What Makes Art?


Art is more than a medium for creating beautiful objects; it’s a mindset and a way of seeing the world. It can be used to explore serious issues, reflect on social concerns, preserve cultural heritage, inspire dialogue and make a positive impact on society as a whole.

As humans, we are wired to perceive beauty. Even the most mundane, everyday objects can be considered art when presented in a unique and creative way. It is this innate sense of beauty that makes art so important to the human experience.

But not everyone agrees on what makes something art. There are some who believe that anything can be considered art if it’s aesthetically pleasing, while others argue that only objects of superior craftsmanship and aesthetic appeal qualify as the best of the best. In the end, though, it all comes down to personal interpretation and reaction. One person may think a painting is the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen, another might hate it and yet, a third might feel nothing at all. This is because the way we perceive art varies from person to person depending on our own experiences, histories and beliefs.

While many artists still focus on beauty and technical skill, many have also embraced the idea of using art to promote activism and ignite constructive conversations surrounding pressing matters. Art has the potential to touch and transform people’s lives in ways that other forms of expression simply can’t.

Throughout history, art has served many different purposes: from providing practical benefits like recording or illustrating events (from the coronation of Napoleon to a family portrait), to commemorating famous figures and historical moments, to serving religious beliefs, such as illuminating Biblical texts and depicting miracles. Art has always been a powerful means of grasping the world – not just the physical world, as science attempts to do; but also the world of culture, society and spiritual experience.

To understand an artwork, it’s important to know what techniques and methods the artist employed in its creation. This can include the use of linear mark-making to create depth and perspective (see below); the placement and emphasis of dominant and non-dominant shapes; compositional balance and organisation, including the utilisation of horizon lines; illusions of space created by the manipulation of scale of individual elements; spatial distortions or optical illusions; and so on.

Another important aspect of an artwork is its medium and materials. This could include the use of paint, ink, pencils, charcoal, watercolour, collage, clay and so on. It’s also helpful to note any textures or surfaces in the work, such as rough, smooth, slick, grainy, textured, scratched, brushed and so on.