Critical Distinctions

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“The Distinctions of fine art bore me to death.” Maurice Sendak (from Brainyquote)

The debate has raged on and on over Fine Art versus Illustration. Is illustration fine art? Is fine art, illustration? Many a late night conversation among art students has debated this question. The snobbery on each side is rather humorous. Each believes his/her choice is the more worthy art. Blog posts abound on the topic. Will the question ever be answered? How will we sleep at night until we know the answer?

The lines cross so frequently it can make a body dizzy. This piece is fine art. That one is illustration. This work of fine art is also illustration. And this illustration is actually fine art. Some say illustration is in magazines and fine art is on gallery walls. But fine art also appears in magazines and illustration can be found in galleries. Maybe someone should put out a directional book so that viewers can identify which is which. The Complete Guide to Discerning Fine Art from Illustration would quickly become a best seller. The question then is who is going to write it? We can’t have a fine arts professional making the decision on illustration and vice versa. I can feel my head spinning!

What if the fine artists and the illustrators got together and decided they were really all the same group? An artist is an artist is an artist no matter what your chosen medium or place of commerce. It’s all one big happy family. Fine artists and illustrators are one in the same. The critics would be totally confused. They wouldn’t know who to criticize and who to ignore.

All could be harmony until the graphic designers hear about it and want to get in on the game. Since no one has settled the debate about whether graphic design is fine art or illustration or neither, they will have to join the family, too or that might set the debate spinning again. Perhaps it is best to just ignore the debate. Artists focus on art leaving the question of who’s who to the critics. Sorting it out gives the critics something to do and it is always better to keep them occupied. They get into trouble otherwise.

A Magical Place

If these shadows we have offended,

think but this and all is mended,

That you have but slumbered here,

While these visions did appear

—Shakespeare,  A Midsummer Night’s DreamScreen shot 2013-10-28 at 10.46.29 PM

“The place where the fairies danced” was how my great aunt described a quiet spot in the woods she knew.  She was in her eighties.  I was around six or seven.  The fairies supposedly came out after the rain and danced under the green canopies of the may-apple plants.  Aunt Sade called this place Gladey Hollow.  A huge old Beech tree marked the entrance to Gladey Hollow.   As we walked along in the woods, my aunt could name just about every wildflower and bird.  She walked with a cane, using it to point out each plant and bird as we walked.  I wish now I could remember more of them.

Images I had in my child’s mind of fairies were from the whimsical illustrations depicting flowers as fairies.  I searched and searched in Gladey Hollow but never could see the little woodland creatures. Still I believed they were there.  If Aunt Sade said they were there, then they were there.  Maybe she actually saw them.

Do artists, who paint fairies and other mythical beings, actually see the creatures?  How do they come up with these lovely illustrations?  Either they have seen the little folk or they have wonderfully vivid imaginations.  I’d like to think they have actually seen the fairies flying around in the woods like Tinkerbell.  It could be interesting to find out!

Over the years, Aunt Sade led many people on excursions into the woods for picnics and stories about the little folk.  One poet/ artist wrote a poem illustrated in an ink wash painting.  In the illustration, the artist has made the poem look like it was carved into the old beech tree:

Have you ever watched the fairies

When the rain is done?

Spreading out their little wings

to dry them

in the sun.


Have you ever heard the fairies

All among the limes–

Singing little fairy tunes

to little fairy rimes.


Have you ever seen the fairies

dancing in the air–

And running off behind the stars

To tidy up their hair?


I have.  For I’ve been there–


Miss Sade’s

“Gladey Hollow”

Author: C.E.A.

 Evidently, this guy saw them.

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