William Miller

Debate: What is art?

Please remember not to use ad hominem attacks or straw man fallacies (or fallacies in general, but those two especially).

I created this thread to continue a debate that was started in the chat of a live stream.

I believe that if something is beautiful, and required creativity to produce, then it is art.  Furthermore, I believe that the definition of art is objective, and that if two people disagree about what art is, they can't both be right.  While beauty (part of the definition of art) is subjective, there is a certain point where something is objectively beautiful/ugly.  In other words, the line is still there, it's just rather blurry.

If you disagree, please state why.  I look forward to an interesting discussion.

  • I think this will be nicer, because it isn't instant chat, it's more of an email type thing. People will be able to think more clearly and be to the point with what they say.

    Anywaaayyys.... In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it says art is, "Skill acquired by experience, study, or observation" Therefore, you must have experience in a field, studied in that field and also observed things within that field to consider it art. From what that says right there, art covers a wide variety of things. But as to what most people would say the art profession is, ie drawing, sculpting, painting, and whatnot, The only way you can say it is art is if you have had experience with, studied, and observed painting, drawing, and sculpting, you can call it art.

    However, in the Webster's Dictionary, it says, "The application of skill to the production of the beautiful by imitation or design, or an occupation in which skill is so employed as in painting and sculpture; one of the fine arts; as, he prefers art to literature." According to this, there needs to be skill applied to the production of something beautiful or it needs to be an occupation, which means they get payed to do it. 

    Those, however are the more logic based conclusions. What I would call art is something that somebody put meaning into. If a picture is worth a thousand words, you better make it be. Art needs to have story behind it. Art needs to have feeling and emotion with it.

  • cgcookiedough I sort of agree with you.  However, I disagree with you about the skill getting payed to do it part.  What if someone gets payed to wash a car?  The car may look beautiful, but not only did it require little to no creativity to clean it, but the car itself was probably made by someone else,  meaning that the car washer has not created art.

  • williamatics Look back to the quote. It says "... an occupation in which skill is so employed as in painting and sculpture"

  • I agree with William Miller, AKA Willy The Milly, AKA Billy The Willy, there has to be a line... there's art and then there's not art, that line gets blurred way too much and people get away with it too easily. Waving the magic wand and calling upon subjectivity.... it's in the eyes of the beholder..... it's the meaning you put into it, etc,  always feels to me a cheat code that people exploit way too much. 

    Putting a dot in the middle of a white canvas and calling it a masterful piece of art is akin to  playing tennis without the net, kicking the ball anywhere and calling it a goal, striking out and say you hit a home-run because it's just how you feel you perform anyways.

    I mean c'mon, why bother then investing so much time in grinding away in a 3D software trying to get that awesome render, trying to comprehend what makes a render feel and look appealing. I'll just render the default cube setup and argue about how that feels to me and I get a pass.

    Going into Artstation or CG Society and feeling helplessness and despair and  going into a 2 year old kids classroom art section shouldn't be up for discussion, even though their mothers holds their child's work as a piece of art.... getting hired or not getting hired by Pixar means a large the degree of objectivity is present, I don't see people that can express their most inner self with any rubbish being hired by big studios. 

    There is art and then there is not art, otherwise by the mere act of existing we are all producing art all the time, so then why do I bother in learning and getting better if I can just call upon wishful warm fuzzy feelings.  

    I believe what's happening is that there's a subset of people that have exploited the "what art feels to you" card way too much and it has permeated deep into the culture, their bullshit'o'meter is off the roof and people fall prey upon their charms and furthermore, by assigning monetary value to pieces of art, the perception of what counts as art has gone further down into a spiral. 

  • cgcookiedough Yes, but how do you define what goes into that category?  What about building a house?  Building a house is not painting or sculpture, but if it is a really good house, wouldn't it be art?  Is a mathematical proof art?  It is not a painting or a sculpture, but it requires creativity, and is beautiful in a way.  But what kind of beauty is necessary for it to qualify as art?  Must it be beauty of the visual nature?  A mathematical proof has logical beauty; does that make it art?  It doesn't seem like art to me, even though I love mathematics.  I am sure that visual and auditory beauty qualify things for "art" status, but I am not quite sure about the other senses.  I have synesthesia, so when I listen to music, I not only hear it, but also see and taste it as well.  Since I experience such things, but others don't, does that make it more of an art for me than it is for other people?

