Definition Of “is”

December 19, 2008

By Scott Denney

alleyPainting is. Photography is. Music is too. But then again, one could conclude that talking is and cooking is. Hell, even mixing the perfect martini is when you really think about it. I’m talking of course, about the definition of “what art is”. Everyone has an opinion. Here’s mine.

In college, I had a professor who firmly believed that filmmaking was not an art, but rather a craft. He felt that the required technical knowledge involved in filmmaking far exceeded the value of the attempt to be an artist. To him, if you didn’t understand the craft, you didn’t have a shot at creating anything approaching art in film, thus craft was king. Fair enough, but I’ve seen more than my share of technically perfect films that should never have been made. Craft alone cannot bolster a weak script, bad dialogue or pedestrian acting skills. There are so many bad films out there, that it makes me wonder if making bad films could be an art in and of itself!

On the flip side, I can’t argue that filmmaking is purely an art form either. The internet is full of great ideas that are poorly executed. As the accessibility to the tools of filmmaking and distribution become more readily available to the masses, the amount of material created grows exponentially, while the percentage of quality content dwindles. Thousands of ideas are out there. Great ideas with poor lighting, bad audio, ill-conceived shot angles and no attempt at color correction. They flood our eyes daily. There are millions of would-be artists with the inspiration to express an idea, yet with absolutely no knowledge of how to use the tools beyond powering up the camcorder. Worse yet, they have no inclination to learn the craft so that they might improve their results.

So is my definition of “what art is” purely limited to equal parts of art and craft? Not necessarily. I do not genuflect at the altar of either dogma. To me, art is actually the successful execution of intention. Its the core ingredient in anything that can legitimately be viewed as art. Anyone can slap paint on a canvas (check out your local kindergarten class), take a photograph, play an instrument and yes, even mix a martini. The difference is that most people don’t have an intention beyond (respectively) delighting their parents, capturing material for their Facebook page, looking cool or getting their friends drunk.

For someone to create art, they must be inspired by and focused on communicating their intention through their creation. To be sure, varying parts of artistry and craft will be involved, but the artist overcomes their deficiencies, in either area, in order to realize the intention of his or her message. That is what makes the artist an artist. That is what enables the artist to create what unquestionably is art.


  1. I agree.Craft alone is not enough to create art. It is a tool that in the hands an individual with creativity, passion, and sentiment can produce spiritual and physical masterpieces.

  2. Scott, that was truely a great article. Actually, it reminded me of some of the great visuals I get when listening to your songs. Still can’t stop playing “Hate You Madly.” Well written and beautifully executed my friend!

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