The concept and the form of art have substantially changed over the last decade. These complicated variations led to an enormous number of challenges for the art in the USA. The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast traditional and commercial art; while some similarities between these two types of art are evident, the differences are striking.

Types of Artists

There have been major changes in demand as well as in offer of artworks. The increased population and continuous competition between the art industries resulted in variations of the art’s demand (McCarthy 2). The technological innovations change the way of arts’ production, distribution, and consumption. These modifications and, especially, financial competition have made it extremely difficult to attract the attention of the audience, and to increase the income (McCarthy 2). However, due to all of these alterations, nowadays people may choose between such types of art as the traditional one and the art available for commercial purposes.

Traditional Art

Traditional art, also known as fine art, is a form of art practiced primarily for its beauty and artistic value, but not functional meaning. Artists implement it while creating drawings, or other works with a similar design such as paintings, graphic or statuary art. People often compare this type of art with applied one or craft, which has always been a practical activity. There are other activities, not based on design, but estimated as works of traditional art, including photographic and architectural ones.

In comparison to the commercial art, the sphere of traditional art is continually extending to cover new practices. They arise either due to the technological advancement or new creations of artists. The example of the former one may be works painted with acryl, silk-screening, or giclee printing process (“Fine Art: Definition & Meaning”). The instances of the latter one include works created by artists using mixed media painting techniques. They apply techniques of collage, photographic compilation, or found-art. It is very hard to assign or define a meaning for traditional art due to this continual broadening process.

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Traditional art originated in the prehistoric Acheulian period, which dates back over a hundred thousand years ago (“Fine Art: Definition & Meaning”). The first works of that period that referred to this type of art were cave drawings. The medieval fine artists were simply competent workers. For instance, some of them were qualified interior designers and sculptures. Only at the time of the Renaissance the occupation of traditional artists became highly-professional.

With the beginning of the 16th century, every single student who wanted to study for the profession of an artist could enter the academies throughout Europe (“Fine Art: Definition & Meaning”). Such establishments provided education of the academic art based on the Renaissance art aspects. They focused on the subject matter, main idea, form, color, and other characteristics. These academies provided education of traditional art till the 20th century when new painting genres began to appear.

Commercial Art

Commercial art, also known as advertising art, is a form of art designed to sell products and services. It uses similar materials and skills to those of fine art, but they have nothing to do with the artistic ones. It is different from the traditional art, which exists for its benefit, pursuing strictly aesthetic aim. Commercial artists create works for the advertisements or application guides. The magazines, TV studios, newspapers, publicity agencies, art and design companies, or similar enterprises employ commercial artists (“What Is Commercial Art?”). An enormous number of them work for themselves as freelance art designers.

At the end of the 20th century, the freelance artist started selling their works to agents. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, the rapid technological advancement and upstream integration made publicity agencies create their artistic departments (“What Is Commercial Art?”). They began controlling the commercial art process. The demand for freelance artists declined as the number of specialized companies increased. However, by the beginning of the 21st century, the number of freelance art professionals began steadily rising.

Commercial artists usually employ artistic aspects to various fields. They design logotypes, advertisements, wall banners, posters, booklets, book covers, product wrapping, and other artistic endeavors (“What Is Commercial Art?”). These works, often designed to market, facilitate, illustrate, relate, report, and inform. Commercial artists make a specialty out of visual design and illustration, as well as, other areas. Illustrators make images for books and magazines. Graphic designers make artistic works for newspapers, TV, product wrapping, and the Internet. They usually work in publicizing, digital marketing, or other related areas.

The commercial art professionals use a various number of techniques, such as hand printing and painting, software design aids, video cameras, and others. (“What Is Commercial Art?”). Regardless any purpose, it remains the art, which includes high standards. Commercial art is just like any other custom-designed art, which requires time, craft, criticism, style, taste, and background mode (“What Is Commercial Art?”). People purchase such artworks earlier than the artists produce them. The commercial art industry has fixed rates for the finished product evaluation. Only person’s taste and estimation define the efficiency of commercial artistic work.

