Fine Art vs. Illustration

I personally continue to struggle with this idea that illustration is its own sect of commercial art, separate from what is considered gallery sold fine art. Which may arise from the fact that I find more fine art inspiring than contemporary illustration.
This post was inspired by a struggle I'm sure many people feel when deciding whether or not to pursue illustration. (I’ve found, at least with people who want to make art in traditional mediums).

Illustration is different from personal or self-directed “fine art”, illustration is meant to tell a story. Usually in conjunction with a story, an event, or an idea the picture you create is meant to visually add to that.
Fine art usually indicates a level of higher thinking, a plane of mystery or higher intent in the work that doesn’t exist in commercial art. This is true sometimes, however I feel the lines of commercial and fine art are blurred.

Saints & Sinners
A piece I made for the La Gioconda project. 
A reinterpretation of the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. Made with watercolor and ink.

Illustration was first a profession when people wanted to commission art from an artist. These were fine artists per say, but they made artwork for a specific purpose and a client who requested that art. Sometimes it was a portrait and sometimes it was the artist’s interpretation of an event.
What I feel most connects an illustrator and an artist is the fact that they’re chosen for the type of work they create. On the flip side, illustration holds a very special quality to it that I find is lacking in modern "Fine Art". There is a real craft of storytelling in Illustration.
In the same vein is comic storytelling, which I feel like is more prevalent in contemporary illustration now more than ever. Not only because traditional mediums are being made obsolete by computer technology but also given the rise in Indie comics and the change of illustrative styles.

I’ve often held this debate in my mind of whether or not I wanted to be a fine artist or an illustrator, and I always come to the same conclusion: Why can’t I be both - Or something in between? I still haven’t drawn a conclusion whether or not this is na├»ve, selfish, or even a question worth asking. But I do know that the reason why I feel so strongly about not compromising myself to one profession is purely for my craft.

Au Naturale
A piece made for the collaborative group promo 'Bras'. 
Promo includes pieces from recent SVA graduates.

For me the images I make are always going to be personal. Even if they’re specifically made for an article or a book, the imagery and the way that I make the art is a part of me. I know many illustrators would agree, but many argue that its not about you its about the story. This is true, the point of the illustration is to converse an idea but is it not the illustrator’s personal interpretation the origin of conversation?
It’s an open debate of course and many people feel a certain way given their personal experience. And I'm not passing any judgements on anyone, nor am I trying to say something about the Illustration field. This is purely a personal and internal debate, but one that I feel I am not alone in. For myself, I feel as though the argument of Commercial versus Fine Art within the Illustration world is that of compromising my artistic vision within an illustrative craft. In choosing one or the other I automatically limit myself to the possibilities for my work in the future. 

As Picasso said, "The chief enemy of creativity is good sense." 

Hope you enjoyed this internal debate from the depths of my soul. Next week’s post will be . . . Watercolor techniques!

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