This is my 100th post! Inspired by Pam and Mary’s recent conversation about “art” vs. “craft,” I’ll dedicate this post to that topic and solicit your opinions.
I’ll turn to Denis Dutton’s book once again for enlightenment. Like fine art, craft requires skill and competence. However, fine art needs “special talent,” as Dutton puts it. Craft, according to R.G. Collingwood, “is skilled work purposefully directed toward a final product or designed artifact; the craftsman knows in advance what the end product will look like.” The creation of art, unlike craft, is subject to a creative process that allows for some or total change while the work of art is being created. This is because the artist doesn’t follow a particular formula or recipe to create a painting. The painting emerges from the artist’s thoughts and ideas. Artists can change their minds during the process. By contrast, a craftsman who’s building a chair, for instance, can make no significant alterations to the chair plan or it won't function.
As Collingwood states, the arts are always open to the unexpected … a change in a single brushstroke can change not only the meaning of the work but the artist’s entire objective. Additionally, art expresses emotion by, as Dutton writes, “probing the content of human emotional life with an eye toward articulating, or making clear, a unique emotion, an individual feeling.” Only the artist has the ability to declare the endpoint to the work. For craft, the endpoint is predetermined.
Dutton also likens the difference between “craft” and “art” to the difference between a “paint by numbers” painting where the outcome is predetermined and the idea is not original to the painter, and a blank canvas that is painted by one who is rendering unique expression of a unique idea.