What Is Art?








Many of you write us asking for more information about something you have.We're glad you're curious enough to ask questions and we hope our Art and Antiques FAQs are helpful to you.


Who creates art and why?
How does history affect art and how does art affect history?
What is artistic expression?
Why are there so many forms of artistic expression? What do they all mean?
Art forms result from chain reactions.



Anytime we interpret reality and then communicate that interpretation, we are creating ART. This is something most people do not realize. Most people do not realize it is impossible to be a human and NOT create art in some form, and constantly. It may not be a very successful form, meaning the people to whom we communicate our version of reality may not understand us or may MISUNDERSTAND us, but it is ART we have created nonetheless, regardless of whether or not it is a successful communication, regardless of the form it takes, and regardless of whether or not others understand it, or us. It is Art because it is our expressed version of Reality. And because each of us is unique, so are each and every one of our communications, and our creations.

One example of interpreting reality and creating different forms of artistic expression from it can be illustrated by the following story. Mary and Jane each buy a roll of frozen cookie dough at the market that is labeled PREMADE COOKIE DOUGH. Neither of them owns any cookie cutters. They both discover, when they get home, that the cookie dough isn't precut and they misunderstood the information on the dough wrapping. Instead of getting premade cookies already cut and ready to go in the oven, all they have is premade dough; it's one long roll of uncut dough just like a roll of wrapping paper. They each solve the problem differently. Mary calls her mother and asks to borrow her mother's cookie cutters. She uses the premade cookie cutters to cut the dough, decorates the result, bakes the dough, and serves the cookies. Jane, not having a mother handy, uses a knife she has handy in the kitchen, and cuts up the sheet of cookie dough into equal size pieces but various different shapes, humming to herself that necessity is the mother of invention. She decorates the result, bakes the dough, and serves the cookies. Which of the two women is the more inventive? Which of the two women is the more creative? Can both batches of cookies be considered Art?


Art and History are interdependent, each actively influences the other, and there is a reason for this. Art, and artistic expression, are intrinsic to humankind and there is a reason for this, too. Art is forever sitting alongside current events in much the same way as a tour guide giving a running commentary on the scenery. Unlike the tour guide, the Arts aren't just commenting on and describing current events; Art INTERPRETS current reality and then communicates that interpretation, reflecting it back.

Current events, in other words, current History, are as much INSPIRATION to the Arts as they are the Art's source for subject matter.

If you even wondered how Art actively effects History, consider throughout the course of human History a reaction called CENSORSHIP. Freedom of Speech and Expression are rights now in the United States, but the USA is a new country supportive of newly acquired privileges not necessarily acknowledged by other countries.


Art can both EXPRESS and REFLECT; expression and reflection are two sides of the same coin. Current events effect how much Art does of each, and how much Art is doing of each determines the style of that period and for that place in time.

During times of economic hardship, such as War, disease epidemics, and The Great Depression of 1929, Art was used more for expression than reflection. For example, art was used to express solidarity, to express concern, to express fear, to express various points of view and to promote certain habits while discouraging others, to influence, persuade, and as propaganda to provoke, condone and encourage certain specific emotions such as suspicion of an enemy and patriotism.

During times of repression, such as the English Victorian era, the Art of the period reflects how people diverted repression through becoming creative and obsessive in the ways they used their available time. Victorian era Art is characterized by a plethora of diverse artistic products that consume time frivolously. It was an amusement of the time to have elaborate and ritualistic manners and customs with accoutrements. There are numerous examples of this in items such as calling cards and double sided cake servers (side one with a visitor-active design and side two with a plainer Time To Leave Now design), push up toothpick dispensers, fancy systematic board games, lavish abundant silverware place settings containing more utensils per person per setting than actual types of served food. By contrast, early American settlers of the same time period had an abundance of land and energy, but very little time and the Art expression of the period surfaces primarily in practical craftwork of basic things created from necessity in scarcity and extreme privation.

