Arts and Crafts: opposites or complements?

These drawings by Paul Cadden are pretty impressive. (I can’t embed an example right now, check out the slideshow in the Huffington Post link.) They also sparked something of a debate in the comments, essentially over whether Cadden is an artist or a craftsman.

When I was younger and even stupider, I tended to think of drawing and painting as “obsolete” arts. I regarded them as “what people did before the invention of cameras” as an attempt to capture images. Thus, while a painter might deserve to be lauded for his efforts, I reasoned that anybody with a camera nowadays might be as good as Jan Van Eyck.

There are still the paintings of the impossible and the bizarre, which cannot be photographed. But weird art, too, can be created more easily by digital means these days. So, why are arts like manual painting and drawing not obsolete? I realize now it’s because of the skill, the challenge involved with creating it. It’s the same reason I set rules for myself when I write poetry. People complain that Cadden bases his drawings off of photos, but so what? It would still be an incredible challenge to replicate them.

But then, does this mean it is a craft and not an art? To my mind, a craft is something where the beauty is in the process–the art of creation itself. Art is more focused on the end result than the process itself. (These are just loose, off-the-cuff definitions; others may feel differently.)

There is value in both, of course, and perhaps there is nothing that is wholly one or the other. But, for reasons I’ve never articulated even to myself, I’ve always thought of them as distinct.

What's your stake in this, cowboy?

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