Art or Illustration

For as long as I can remember I have been a visual, creative individual. The most significant anchoring experience in my childhood was the exhibiting of my representation of a phrase from The Ancient Mariner; Like a painted ship upon a painted ocean. I was eight years old.

It seemed natural that I would go to art college and after a foundation year, experimenting with all manner of media, I majored in Technical Illustration.

Fast forward a few decades and a dilemma which had occasionally bothered me, emerged regarding the categorisation of two-dimensional visual creative disciplines and their resulting works (outputs); art or illustration.

Research into the meaning of the words and reading around the subject of aesthetics; including Art as Experience by John Dewey is challenging me to formulate a distinction between the two disciplines.

So far, my thinking is as follows:

Art is:

The self-directed act of an individual to express themselves and embody substance (tangible or intangible) in an aesthetic form.

Art is about unrestricted self-expression. The artist will create a work through the appropriate use of media in a form that will provide an aesthetic experience for the observer through one or more of the senses. The output of the work may be the representation of an actual scene or object in the case of landscape or still life. The output might also be a representation of a mood, emotion or other non-material expression such as love, growth, isolation. Subject to taste a work of art will induce a feeling within the observer; they may even experience wonder.

Illustration is:

The directed act of an individual to symbolise substance (tangible or intangible) in an agreeable form.

Illustration is about the fulfillment of a brief to represent the narrative of a commissioner. The output of the activity may be the accurate reproduction of an object or the abstract representation of a theme. The creator and the commissioner are not expecting to provide an aesthetic experience for the observer. The observer may or may not like the work but the objective is to convey the narrative only. Irrespective of taste an illustration will convey the narrative to the observer devoid of aesthetic intent.

The above two definitions and explanations are ‘works in progress’ as I dig deeper into the visual representation of substance (both tangible and intangible).

Question (rhetorical); is the following a ‘work of art’ or an ‘illustration’.