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What's The Difference Between An Artist And An...

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sandyRoe | 14:58 Sat 02nd Mar 2024 | Arts & Literature
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... illustrator?

I remember reading somewhere that Norman Rockwell was an illustrator.  He seemed á fairly good artist to me.




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Both are artists but an illustrator provides the artwork for reproduction in books and other publications.


An artist produces their own interpretations of subjects. An illustrator is commissioned to produce specific drawings to accompany literature.

An illustrator needs something to illustrate!

So, for example, John Tenniel read Lewis Carroll's stories and provided the pictures to accompany them:
i.e. he was an artist doing a particular job within the field of art as a whole.

Other artists might not be illustrating stories (etc) but simply producing their own entirely independent work.

There's no difference. Rockwell was a modest man and felt he wasn't up to the mark because he relied heavily on photographs, but so did hundreds of other famous artists since the invention of photography in the mid 19th century, and before that by the extensive use of the camera obscura and other optical instruments: Vermeer and Canaletto for example.


There is a difference. 

An artist creates art, which is done entirely for the pleasure of looking at it.

An illustrator provides images to enhance text.

That's not to say that art cannot be used to illustrate, or that illustrations cannot be art.

But the strict definitions of the two are defined, before the potential crossovers come into play.

So was Lana Del Raye's song/album called Norman F'in Rockwell about an illustrator? I always assumed it was an ex of hers


Norman Percevel Rockwell (February 3, 1894 – November 8, 1978) was an American painter and illustrator.

As that makes clear, he did illustrations for books but I don't think his work for the Saturday Evening Post could be called "commissions", he chose the subject and painted it, hough he might well have checked in advance that a magazine wanted it.

I'd sort of disagree with andy, though. Much art, up to and beyond the Renaissance, was "illustration" of the Bible and other religious subjects, whether on altarpieces or in hand-painted holy books, almost always on commission. I think it's still art, though, and the painters still artists, though their work wasn't done purely for visual pleasure.

If I was asked what Quentin Blake was I'd say illustrator or cartoonist rather than artist, but I can see it's a  fine line

Jno - It appears you are not actually disagreeing with me at all.

My point is about strict definitions - an illustrator creates illustrations to enhance text, an artist creates art for the joy of art.

Each can do the job of the other, but the origin defines which was which first.

no, I'm not arguing. But we do have to think about definitions when we consider a monk illuminating a page of a medieval manuscript. What comes first, words or pictures? Which is more important?  I just don't think there's an answer. 

The monk is illustrating - as evidenced by the size of his illustrations compared to the space  given to the text - it's clear which takes priority  

I agree with AH at 21:19

andy-hughes //An artist creates art, which is done entirely for the pleasure of looking at it.

An illustrator provides images to enhance text.//

Oh dear! a post of startling incomprehension of either discipline. 🙄  

Khandro  - I would ask you to expand on that rather lofty response, if I could be bothered to care about your ides of why I may be on error. 

andy-hughes; // I would ask you to expand on that rather lofty response...//

Avec plaisir.  'Artist' is the collective term for anyone practicing the visual arts, such as a portraitist or indeed an illustrator. Though they are both artists, not all artists are portraitists or illustrators - some are landscape artists etc.

'Artist' is like the term 'musician';  a pianist is a musician and so is a violinist, but all musicians are not necessarily either - some are cellists.

An illustrator is an artist; an artist is not necessarily an illustrator.

Likewise, a pole vaulter is an athlete; an athlete is not necessarily a pole vaulter.

Khandro - I promise that when I need a lesson in the blindingly obvious, you are the top of my list of people to call.

Since the thrust of the thread involves illustrative art, the notion of music as an art form is not relevant. Except to you who needs to show off your ability to condescend with pointless sidetracked guff.

Hopefully this post is long enough to trigger your often mentioned need to ignore it.

And anyone else can watch you falling flat on your condescending face - again.


That's a fairly modern view of artists, in medieval times an artist would probably have a patron or accept commissions. Art was often the preserve of the rich or the church.



Khandro really does know what he's talking about.

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