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To understand the difference, I believe that we first need to understand the definition of art itself.

What is it that makes up our world of art?  

We find that Merriam-Webster defines art as – “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.” 

There are seven elements in the world of art. They are color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value. And there are ten common principles of art; balance, emphasis, harmony, movement, pattern, proportion, repetition, rhythm, unity, and variety. Creation, skill, imagination, beauty – all great definitions, but will this help me understand the difference? 

Let’s start by breaking down Commercial Art.

Commercial art is usually in the form of advertising, branding, logos, graphic design, and illustrations. This is a multi-billion-dollar business. Companies pay billions of dollars to brand themselves so that the public sector will recognize and therefore purchase their brand. Brand recognition is an extremely important part of our everyday life that many companies will pay over five and a half million dollars for a thirty-second ad during the super bowl. Startup companies tend to spend between seventy thousand and two hundred thousand just to brand themselves. While the printing industry did lose market share at the advent of the internet, printing commercial art is still a very valuable tool used in marketing tactics today. Especially in direct marketing as the competition is less in this area than it was prior to the internet.

But does commercial art have value? 

Like currency, the commercial value of the art is based on cooperative intentionality. We pay for items that we live in, drive, consume, and wear; and we believe in the ability to judge their relative quality and commercial value. Every billboard, every commercial, every package, every advertisement we view represents commercial art.

What is the difference between fine art and art?

And, how does that differ from fine art?

Fine art covers paintings, sculptures, printmaking, photography, installation, sound art, multi-media, and performance. In Europe, academic traditions for fine art are created mostly for artistic taste or beauty, separating it from decorative art or applied art, which tends to serve some practical function, such as pottery or most metalwork. A more in-depth definition of fine art is a visual art considered to have been created primarily for aesthetics, judged for its beauty and its intellectual purposes, and judged for its beauty and meaningfulness, especially in regard to painting, sculpture, drawing, watercolor, graphics, and architecture.  In that sense, there are theoretical contrasts between the fine arts and the decorative applied arts. As far as the consumer of the art was concerned, the perception of aesthetic qualities required a refined judgment usually referred to as having good taste, which differentiated fine art from popular art and entertainment. The word “fine” does not so much denote the quality of the artwork in question, but the purity of the discipline according to traditional Western European. Fine art can also be referred to as the Major Arts with commercial arts called the Minor arts. Either way, Artnet* news states that the Arts industry as a whole adds $764 Billion dollars a year to the US economy And 4.9 million people employed in the creative fields with $372 billion in total compensation in 2015.

So now that we have defined the difference between the arts, what about the artists?

Is there a difference between who creates fine art and who creates commercial?

According to, 59% of commercial artists have a bachelor’s degree and average approximately sixty thousand dollars a year. Many commercial artist jobs require experience in a role such as an artist. Meanwhile, many commercial artists also have previous career experience in roles such as graphic designers or graphic artists. Commercial artists are hired to create well-designed advertisements along with product packaging, hoping that it will lead to increased sales for a variety of industries. The process usually is to meet with the client, get a general idea of a project and then work out the details independently, go back to meet with the client, and present their creation.

Commercial artists in large companies often are hired as employees and work with other employee designers and advertising experts, splitting the various parts of the project. A self-employed artist tends to handle the project from beginning to end. Either way, the artist is usually given a basic concept for a project and allowed to work out the details. He or she works with the client outlining the best designs. All of this will be based on the product or advertisement and what clients they want to attract. Along with expert drawing abilities and computer proficiency, the commercial artist needs to possess strong communication, organization, and problem-solving skills. They will need to be well organized, keep accurate records of client profiles, project deadlines, and payment schedules. If they are involved in more than one project at a time, the artist or tea will need to prioritize daily activities and frequently communicate with clients to keep them up to date.

The fine artist wants to make a living from their art and creates pieces for exhibitions, art galleries, or in this day and age, the online stores. The only real difference between a craft artist and a fine artist is the level of education or training that they go through. An artist is considered a fine artist when their work is considered highly valuable, and they have mastered their technique. The main difference between an artist and a fine artist is that anything that is appealing and/or thought-provoking can be classified as art, while ‘fine arts’ is more about an aesthetic appeal, ‘Art’ is that one fine art that requires developed skills, techniques, and a creative mind.

A fine artist’s salary for top earners runs around eighty-one thousand while the seventy-five percentile is around Sixty-three thousand. The average pay for a fine artist runs just under fifty thousand. 

The balance careers has an in-depth article on their view of the difference between the two arts. Either way, and no matter how you look at this, the arts are an iatrical part of our society. Art may be in the eye of the beholder, but it is an important part of our everyday lives. It makes us smile, think, stop, stare, and laugh. And those are things we need as much as we need the air that we breathe.

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