Graphic Arts

views updated May 21 2018


Graphic arts is a subcategory of visual arts and includes traditional arts mediums such as drawing, painting, and printmaking, as well as innovative mediums such as photography and computer generated art. Graphic arts work requires creativity and is meant to be visually pleasing. In order to produce interesting work, one must use imagination and have an understanding of quality design. From a professional perspective, graphics and photographic images are used to replace written text in advertisements so that readers and viewers will find the work more interesting and inspiring.

People engage in the production and consumption of graphic arts in a variety of ways. In the early 1960s, Polaroid developed an instant color film camera, while Kodak released the Instamatic camera. These innovative cameras allowed many people to enjoy recreational photography as a hobby without a major investment. The Boys and Girls Clubs of America used these types of cameras to begin their National Photography Program for children. In the early twenty-first century, many colleges and universities offered advanced instruction in graphic arts, and most people are typically exposed to graphic arts in educational settings from kindergarten to high school. In 1997, the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) suggested that a strong correlation exists between children who received arts education and those who engaged in art creation as adults.

Typically, a strong economy can increase the value of art within a society. For example, in the mid-1990s the economy helped to restore the importance of visual arts in educational settings. Typically philanthropic efforts provide more incentives and grant opportunities when the economy is strong. By the late 1990s, however, a slumping economy had reduced the amount of national and state funding for educational instruction. In the late 1980s and the early 1990s more than 15 percent of all elementary schools offered no visual art classes and 24 percent of the schools that did offer them employed teachers who had no formal training or education in the arts. Therefore, almost 40 percent of students nationally received inadequate art instruction.

Graphic Arts Supporters

Most communities provide various methods to support graphic art activities. Private companies provide printed media, financial support, and instruction for many graphic art endeavors. This support allows entire communities to view art and to acquire a taste for numerous art mediums. Some private art supply and equipment stores have expanded their services to include workshops and skill classes to increase their overall profits while attracting well-known instructors to teach. Nonprofit organizations and governmental recreation departments offer educational instruction, workshop opportunities, art festivals, and performance opportunities.

Many graphic art activities are very equipment-intensive or media-specific. To offset cost in these activities, some nonprofit art cooperatives and art guilds have begun purchasing costly equipment and providing studio space for artists who are financially constrained. This strategy has provided more opportunities for graphic artists while at the same time increasing the number of art participants. Courses, workshops, or seminars in the visual arts are taught by various skilled instructors, including educators, professional artists, and laypeople. Some workshops last only one day, and some courses can be extended over a six-month period. Cost for the various visual art activities depends on the skill level of both the instructors and the participants, the type of facility being used, and the art medium employed.

Graphic Arts Participants

According to the NEA1997 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts report, the highest rates of personal participation in graphic arts were for the activities of photography (17 percent) and painting or drawing (16 percent). The 2002 Annual Craft and Hobby report suggests the typical graphic arts participant is more likely to be a female who is married with children, has more education, and earns a higher income than non-art participants. These women range from ages thirty-five to fifty-five and are employed on a part-time basis. Three categories exist to describe their various annual art expenditures: heavy users who spend more than $500, medium users who spend $70 to $500, and light users who spend less than $70. Heavy users who spend more than $1,200 annually, and make up almost 25 percent of the art participants, account for almost 77 percent of retail sales. Medium users account for 21 percent, and light users account for 2 percent of retail sales.

Graphic art participation levels range from beginner to advanced. Getting started in an art class or workshop can be intimidating, especially if a person lacks skills or access to an art facility. Each level requires different motivations, skills, and equipment. For example, amateur photographers may be interested in increasing their understanding of photography, enhancing their ability to operate a camera, and learning where to rent camera equipment. Advanced photographers, however, may be motivated by a specific photography technique, such as film development. Because of their involvement, they may have invested thousands of dollars worth of supplies, including camera lenses, lighting equipment, and dark room materials. Though skill levels differ for both types of photographers, the outcome or motivation may be the same increased skill level and improved outcome or personal satisfaction.

Impacts on Visual Art Participants

Art programs benefit a wide range of age groups, from children to senior citizens. Recreational art program research suggests that regardless of how a person participates in graphic arts, he or she benefits from the experience. For example, some benefits for the participants mat be enhanced creativity, self-confidence, aesthetic appreciation, socialization, and personal enjoyment, all the while reducing stress and tension. When a person enjoys an art experience, it enhances one's emotional and mental development and expands one's thoughts about culture. In short, it makes individuals more socially conscious of who one is in society, which positively affects the community by enriching one's purpose in life.

Artistic expression programs also instill ownership and empowerment for contemporary society's youth by allowing them to voice their personal beliefs. At the same, these programs may also enhance their communication and socialization skills, opening up a variety of opportunities for them in other aspects of life. Art activities demonstrate that the challenge of representing or reflecting life through art is a rewarding and valuable experience that is unmatched by other media.

See also: Leisure Education; Photography; Woodworking


Bergonzi, L., and J. Smith. "Effects of Arts Education on Participant in the Arts. (Research Division Report No. 36)." Santa Ana, Calif.: Seven Locks Press, 1997.

Boys and Girls Club of America. "Programs: The Arts." Available from

Carey, N., M. Sikes, R. Foy, J. Carpenter. Arts Education in Public and Secondary Schools. National Center for Educational Statistics, NCES 95–082. Washington, D.C.: Department of Education, 1995.

Chambers, Karen S. Artist's Resource: The Watson-Guptill Guide to Academic Programs, Artists' Colonies and Artistin-Residence Programs, Conferences, Workshops. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000.

Hesemann, T. National Craft and Hobby Consumer Usage and Purchase Study, Executive Summary. Elmwood, N. J.: Hobby Industry Association, 2002. Home page at from

Randall, P. Art Works: Prevention Programs for Youth and Communities. National Endowment of the Arts. Washington, D.C., 1997.

Riley, K. "Research Update: Recreational Art Programming." Parks and Recreation 6 (2000): 26–33.

"What Every Young American Should Know and Be Able to Do in the Arts." The National Standards for Arts Education. Available from

Kevin Riley

graphic arts

views updated Jun 11 2018

graph·ic arts • pl. n. the visual arts based on the use of line and tone rather than three-dimensional work or the use of color. ∎  (graphic art) the activity of practicing these arts, esp. as a subject of study.DERIVATIVES: graph·ic art·ist n.