Friday, December 6, 2013

Artists in the quadrants

In his book, Making Comics, Scott McCloud created a chart categorizing artists according to four intentions — what artists are most interested in, in creating art. His categories are:


The Formalist is interested in examining the boundaries of an art form, stretching them, exploring what the form is capable of. The Formalist is interested in experimenting, turning the form upside-down and inside-out, moving in new, bold, untried directions, inventing and innovating. Formalists are the cutting edge, the avant-garde, the ones willing to break tradition and established ways. Strict narrative or craft is not as important as trying something new and unexpected, playing with and breaking traditional concepts, getting to the heart of understanding what art itself is.

Individual - Objective - Artistry-first - Revolution-based  




The Classicist is the artist who focuses on beauty, craftsmanship, and a tradition of excellence and mastery. The esthetic experience of the art is what is important. Art is meant to move and affect an audience, deliver an emotional experience. Classicists strive to perfect their craft in order to produce the most effective work possible.

Collective - Objective - Artistry-first - Tradition-based




The Animist is devoted to the content of art, above all else. The Animist's goal is telling the story, conveying the message, as directly as possible. All the craft in art is in service to the delivery of the content. The goal of art is to effectively deliver its content, with as little that distracts from that job as possible.

Collective - Subjective - Representation-first - Tradition-based




The Iconoclast is interested in portraying raw, human experience in as honest and authentic a way as possible. Art is to hold a mirror to reality, and show the audience the hard, painful truths of existence. The Iconoclast resists pandering, comforting indulgences, or diluting the art, considering that to be selling out. Artistic integrity is critically important to Iconoclasts. Beauty, craft, and standard narrative may be cast aside in pursuit of the expression of the truth of human emotion.

Individual - Subjective - Representation-first - Revolution-based

Here are some examples, mapped onto the quadrants:

Here's Scott McCloud giving a talk where he presents his chart. (It's at 5:10 - 6:55.)

Here’s a cartoon!

Planet Four from Andy Martin on Vimeo.


Dave Roel.
All cultures impose conformity. Yet all benefit from the contribution of their marginal personalities — those who do not fit the mold.
- Howard Bloom

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