Fine art, digital art, visual art: Art?

I ran across a post this week suggesting that digital art is not fine art: “Again, I must say that Art is experimentation, questioning, etc. When designers, illustrators, crafters claim their art/practice/product is Art, that’s when people get tricked.”

I tend towards clarity whenever possible in language, and thus believe distinguishing between different visual arts is appropriate. The best solution may be for each craftsman to refer to himself by his craft: Painter, sculptor, web designer, dancer and so forth. But we humans seem prone to generalizations, and with that in mind I suggest the following:

    * The tactile arts: These include architecture, painting, drawing, sculpture in any medium, printmaking and so forth.

    * The digital arts: As the name suggests, these are anything visual where a computer was employed for the majority of the creative process. I’m tempted to put photography, with the more and more ubiquitous nature of digital cameras, in this category as well.

    * The theatre arts: These include theatre, opera, dance, and basically anything else that occurs on stage other than a concert.

    * Film and photography: As this title suggests, this category is for anything on or produced from film.

Calling something “art” is fairly meaningless, as it could refer to music, china painting, opera or ceramic sculpture. I’ve noticed this, personally, in the music community. Musicians seem to be referred to as artists much of the time. In some cases, without proper context, I’ve been a little confused when running across this. Why not just call them “musicians?”

Another part of my aversion to such a broad use of the word “art” carries certain uppity connotations, the whole artist-as-genius mess.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

One Response to Fine art, digital art, visual art: Art?

  1. keith jones says:


    I agree,

    The term “art” or “artist” is too general or broad. The term does not define the artists’ interest or clarifies their form of expression. It doesn’t give the layperson a point of reference when experiencing art in its many forms.

    Painting vs. digital vs. theater vs. music… tit-for-tat. All mediums can be experimental, but the work should be experienced from a conceptual or asteadic aspect.

    Historically other mediums, and expressions faced similar trials in judgment of its value to the art world. Photography was a science then an art form that was accepted as the medium matured. Oils surpassed encaustic and egg tempera painting for example. The concern in digital media is its ability to be archived and for the art to stand the test of time. Just like photography material improvements can be seen form a historical point of view. Time and technology is on the side of digital media. On the other hand it still takes a creative mind to reason, construct, invent, and orchestrate any piece of work.

    Sometimes it’s hard to call digital a non-tactile medium. Today we can use tablets that can emulate other traditional medium. On the other hand it has the ability to be expressive and adventurous in its own right without the emulation of other media. The only true difference is the use of pixels instead of traditional materials. However, we as a society might at some point declare pixels as a traditional media as we learn how draw on moving beams of light or perhaps media that has yet to be invented.

    It is our responsibility to help educate the public, future visual artist, musician, and others in using the correct terminology for our chosen craft or expression. Even if we have to invent new terms to help unify forms of art. This might be one reason art is going around in circles, and not evolving into new directions. We need to reestablish our art that better defines who we are and how we will be remembered in history.

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