As a creative person, I sometimes find it hard to distinguish between the descriptors of what creative people do. There appear to be three distinct titles but I’m sure which one I fall into.
I believe I’m a craftsman, but I’ve been called an artist and an artisan so I wondered what is it that separates these occupations. The scientist always starts with some definitions, so given that science might be the antithesis of Art (although I’m not sure about that either) – even defining the differences gets us onto a sticky wicket. The definitions seem to define the differences by the activity.
An Artist: Someone who produces works like paintings or sculpture, or works in the performing arts, or is skilled at a particular task or occupation.
An Artisan: Someone who is skilled in an applied art, or makes a distinctive product in small quantities.
A Craftsman: Someone who is a sort of amalgam of both. Yet artists like David Hockney and Hokusai are also called craftsmen. And an artisan can be anyone from a baker to a silversmith (perhaps specialising in making candlesticks?).
The definitions don’t help, then.
So what IS the difference?
I think that the main difference is defined by how other people respond to the piece in question – especially when they don’t like it. And I guess to some extent, it’s also about the intention of the creator – ” Why am I doing this?” Although a craftsman might theoretically end up with a work of art… even by accident.
Is Artistry about originality vs. duplication?
An Artisan will be expected to be able to duplicate their work, whereas an Artist is all about originality every time. However, see Andy Warhol. And a glass blower might be an Artisan, but no two pieces of blown glass will ever be identical. Creativity is key to all three in different levels of measure.
However, the reason I think creativity in advertising is a craft is because what we produce has a function. And that’s common to all objects produced by a craftsman. And yet, sometimes – especially these days – it seems that we are also producing what could equally well be described as aesthetic material without function, and that’s a pure definition of art. Bugger.
The definition is in a negative reaction
Food preparation is a very good example of something that might exist in all three definitions simultaneously. It is only the intention of the creator and the reaction of the consumer that decide which definition it falls into. Is a chef creating a work of art when they prepare food? Are they making something delicious? Are they creating something easily duplicated by others? Or are they just manufacturing fuel? Also, the reaction by the creator to a rejection of the food can be anything from derision of ignorance of what excellence is, to coming out of the kitchen with a meat cleaver.
The difference can be within what the individual does with the material they’re working with. The artist might take a material and apply it in a totally unique way to a subject. Whereas an Artisan or craftsman might work within the limits of the material to get out of it the best they can. Then there’s the acquisition of the skills and talent.
Craft is about learning as well as following teaching. Art is inherent in one’s soul and doesn’t answer to the rules, and yet one needs to know the rules in order to break them.
Perhaps the best way to appreciate the difference is to use the food analogy above, and to ask yourself, if someone reacted negatively to what I am creating, what would I think? In my case, I would believe (provided I had all the facts to hand before coming up with something creative) that they were ignorant of what I was trying to achieve, and that I knew what I was creating would work and function in the way it was supposed to.
And that’s why I think that what I do as a copywriter is a craft. And actually, I’m very proud of being a craftsman. What do you think you are?