What makes something art? A look into the factors defining art and various forms of art


Art is ¿

Let us try to define it..
Art is something that intrigues the mind with the balance/harmony in its composition experienced through different sensory perceptions. Art is surely in an artist’s painting (sight). It is in a sculpture (sight, and touch?). It is in music (hearing). The sense of smell, could let one experience a work of art – a perfume. And, if you will, I would even call a mesmerisingly delicious dish as an art of a cook.

This is however very individual-specific.


Good art? Bad art?

For instance, rock genre in music might please some as art, but might not be enjoyed by others the same way, and some might even get disturbed/irritated by it.
Some sculpture might be regarded as high form of art by some and it could also offend some others. So to relish art is even culture-specific. Although it could be argued whether the group of people who get offended by the bold expression of some sculpture, would also be subconsciously intrigued by its artistic composition, and it is only their conscious mind that is holding them from accepting it.

A person’s ‘taste’ in art is developed by his lifestyle, profession, culture, personal philosophy.

The kind of art a person enjoys the most is also governed by his state of mind. A sad, gloomy state of mind would find a sad play or movie or music more soothing (and therefore enjoy it?) than something more vibrant and energetic. It could be understood that a person in depression would tend to listen to a gentle, soft music; like to watch a slow-paced movie; enjoy sitting alone by the sea and feel soothed by the natural sounds of water, breeze; things which he, in an energetic state of mind, would rather drop for something more vibrant as a dance number.

Is aesthetics the most significant factor of art?

‘I am an artist, I cook’

How do we differentiate art from craft? How are they related?

  • the art of cooking. 
  • the art of writing a book (art of story-telling).
  • the art of leadership (or quality of leadership?)

Creating stuff may or may not be art. Making a table is a craft, but making one which is pleasing to look at, involves art.

Creating art involves skill. All art has some common characteristic. It could be said that the skills of creating a particular kind of art could be ‘learnt’. It involves learning to use the ‘tools’ to create art – like learning to use brushes, colours to paint, learning to play a piano, learning to use a chisel to sculpt – and also to learn the principles of creating appreciable art, like proportions in human body, details in human face, notes in music, human anatomy.
There is another important aspect of creating art. Apart from the skills of producing it, art must first be conceived in the mind of the artist. This may be related to the term ‘creativity’.

Is art relative?

‘I like it, why don’t you?’

Some form of art gets more pleasing once it is explained by the artist or when the thought behind a composition is revealed. For example, if an artist explains the significance of different shapes, colours, in his painting, the viewer would be able to relate the various parts of the composition in his mind and be in a better position to appreciate the painting as an art-form.
The intellect of a person also adds on to his ability to relish art. An arts student might be, in many cases, in a better position to appreciate an abstract painting than a layman. A child definitely would not be very happy with a monochromatic abstract painting than he might be with a colourful picture depicting some cheerful event of life that he could relate to.. But the same child could grow up into being an artist himself!
This can explain that some art is made for a specific audience. Some art would rather appeal to all kinds of audience..

It could be observed that some people would be more influenced by art (all forms of it) than others. And though this is again influenced by their lifestyle, their upbringing, it could (arguably) also be an intrinsic trait. Also, the people involved in the field of arts (the artists, the patrons) usually are able to appreciate other forms of art better. It could either be their natural tendency to ‘see art in things around them’ or their knowledge in arts.

Characteristics that make art

‘ohhh this is art-istic!’

Every art has some characteristics that make it ‘art’. It has the power to grab the attention of the people and engage their minds. It can create strong, subtle, cheerful, aggressive or calm feelings in the person. And this power is induced in the art form with careful and thoughtful composition of the elements in it – notes in music, colours and shapes in a painting, harmonic moves in dance, proportions & scale & texture in a sculpture. The degree of this power varies in art forms, from being subdued, gentle, which the viewers relax with – to extremely strong, thought provoking, that would make the viewer restless, uncomfortable, and yet engage him.

So art could be taken to be quite relative. What art is, may as well be a matter of personal choice. It will always be as undefinable and explorable as the human mind is.

Please share what your thoughts are on what art is, in the comments below. Thank you.

Also read: Importance of design in business


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