Norman Rockwell has long been almost an artist. Many art critics have considered him merely a great commercial illustrator - a quality worker-for-hire, but not a fine artist. It’s a distinction that Rockwell himself thought deeply about. So today, on what would be Rockwell’s 120th birthday, let’s take some time to think about the question that was central to his life and is probably a concern for most creative freelancers and contractors: Is what we do art? And does this distinction matter? Rockwell’s critics & defenders In Rockwell’s lifetime, he was hardly ever considered a fine artist. In fact, some …
I always considered this idea ridiculous, that making art for pay means you’re “not a real artist” and definitely “not a fine artist,” for many reasons. My goal is to work for pay, but it doesn’t mean I don’t find a way to enjoy everything I’m hired to draw, or that I hate to draw.
I love creating illustrations. So what if I do it for money when there’s an opportunity. It’s something I love that I want to survive on, and if anyone comes up and tells me I’m not a real artist and that I’m a sellout, then I guess they enjoy the misery of poverty, or they’re too rich to actually speak on this topic.
We don’t call music, “not real music,” if it’s sold and labeled, and available in big chain stores as CDs and online as mp3s, so we shouldn’t be so pretentious to deny that commercial art is “real art.”