What’s the difference between art and craft? Oh … about $1000. How about: Craft comes with instructions and art doesn’t? Or how about: Crafts take skill and art doesn’t need any – Nah – too confrontational.
A good simple definition of art is the manifestation of human emotion through medium. Notice I’m not saying good or great art, just art. Art is a starting point for expression. If you reveal art you are an artist. A child who explores finger paints is an artist – maybe even the purest type.
We all know artists; the most random of thinkers. They are driven to emote. It’s in there and it must come out, no practice required. To practice is to do.
Craft is guided by an external force. Craft’s starting point is void of internal emotional expression. Practice a craft and your skills grow. They are measurable. Honed over a lifetime your mastery can reach great heights. It’s easy to recognize fine craftsmanship because it took great skill to produce.
Art schools teach skills or the craft of communicating emotion. The schools of craftsmanship teach high skill but will also move students toward self expression. It’s as though they are teaching the same thing from opposite ends of a spectrum.
In the middle of the art craft spectrum you’ll find fine art and beautiful craft sitting side by side; indistinguishable over time like paintings of the Dutch masters. Great artists become skilled at communicating their emotions and fine crafts people become emotional expressionists through their medium. It’s the same thing but approached from different directions. Neither is easy. Neither is superior.
(this article was originally published in 2007)