Selling Artistic Works

Traditional artists as well as commercial ones sell works in two different ways. People can purchase the piece before or after its creation. These two art types require different business approaches.

The companies commission commercial art professionals after examining their portfolios hoping for the creation of the high-quality art piece (Aljena). Usually, they have special requirements for their orders. Unlike the traditional art, the commercial one lacks freedom of inspiration.

In contrast to the commercial art pieces, traditional ones are sold after their creation. Traditional or fine artists have a right for creativity, making their ideas deeper, and their freedom is unlimited.

These types of artists differ not only in their art and selling methods (Aljena). Their customers also have several differences. For instance, commercial clients establish requirements before the order and may take part in the process of art piece creation. People can even consider the commercial artist and his/her customer to be joint creators (Aljena). In contrast to the traditional artists, the commercial ones perceive the whole process more like entertainment rather than art. They should be more competent in customer service and experience than the fine artists.

In comparison to the commercial artists, the traditional ones have artistic freedom, but require different approaches in selling works. The traditional art, unlike the commercial one is not about entertainment but about values and philosophical ideas. The customers buy the traditional art pieces if they share the same views with the artist. The traditional art selling requires the skills of describing the artistic work with an element of story creation. The fine artists have to present the piece and make the client interested in it.

Similarities between Traditional Art and Commercial Art

There is an enormous number of similitudes between traditional and commercial art, but these two types of art are not the same. Usually, unlike the distinctions, the similarities between traditional and commercial art are not evident and are important to be comprehended. Right before the Industrial Revolution, from 1760 to 1820, these two types of art mixed in their beauty, meaning, aim, and workmanship (Lundgren). However, later traditional and commercial art separated. The latter has always had practical and commercial purposes, while the goal of the former one comprised the creative aspects.

It is important to acknowledge that fine and commercial art have several things in common. Firstly, the commercial art as well as the traditional one is the subtype of the broader category of visual art. Secondly, both of them combine the aesthetic purposes, but one of them displays it in a bigger sense. Thirdly, the artistic professionals in both traditional and commercial art require knowledge of history, past and current trends (Lundgren). Fourthly and most importantly, both of them are incredibly creative activities. They are time-consuming, and require thinking and observation.

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Differences between Traditional Art and Commercial Art

The main non-negotiable differences between traditional and commercial art lie in the purpose of each. On the one hand, traditional art is primarily self-expressive and self-satisfying one. The artist can choose what idea he/she wants to invoke and then works towards its generation. Conversely, commercial art becomes a visual art of communication and functional purpose created for the overall population. It also addresses people’s needs and solves their problems.

Traditional art fully relies only on aesthetics, and traditional artists proceed to investigation, and exploration (Lundgren). In contrast to it, the commercial art combines aesthetics and function in order to accomplish an objective.

The traditional viewers and customers may interpret the traditional artistic works in their ways. On the contrary, people cannot interpret commercial art. The commercial artists have to specify and clarify the information on the work to the intended audience.

The traditional artists chose this occupation for themselves. The traditional customers may view their works in art galleries and museum, demonstrated away from the total flux of day-to-day experience. Even though people may or may not have any significant experience, they may still admire the traditional artistic works. Not only experienced artists, but also all people face and use commercial artistic works every single day. They design websites, wrapping, banners, print advertisements, newspapers, smart phone apps, products and services for practical application and visual appeal (Lundgren).

Traditional artists create artistic, forward-looking, distinctive, and even, sometimes, mind-blowing works for themselves. On the contrary, commercial art is practically applied and carefully made. It also supports business, trade, marketing, and journalism.

Another important difference is that traditional artists put signatures on their works and present them as good as they can. On the contrary, the commercial artists stand behind their artistic works and remain unknown to their clients.

On the one hand, most people can easily, without using the Internet, name dozens of traditional artists, but unfortunately, do not know the names of the commercial ones (Lundgren). People do not know who designed the chips packaging bags or the street signs. On the other hand, commercial artists have more impact on today’s world and current history than the fine artists have.

