Fine art versus graphic design

I haven’t painted anything new in about a decade. I don’t even know what I would paint. A long time ago, I would paint and draw because I needed to. I’m not sure what happened to the mysterious force that drove me to make senseless art, but I do miss it.

I make a living as a full-time graphic designer and website developer, and it seems like spending so many hours per day crafting and manipulating imagery to solve specific problems and communicate specific messages may have thrown my creative habits out of balance. Design is a form of highly focused applied creativity. It’s a craft, more than an act of magic. But creating fine art, to me, has always seemed more like magic.

The process for starting a work of art has always involved clearing my mind, watching what flows through it, then grabbing something and focusing on it. During the creative process, things can morph and change willy nilly, without my conscious direction. The end result is almost never anything I understand, nor anything I could have preconceived.

The process for starting a graphic design project, on the other hand, involves research and a lot of intention. I learn as much as I can about my client, and about that client’s audience, and then think about what that client wants to communicate visually to its audience. Then, if I’m going to design anything worthwhile, I dip into that unknown creative void through sketching, free-writing, mind-mapping, or even dreaming.

But then I grab what emerges from that purely creative process and meld it, manipulate it into a useful form. It’s tricky and a bit scary to combine these two ways of thinking and processing information, and although I have a lot of experience doing it, it still seems like I never really know what I’m doing.

These days, since I spend a lot of time manipulating and creating images for a living, when it comes time to play and create images just for the joy of it, I have trouble getting started. Perhaps by exposing these thoughts to the world at large, whatever seems to be blocking the drive to create new art will collapse into itself.

One thought on “Fine art versus graphic design”

  1. Amy Phoenix says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Chad. I can relate, although I am neither a fine or graphic artist. There’s something about being a person prone to creativity, though, and it sometimes leading to these so called blocks. They can be challenging to describe, and navigate… leading to not really navigating them at all (at least for me). This reminds me to re-read The War of Art as it’s helped me in this area before and I sometimes struggle with allowing raw creativity through as well.

    I’ve always loved your art and look forward to what you create in the future.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top