What is interesting is that Art expression of some kind ALWAYS surfaces. When humans have time for active reflection, reflection turns inward and feelings emerge expressed, and thus Art emerges in an Expressive form, such as in the diaries of poetry found in the German concentration camps of World War II. When humans are too busy for active reflective time, Art still emerges but is found in Reflected forms, integrated into every practical tool and item created for daily living use. There are countless examples of this, and it is as true for the early American settlers of the West as it was for soldiers creating art in the trenches of a war-torn Europe.

Where art is emerging in reflected forms, Art also bursts forth briefly in expressive forms, and we find gatherings for group dances with live music, ritual group singing, chanting, live concerts attended by thousands of people, and enormous spontaneous outpourings of anonymous disruptive graffiti. Anger is as likely an emotion to be expressed as is Joy; the point here is that there IS expression, and where it has taken the forms of self-absorbed reflection for any length of time, it eventually simmers over and bursts forth in some form of extreme Outward Expression. The opposite also holds true. Riots cannot last forever.

These truths also emerge in reverse. When we look at an artifact from a certain time period and a certain place, we can discern something about the lives of the people from that same time and place.

Consider the different worlds implied by a fan constructed of intricate hand made lace and whale bone, versus a hot water bottle constructed from a recycled metal artillery shell case versus a modern cell phone.


Scarcity produces variations in forms of Artistic expression, but no amount or form of scarcity, even in the form of severe suppression, has ever succeeded in eliminating Artistic expression entirely.

Similar techniques of artistic expression are adapted to fit available resources. We find similar techniques the world over, using entirely different materials, for example:

  • Australian Aboriginal Body Tattoo Piercing --- a technique for bundling areas of skin to resist dye and thus control the pattern created by the dye flowing under the skin. .
  • Batik, a Pacific Rim technique--- a technique for applying wax to areas of fabric to resist dye and thus control the pattern created by the dye.
  • Etching, in Western Europe --- a technique for applying incised wax to metal to resist dye and thus control the pattern created by the dye.
  • Printed circuit artwork and ICs (integrated circuits) use the concept of resist to prevent etching thus creating a functional pattern.

We also find similar variations in technique adapted to available resources:

  • Hard Shell / Soft Filling: Cookie.......Egg Roll.......Quiche.......Pie.......Sandwich.......Dim Sum.......Pillows.......Bullets.......Fountain Pens ns


  • Soft Shell / Hard Filling: Cookie.......Bread Pudding.......Rice Pudding.......Noodle Kugle.......Potato Pancake.......Vegetable Soup.......Ice Gel Packs.......Backpacks.......Purses.......Clothing.......Shoes

It may occur to you as you study the above examples, that THERE IS A REASON WHY similar techniques are adapted to fit available resources and for finding similar techniques the world over, using entirely different materials. HUMAN NEEDS HAVE NOT CHANGED WITH TIME OR PLACE and certain forms of Artistic expression ARE SHARED AND HELD IN COMMON BY ALL PEOPLES IN ALL TIMES AND ALL PLACES. This is what we refer to as a "Joseph Campbell ".

Certain needs remain constant to all peoples in all places at all times --- the need does not change, only the form used to express it changes, because only certain resources are available TO MEET THE NEED.

FOR EXAMPLE: People PRINT things because they want an image to last, in other words, they want some image to be PERMANENT.

Printing Anything Requires: 1. Something RESISTant to The Print Making Permanent Substance, and 2. Something TRANSPARENT to The Print Making Permanent Substance.

     Here are some FORMS of creating a PERMANENT image:

  • Carved Wax and Dye on Fabric : Batik
  • Carved Wax And Dye on Metal: Etching
  • Carved Wax IN Metal: Lost Wax Casting
  • Carved Wax embedded with Dye: Crayons , shoe polish
  • Tied Fabric and Dye : Shibori
  • Tied / Punctured Human Skin : Body Piercing
  • Dye THROUGH Punctured Paper: Stencils
  • Dye ON Paper: Printing
  • Dyed Human Skin: Body Tattooing
  • Burnt Animal Skin: Leather BRANDing
  • Burnt Animal Skin WITH Metal: Leather EMBOSSING
  • Staining anything with Dye.
  • Printing on anything.
  • Drawing on anything.
  • Painting on anything.
  • Carving anything.

