Skip to main content

Artist or artisan

I have been involved in at least a million debates over the difference between an artist and an artisan. But I've been a bit bored lately and there's nothing like a good argument … I mean discussion … to liven things up. So I'm going to kick it off by attempting to define the difference between an artist and an artisan (a fool's errand?).

First of all I don't believe this has anything to do with art vs. craft. That's a whole different subject and not within the parameters of this discussion. So here's my attempted definition:

An artist is concerned with nothing beyond self expression. The form that expression takes is irrelevant. It might be a painting or a sculpture or a piece of furniture or a doorknob. The artist is simply using the form as a vehicle to make whatever statement he or she wants to make.

The artisan is motivated by the desire to make a useful object in an artistic manner. The rule of form follows function is much more likely to be followed by the artisan. The work of an artisan might be accomplished enough to elevate the work to art status but the original intent is not to make art but to make objects with a specific purpose.

That's it. Simple and direct. Agree? Disagree? Let's have it!


Related Articles

Defining art and craft

I recently came across the following definitions that attempt to differentiate art and craft.