    There are a lot of things I don't understand about the relationship between art and beauty.  The relationship between art and creativity is relatively easy for me to grasp, but art and beauty are a mystery.

  • dostovel I agree that the phrase "It's in the eyes of the beholder" has been used too much. But what it should mean is that there are different generas of art, like there are of music. Though I do not like modern art, there are some that do look more like art than others. Just like I don't like some types of music.

     [Side note] The reason I said, "Oh boy there goes the friendly chat" is because it was looking more like an argument than a debate. This is working a LOT better in my opinion. 

  • williamatics Just so you know, I quoted the dictionary for the sake of getting a definition. But those are good points.

  • Art is not necessarily beautiful and if something is beautiful and required creativity to produce, it is not immediately art, although it can be. There is no easy definition of what art is and sometimes, something that is not considered art at one time, is considered art at another time. Is Wim Delvoye's 'Cloaca' art? (just Google it!) It certainly isn't beautiful ( and it stinks, literally!).

    I do not think there are two people, that completely agree on what art is, so who is right then? According to you, it can only be one person (at the most). Who is this person that can tell us if something is art or not? And what happens if he/she dies? Then nobody knows if something is art or not?

  • spikeyxxx The reason I defined art the way I did was because the purpose of art is beauty.  If it is used "to make a statement", it is no longer art, but a message.

  • williamatics If you consider the purpose of art to be beauty, you have a completely different idea of what art is than I .

    So I''ll retreat from the discussion.

  • crew

    I enjoy this debate from time to time. I wrote my thoughts in a blog post a few years back.

  • If the purpose of art is not beauty, what is it then?  The answer to this question is of utmost importance to the definition of art.

  • Greetings,

    I'm kicking in a little late to this debate but I like to squeeze my brain to this topic too.
    So, in my opinion art has a very wide range of sub genres and these genres have all their own definition of what art is. In terms of this I think all of you are right with their opinions since (nearly) all of you look at this question from a different point of view.
    For example the statement: "if something is beautiful, and required creativity to produce, then it is art" is completely right for a branch of art but for a different branch this statement isn't the only criterion that decides if it's art or not.

    williamatics you said you have synesthesia, would you be so nice and listen to the song "Deutschland" from Rammstein and give me a review about that song?


  • ttobles So are you saying that the definition of art is anything that belongs in a specific genre that is classified as art, each of which has their own rules for inclusion?  What is an example of a genre that doesn't use those rules?


    I don't mean to offend you, but I didn't listen to very much of it before I stopped.  It is golden yellow and cobalt blue, which are two colors I love.  However, it tasted like chicken, bacon, and some sort of fat sauce, which are flavors I hate.

  • Well I wanted to say that the border of what is art and what is not isn't a strict and straight line, but more like a gyrose line.
    One of the things I thought of when writing my last post was that for example caricatures are art in my opinion since they are used to sending a message that makes the onlooker think about an ordained topic. And I think that is something that art should be doing as well but not desperately. So if you have a painting that is beautiful and required creativity to produce, then it's art in my opinion, but if you create something like a a caricature that makes people think without being beautiful, I could still consider this art.
    I hope this works as example.

    williamatics I'm not offended by any means! I'd rather like to thank you for investing some of your time to do me this favor. That is an interesting review. Thank you.

  • I suppose the reason I put "beautiful" in my definition is because there are things that are literally trash that people are calling art because they supposedly "send a message" or something like that.  The same is true of random splatters of paint.  The "artists" who make such things say that "It's not about what it looks like, it's about what it represents..."  The problem is, if you can't immediately see what it represents, it's obviously bad art, or even not art at all.

    However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as this. I can tell by looking at it that it is clearly art. But why? What makes it different from a random splatter of paint? How much creativity was put into this? It looks like an average doodle (granted, it's a rather impressive average doodle). Did they have a specific look they were going for? Did they continually refine it until it was satisfactory? Or did they hook a few nodes together and render it? I know that it is art, so if the latter is true, I will have to revise my definition.