What’s the difference between an artist and a craftsperson?
According to Dictonary.com it is fairly straightforward: an artist is “a person who produces works in any of the arts that are primarily subject to aesthetic criteria” or “one who professes and practices an imaginative art” or “a person skilled in one of the fine arts”. A craftsperson is “a person who practices or is highly skilled in a craft.”
But common usage seems to have modified the nuances of meanings in these words. We think of an artist as someone who works in the fine arts. Here I go back to Dictionary.com which defines fine art as “a visual art considered to have been created primarily for aesthetic purposes and judged for its beauty and meaningfulness, specifically, painting, sculpture, drawing, watercolor, graphics, and architecture.” (Architecture? I thought architecture was more of an applied art?) Speaking of which, Dictionary.com defines applied art as “any art that applies aesthetic principles to the design or decoration of useful objects…”
The dictionary seems to make the distinction based on the use of the finished product. If it is purely aesthetic it is art, if it is functional then it is craft.
I think that maybe we tend to think of the difference as more related to the techniques rather than the functionality. According to this theory: Painting with oil paint on canvas is art. Painting with craft paint on a saw blade is craft. Sculpting with clay is art. Sculpting with paper mache is craft. Drawing with charcoal is art. Drawing with crayons is craft.
It all still seems fairly easy to differentiate. However, I’m not good at easy answers. I have seen a lot of really good art in surprising places and made from surprising materials.
Personally, I think the line between art and craft is blurring – a blurring which I find quite exciting. I have done some experiments with combining art and craft techniques and materials and will experiment a lot more as I have time. I did a collage on canvas and then combined melted paraffin, paint, embossing powder, and melted crayons making a thick top layer. The effect was actually quite pleasing and I will be returning to that technique. (My apologies, I do not have a picture of that piece to show you.) Another experiment is painting on found objects such as an aluminum drink can or a computer circuit board. (Examples above.) Another experiment that I enjoyed was an illuminated, framed paper sculpture made from a painting on watercolor paper.
Yes, I get a LOT of my art supplies from Jerry’s. I also get supplies from craft stores, lumber yards, thrift stores, parking lots, and a variety of other places. Remember what dictionary.com said, that an artist is “one who professes and practices an imaginative art”. I really like that phrase “imaginative art”. Let’s practice imaginative art.