Last but not least are the differences in the methods of art piece creation. The traditional artists can start their creations with the blank canvas, whereas the commercial artists require preliminary researches and studies. Unlike the former ones, the latter do not seek self-expression, but care about those for whom they design. The current popular culture influences commercial artists, whereas traditional ones are self-dependent.

The Traditional Art Painting Genres

The traditional art embodies the arrangement of forms, contours, colors, contrasts, and textures, which eventually creates an aesthetic view.

There are five major traditional art paining genres:

  • First and foremost, the history painting, and this has nothing to do with painting historic scenes. It means to narrate a story, which involves figures engaged in actions and emotions. The history paintings include the presentation of the noblemen, their exemplary actions, and struggles of the holy men, pagans, mythological and Biblical characters (“Fine Art: Definition & Meaning”).
  • Secondly, the fine art contains portraiture painting, which can be a statuary, pictorial art, or photography. This type of traditional art places special emphasis on person’s face. The artists also create individual, group or self-portraits. They may be head and shoulder, half-figure, or full-size portraits. The renowned traditional artists who painted them were Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and others (“Fine Art: Definition & Meaning”).
  • The third type of traditional art is genre piece painting, which depicts everyday life scenes and situations (“Fine Art: Definition & Meaning”). It includes home settings, interior scenes, dinner-time, festivities, countrymen scenes, markets, and streetscapes. The main idea of this type of traditional art is not being idealistic, but rather classically traditional.
  • Fourthly, there is a landscape painting included into the traditional art painting genres (“Fine Art: Definition & Meaning”). The key idea of these drawings is to emphasize the beauty of the scene, including glades, hills, vales, sea pieces, forests, and river lines. The depicted piece may be real-life, imaginary, romanticized, or idealized scene.
  • Last but not least are still-life paintings, which make a special genre, portraying various things laid on the table (“Fine Art: Definition & Meaning”). These may be flowers, fruits, or cooking utensils. It is also possible to classify still-life pieces into animal, banquet, or flower paintings.

These five painting genres comply with the Hierarchy of Genres, proclaimed by the traditional art academies, which valued only paintings with the morale and content.

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Types of Commercial Artists

The commercial artists create works solely for business goals. Unlike traditional art, this type of art serves for the purpose of reproduction. People call it commercial art, while artists call it visual design. Sometimes they call it communication design because it transfers information and ideas.

There are six different types of people, who practice commercial art:

  • Firstly, the biggest number of commercial artists works in advertising industry, which is the most widespread kind of the commercial art (Kner). They remind people about the products and the reason of buying them. They publicize everything from cars to TV programs and books.
  • Secondly, the artists create packages for books, CDs, cans, and bottles. They try to attract people’s attention to the products in markets and stores using different techniques in order to advertise them (Kner).
  • The third type is publishing, including books, newspapers, and magazines. The designers create font styles, and layouts (Kner). They cooperate with illustrators and sometimes photographers to make text attractive, well-ordered, and readily readable.
  • The fourth type of commercial art is styling design and environmental graphics, which conveys information through the brochures, various catalogues, office stationeries, and other products (Kner). They also work on creating logotypes, symbols, and trademarks. They usually use them on the cars and trucks, in hospitals, offices, and airports.
  • The fifth type includes art directors, who work on various assignments from the beginning to the end (Kner). They should necessarily discuss the content of the tasks with their clients. They work in partnership with the designers, photographers, and illustrators.
  • Last but not least is the paste-up-artists, who print the artworks for the designers by themselves (Kner). They paste the artistic works on a board for the further reproduction. Today, they start putting the text, photos, and drawings together on computers more often than they used to.

In conclusion, traditional art and commercial art differ substantially, but there is no reason to state that the former is more important that the latter one, or vice versa. On the whole, the traditional artists serve solely for their aesthetic purposes, while the commercial artists work for business or publishing companies. Even though the traditional art is much broader concept, the commercial art has a variety of types of people who work for an enormous number of assignments. Hence, it is possible to say that the traditional artist choose this work as their hobby, while the commercial ones have it as an occupation. Nonetheless, these two types of art require hard work, talent, time, and desire. Eventually, the traditional art and commercial art are essential for both the artists and the clients.

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