Artistry and Craftsmanship

Artistry is the ability to conceive of something that doesn’t exist yet. It’s a creative flourish that elevates what might otherwise be ordinary, making it new. Interesting. Compelling in some way.

Craftsmanship is a focus on how something is built, be it something physical, digital, or conceptual. It’s the construction of an idea or a chair. An applied solution that solves a problem and solves it well.

Artistry tends to grow in a non-standard, sputtering, unpredictable fashion. One’s ability to be inspired may be catalyzed by a mind-blowing interaction with another person, a deep-dive into the history of a foreign culture, or a really great slice of cake. Or for no reason at all.

Craftsmanship requires a more consistent application of effort and energy to develop, but it can also be refined more predictably. Though one is unlikely to have a construction-related eureka moment, a slow, steady, iterative developmental process will almost always lead to vast improvements over time.

Artistry needs craftsmanship, because without coherent action, ideas remain immaterial and ineffective.

Craftsmanship needs artistry, because without new ideas and approaches, existing solutions, no matter how well-built, fail to solve new problems.

Most ideal is imbuing one’s work with both artistry and craftsmanship, as they’re far stronger together than independently.

Artistry gives us breakthroughs, but those breakthroughs wouldn’t survive a strong wind without craftsmanship behind them.

Our work, history, heritage, and discoveries wouldn’t survive our own lifetimes without craftsmanship, but without artistry behind such work, no one would care if they survived or not.

Update: April 16, 2017

The artist in me was repelled by the idea of iteration at first, but learned to love it, especially since it helped develop my craft and my way of seeing things differently from the fits and starts I’d grown accustomed to.

Likewise, there’s a part of me that wants things to be very well organized and regimented, to the point of near-perfection, that sometimes threatens to slow my creative endeavors to a standstill.

Internally arguing for balance in these things has allowed me to do a lot more with both, and I find the same seems to be true with others who are able to strike that balance.