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What is the Difference Between Commercial Art and Fine Art?

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What is the Difference Between Commercial Art and Fine Art?

Published by under For Artists, Front Page Featured on 2012/04/24


Some say there’s a vast, non-negotiable difference between commercial art and fine art. To others, the whole issue is a coffee-versus-tea non-debate. The difference between commercial and fine art has been pondered since the two categories settled into their respective roles in modern culture. Moreover, the lines have often been blurred. The Renaissance master Michelangelo aggressively marketed himself to get patrons and commissions; in between selling commercial illustrations to magazines with circulations in the multi-millions, Norman Rockwell also created some interesting fine art.


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The Difference Between Commercial Art And Fine Art

Commercial Art

Commercial art is created on-demand for a company or other enterprise and is usually intended for mass exposure and distribution. The creative artist in the commercial environment is a hired hand, subject to the constraints and preferences of the employer and/or client, and often not credited for the work. The purpose behind commercial creativity is communication. Whether visually conveying the virtues of a particular product or service, creating an eye-catching corporate logo to communicating the proper way to perform a task, a commercial artist is essentially organizing information into a visually effective presentation. If the work fulfills the requirements of the assignment, the artist is guaranteed a “sale” in the form of a fee, commission or a regular salary. Many of today’s versatile fine artists also take on commercial assignments to dip into a more dependable income stream, often publishing their commercial efforts under a pseudonym.

The use of a pseudonym is very commonly in the commercial art world. A pseudonym is a name a person assumes for a particular purpose – in this case to maintain a reputation in two somewhat conflicting arenas. Adopting a pseudonym enables the artist to build a career in commercial art without the public linking his/her fine art career. To give you an example of a pseudonym you probably know; Nicolas Cage adopted this stage name instead of his real name, Nicolas Coppola, in order to conceal the appearance of nepotism as the nephew of famous director Francis Ford Coppola.



Fine Art

Fine art is often defined as a creation intended primarily for aesthetic purposes and mainly evaluated according to standards of beauty and meaningfulness. While the driving force behind most commercial efforts is communication, here the motivation is more often an expression of deeper meaning though the eyes of the artist. The artist normally works for himself/herself and is both the initiator and final judge of the work. Decisions about the direction and genre of a piece are his or her’s to make. While commercial value is related to considerations such as effective communication of a product or service, fine artwork in the marketplace is purely selling itself. Many make a living doing so and build a patron base, but in most cases ultimate financial compensation is not guaranteed. However, the dividends of creative freedom and expression are often substantial.


As the founder of Artistically Connected I am passionate about art and business. I enjoy working with artists at all stages of their craft and learning along the way.

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