Art vs Design

Firstly what is art? I don’t know, I probably should, given that I paint, exhibit and sell my artworks and have studied painting; drawing; printmaking; photography and art history.

It is strange that I don’t add to the list my studies of illustration and graphic design as qualifications to give an opinion on the question, why?

Is illustration that different from life drawing? Both are about mark making, trying to capture a scene and imply context.

So is there a difference between design and art? Both attempt to communicate meaning to a viewer, each utilise aesthetics such as colour and harmony, and composition to create and disseminate meaning.

Yet design is still seen as the ‘poor cousin’ to art, maybe because the fact that historically it comes from commercial art and not an ‘ism’ of high culture and it is about working to a commercially driven brief with an end goal for a client as opposed to one’s self.

Was the great artist Leonardo da Vinci actually a designer in his time? Taking on commissions to earn his living knowing he had deadlines to complete the work within that would then be judged by the client.

Are his sketches of machines designs or works of art? Are they called works of art because his other works have elevated these too, or are they sketches, has time added to the esteem?

If a work is in a museum are they judged differently than if viewed in a boardroom? Plenty of designers have their works exhibited in museums, are the designs now artworks?

At work, designing means working to deadlines and budgets that will be judged by the clients and markets.

Personally when I paint I am working for myself, I don’t care what anyone else thinks and I can experiment and take as long as I want to create a work. I can indulge and are be free.

Perhaps that is the difference: art is indulgent while design is restrictive.