Artist and Artisan—the Differences

A number of years ago, I posted an article entitled “Artist or Artisan?,” wherein the differences between the two were explored, relying extensively on the ideas of a painter, John Stillmunks. With all the hubbub about artificial intelligence, I thought I would pose the same question to OpenAI via ChatGPT. So I posed the question in this form: “In an essay of approximately 500 words, explain the essential difference(s) between an artist and an artisan. Document all quotations.”

This is the response (which came in seconds):

Artists and artisans are both creative individuals who produce beautiful and functional objects. However, the essential differences between them lie in their purpose, intention, and approach to their craft. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an artist is “a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as painting, sculpture, music, or writing, to produce works that are primarily aesthetic in nature.” On the other hand, an artisan is “a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.”

One key difference between an artist and an artisan is their intention. While both create objects, the artist’s primary intention is to express themselves and communicate a message to their audience. As noted by artist Jasper Johns, “Art is much less important than life, but what a poor life without it.” Art is a means of communicating one’s emotions, ideas, and beliefs through visual, auditory, or literary media. It is a reflection of the artist’s inner world, experiences, and values.

In contrast, an artisan’s primary intention is to create functional objects that serve a specific purpose. Their work is focused on functionality, rather than self-expression or communication. According to artisanal bread baker Chad Robertson, “The goal is not just to make great bread; it’s to make great bread that is accessible to everybody.” The artisan’s focus is on creating well-crafted objects that are useful and serve a practical purpose.

Another important difference between artists and artisans is their approach to their craft. Artists tend to have a more experimental approach to their work, exploring new ideas and techniques to express their creativity. They often work independently, outside the boundaries of traditional artistic styles and techniques. As artist Pablo Picasso once said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Artists are free to experiment, push boundaries, and create their own unique style.

In contrast, artisans tend to work within the boundaries of their craft, using traditional techniques and methods that have been passed down through generations. According to ceramicist Frances Palmer, “I’m not a ceramic artist, I’m a potter. I make things that are useful.” The artisan’s focus is on mastering their craft and producing high-quality, functional objects that are both beautiful and practical. They often work within established styles and techniques, striving to perfect their skills and achieve excellence in their craft.

In conclusion, while both artists and artisans create beautiful and functional objects, their intentions and approaches to their craft are fundamentally different. Artists focus on self-expression and communication, while artisans focus on functionality and the mastery of traditional techniques. As noted by philosopher R.G. Collingwood, “Art is self-expression; craft is the expression of a tradition.” Both artists and artisans play an important role in our society, enriching our lives through their creative work.

It’s not a bad answer. I find it interesting that ChatGPT took the instruction, “Document all quotations” to mean “include quotations,” even though they were not all entirely relevant. Aside from that, the answer is complete and well organized, if not nuanced. That, of course may be the result of the prompt, which is itself not terribly sophisticated, but then I’m new to AI, and perhaps some massaging of the prompt might have resulted in a more refined answer.

Interestingly, the differences posited by ChatGPt are remarkably similar to those expressed by Stillmunks, although the emphasis is a bit different. And it’s interesting that Stillmunk’s main thesis still holds: “no, not everybody’s an artist (despite what they may think).” But we have to remember that at the end of it, it is still nothing but a label. We are free to cross the line in either direction, depending on the current project. No one ever said that we have to be either artist or artisan all of the time.

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Date: Sunday, 7. May 2023 21:51
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