Commercial Art vs. Pure Art

I work full-time in the art and video department of American Vision, a for profit company/publisher/ministry. Even before I worked there, most of my previous work involved a great deal of graphic design. This work has always appealed to me because artistry runs in the family. I have several cousins that are full-time in marketing and the arts. One of my uncles was the cartoonist at Six Flags Over Georgia when he was out of college. In keeping up with the family and my own goals, I do my best to add to my experience and knowledge of the arts from time to time. Here are some of my observations.

A beautiful example of graphic design. But what can it be used for?

A beautiful example of graphic design. But what can it be used for?

You can’t make art up for the sake of pure art. Some think you can, but from all the examples I can think of, 100% of the time, art has a purpose. If you’re doing it because you’re in art class in college, you’re making a piece of art for your teacher. If you are making it as a child with crayons in kindergarten, you’re still making it for your teacher. If you are doing it on your own at home, you might be doing it to humor yourself, give as a gift, or to put up in the guest bedroom.

And if you do it for a living, then you’re doing it so you can eat seven days a week. It is inescapable. These are ultimate, overviewing reasons. You may include here more apparent reasons, like “this is a package I’m designing for the new and improved M&Ms,” but you’re still making it for a reason. That’s the point.

Since nearly all art is made for a reason, and, most of the art made for a reason is for monetary gain, we are seeing a huge climb in the power of modern commercial artists. Artistic commercialization, everything from elegant cars to computers to energy drinks, is sweeping the world round.

This is not to say that commercial art is not made for pleasure. If it wasn’t made to enjoy creative qualities then it wouldn’t have been created at all. Still, usually the emphasis is not on the beauty of the piece, so much as the consistency with the product/service it is promoting. There’s a balance to selling the product vs getting the attention of the customer and keeping it long enough to get them to buy it. If the artwork doesn’t accomplish this enough of the times customers enjoy examining the artistic packaging, then the art is not living up to its purpose. This is something artists usually from experience.

If you notice, a lot of the commercial art floating around out there, and in your home, looks a lot alike. You heard of this thing called trends? On the artists side of the fence, what that means is one artist came up with a pretty good idea that sold other artists on the product this first artist was promoting, so they went and imitated, or stole from the original art that inspired them. A good artist knows how to take the art that inspired them and make it their own. A poor artist only imitates and comes out with something that people will say “hey, that looks like the other guys.”

I’ll have more to say about this soon…

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