. Pre-Peter Jackson movies, the depictions of Galadriel and Arwen, Eomer, Aragorn, Eowyn, Gandalf et al… Artists created pictures of what their imagination inspired from their reading of the books. When the movies came along, it seemed that artist’s depiction of the characters reflected the actors that played them. Thde technical aspects of the drawing was really good, but there was no original imagination. I have seen many a beautiful pencil sketch of Arwen, Aragorn, etc, that look exactly like the actors that played them in the movies. An illustration is something seen and drawn as it was seen. Art is something that is imagined and drawn.

I would say that someone creating a vision of the characters they see in their mind is art, whereas someone creating a vision of the character that looks like a mirror image of what is seen in the movie is an ‘Illustration’. ‘Art’ is the creation from the imagination of the artist. An illustration is the creation by someone who sees through someone else’s eyes. That is my 2¢.

Dunedain-Ranger wrote:
Dune this thread is nearly eight years old

SINDragon wrote:
Dunedain-Ranger wrote:
Dune this thread is nearly eight years old

Yes, and the topic is timeless. ;)

Actually we do ask that people try to avoid reviving ancient threads. If you find an old topic that is of interest to you, please consider revitalizing it by making your own thread. I'm going to end the necromancy & lock this up now.

Thread is reopened because it's still a good, relevant discussion; happy posting, RPRians.

Note from Kim: Apologies for that brief miscommunication everyone. I've merged the new topic that ended up being created on this subject back into this one.

Apparently I have to start a new thread
even though the old one was perfectly good. Some people I guess got upset that an "old" topic was brought up. As instructed by the moderator who locked the old thread after I posted to it, I'll do as instructed and start a new thread and ask the same questions.


The question is what is the difference between 'Art' and an 'Illustration'. This has been something I have discussed with people across the interwebz for many a year. My opinion on what the difference between ‘Art’ and ‘Illustration’ is the imagination behind the end-product. My example is (of course) Lord of the Rings. Pre-Peter Jackson movies, the depictions of Galadriel and Arwen, Eomer, Aragorn, Eowyn, Gandalf et al… Artists created pictures of what their imagination inspired from their reading of the books. When the movies came along, it seemed that artist’s depiction of the characters reflected the actors that played them. The technical aspects of the drawing were really good, but there was no original imagination. I have seen many a beautiful pencil sketch of Arwen, Aragorn, etc, that look exactly like the actors that played them in the movies. An illustration is something seen and drawn as it was seen. Art is something that is imagined and drawn.

I would say that someone creating a vision of the characters they see in their mind is art, whereas someone creating a vision of the character that looks like a mirror image of what is seen in the movie is an ‘Illustration’. ‘Art’ is the creation from the imagination of the artist. An illustration is the creation by someone who sees through someone else’s eyes.

What are your opinions on the difference between ‘Art’ and ‘Illustration’ ?
I am curious to know your thoughts.

All thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs.
All illustrations are art, but not all art pieces are illustrations.

I'm very bad with words, even as an artist, so um... that's kind of my comment for this lol

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Forums > Art & Creativity > Art vs. illustration