Fine Arts and Illustration please discuss...

  • So do fine art and illustration mix? I love expressionistic and impressionistic landscapes. Most illustrations I am seeing of late seem to default to simple shapes and shape language. Is there room in illustration for fine arts kind of influences like expressionism or abstract elements? Or does the need to tell a good story limit an illustration to only those elements needed to convey it? Do you know of illustrators who blend both for good effect? If so, I would love to see their work. I feel like @Lee-White comes close, but are there others?

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    @chrisaakins Sterling Hundley... only one left 🙂

    Howard Pyle - N.C. Wyeth - not impressionistic but have a fine art lean

  • I’m not totally sure about the overall distinction between the two. But, Andrea Kowch is an incredible ‘fine artist’ with storytelling elements.

  • Wesley Dennis illustrated several books by Marguerite Henry with what looks like oil paintings. Their first collaboration was in 1945 and the books are still popular and selling today. He also did animal portraits.

  • How about Beatrice Alemanga ( or Laura Carlin ( I think both have such a beautiful mix of fine art elements such as abstraction and expressionism. It could also be the use of traditional mediums in there work which gives it this sortof textured, dreamlike elements that to me really enhance the emotional quality of the stories they are illustrating.

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    I'm not sure there are many artists we can clearly define as "surrealist fine art illustrators" as much as we can more easily point directly to authors and define their work as surrealistic. A quick google search renders these pages among others:

    Interestingly, this page breaks down artistic styles for children's books and offers some example definitions and works:

    I, personally, have a LOT of trouble differentiating Fine Art from Illustration, and I think in some ways it was a lot easier to do so prior to WWI. After that, things get convoluted. So much of it has to do with the artist's/illustrator's intent. And today, I think so many artists straddle both worlds that differentiating the two is even harder.

    But there are artists out there that lean into styles that are inspired by Fine Art methods. Marco Bucci, for example, is a straight-up Impressionist with a capital "I" if I've ever seen one.

  • @chrisaakins I think that the limits are imposed by gatekeepers who are more on the business side of the art. Art is art and can be limited or can be inclusive, you decide. I don't think there are frontiers.
    Frank Frazetta's work is illustration in concept but fine art in execution, for example, in my opinion.
    Explore and have fun. Don't overthink it.

  • I always thought that the only difference between fine art and illustration was that illustration consists of story telling and fine art doesn’t. There might be techniques more often used in one realm or the other but that’s not what defines them as “fine art” or “illustration”

    I looked up the definitions in Wikipedia:

    Fine art: In European academic traditions, fine art is art developed primarily for aesthetics or beauty, distinguishing it from decorative art or applied art, which also has to serve some practical function, such as pottery or most metalwork.

    An illustration is a decoration, interpretation or visual explanation of a text, concept or process,[1] designed for integration in published media, such as posters, flyers, magazines, books, teaching materials, animations, video games and films.

    Which reminded me that in college I always felt like the fine art majors thought us illustrators were “sell outs” because our work is commercial.

  • @chrisaakins Raphael cartoons are what I would class as Fine Art visual stories. A good mix?

    The cartoons are several pieces of cartone (paper) that were joined together and painted by Raphael.

    And Roy Lichtenstein hit the ground running

  • Gordon C. James illustrates books with expressive brushstrokes. The backgrounds get very loose and abstract. The about page says he’s inspired by impressionists and artists like “John Singer Sargent, Nicholai Fechin, Henry Ossawa Tanner.” He also has a section of his website dedicated to fine art, so he does both as his career.

    Maybe I’m taking your question about “fine art” to mean “painterly style.” I think there is room for this in illustration. If not many other illustrators are working like this, it could be an advantage for your pictures to stand out!

    I think the difference between fine art and illustration is not the style, but the process on the business-side. Illustrations are usually commissioned by an art director to tell a story, and fine art is more self directed art for art’s sake.


    “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut” Gordon C. James 2017

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