The NEED to Express Something To Someone Else For Some Reason is a constant need of human beings, and the NEED to Express an INTERPRETATION of some fact is a constant feature of human beings, because humans want to communicate to others what they have managed to understand so others can understand and benefit from that understanding.

That interpretation can take the form of, for example:

  • a Map
  • a set of Directions
  • a Recipe
  • a Story Board showing the Weather over the last 20 years
  • a Chinese ancestral Tree of Life
  • a Navaho blanket
  • a Car
  • a Bicycle
  • a Matchstick
  • a Book
  • a Flag
  • a Swimming Pool
  • a Postcard
  • a Photograph
  • a Circuit Diagram
  • a Painting, Drawing, Engraving or Sketch


Art Forms result from Chain Reactions. Variations in Art Techniques are caused by SCARCITY in formerly available resources, and ADAPTATION to currently available resources. Something causes a scarcity of a resource, but no lessening of demand for it. Scarcity is caused by demand exceeding supply.

For example a war can cause a scarcity in some material such as metal or canvas, with current demand exceeding the available supply.

Greed can cause scarcity, and in extreme cases such as with the passenger pigeon and cetaceans, extinction of an entire species. When a human culture has developed dependencies on that species, its subsequent extinction causes enormous economic upheaval.

A natural disaster, such as a hurricane, flood, earthquake, tsunami, or volcanic eruption, can create scarcity through direct thorough obliteration of any and all available resources.

Scarcity can also be caused by something as simple as relocation; simply moving to another place on the planet can force adaptation of known techniques to utilize different available resources.


Here is an example of a Chain Reaction creating new forms of artistic expression using new varieties of materials:

  • 1. Metal (or other material) scarcity caused by some CHANGE.
  • 2. Assuming demand exceeds available supply: adjustment change in alloy composition due to metal scarcity (or, changes in the composition of those things needed previously derived from the now scarce material).
  • 3. Change in construction materials (due to shortages in the old material and changes in the material).
  • 4. Changes in construction methods (due to changes in construction materials).
  • 5. Changes in manufacturing methods (due to changes in construction materials and methods).
  • 6. Changes in distribution of manufacturing materials (due to changes in construction materials and methods).
  • 7. Changes in distribution methods (due to changes in construction materials and methods).
  • 8. Changes in storage (due to changes in construction materials and methods).
  • 9. Changes in price (due to changes in construction materials and methods, and changes in manufacturing and distribution).
  • 10. Changes in actual use.


Examples of Material Substitutions:

  • Metals conscripted for war efforts REPLACED BY PLASTICS.
  • Natural Pigments in paints derived from actual stones REPLACED BY SYNTHETIC COMPOUNDS.
  • All the above also causes a change in available quality and type of material used in the manufacturing of PAINTING BRUSHES, CANVAS, PAINT, INK, GLUE, etc.

QED:Recent events affect the forms and means of Artistic expression, and vice versa, Artistic expression affects current events; in other words, Art affects History and History affects Art.



We hope this information is helpful to you. Thanks for reading. Merci de votre visite.


All Content is © Debra Spencer, Suit Yourself™ International. Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved.
Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.


All Content is ©2020 Debra Spencer, Appanage™at Suit Yourself ™ International, 120 Pendleton Point, Islesboro Island, Maine, 04848, USA 44n31 68w91 Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.

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All Content is ©2020 Debra Spencer, Appanage™at Suit Yourself ™ International, 120 Pendleton Point, Islesboro Island, Maine, 04848, USA 44n31 68w91 Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. ~ Winston Churchill