What is the difference between the usage of "doing art" and "making art"?

As far as I understand, the former represents involvement in any art related activity or process but the later denotes the creation of an artifact such as a painting or a sculpture. But "doing art" can also involve art creation, thereby having a broader meaning. Is there more to it?

  • 1
    I'm not sure I would use the phrase "doing art" in general... Could you provide an example text where it is used as you are describing? – saritonin Apr 21 '17 at 16:54
  • I think you've pretty much captured it in the question. – fixer1234 Apr 21 '17 at 21:07
  • I have seen a lot of personal pages where artists use their names as Johndoesart as well as Johnmakesart. Just search the web for "doing art" or "making art" (including quotes) and a lot of results show up for both queries from many reputable sources. I was reading an article where the author had used both these phrases within the same article. – Mrinal Apr 21 '17 at 23:15

Doing art has a more pedestrian feel than making art.

Do verb 1.8 Learn or study; take as one's subject. ‘I'm doing English, German, and History’ - ODO

Doing art can mean undertaking a course of study in art, just as one can do Engineering, Maths or English.

In the context of your question, though, doing art is contrasted with making art, not 'doing' some other course of study. In this context, saying that one does art refers to the mechanics of the endeavour, whereas saying that one makes art focuses on more sublime aspects such as creativity, beauty and so on. This stems from the way do and make are used.

Do verb 1.1 Perform (a particular task) ‘I spent this afternoon doing Christmas Shopping.’ - ODO

Make verb 1 Form (something) by putting parts together or combining substances; create. ‘my grandmother made a dress for me’ - ODO


What is the difference between the usage of "doing art" and "making art"?

As you noticed, sometimes they're used interchangeably. However, there could be a bit of distinction that I will try to tease out. I'm not certain because I'm not a visual artist.

I think "I do art" means that my primary activity is art, with the focus principally on the creative process. I think, therefore I am --> I am alive, therefore I do stuff with ... clay, paint, found objects, chalk, charcoal, etc.

I think "I make art" focuses a bit more on the output.

However, musicians use "make" somewhat differently. They don't say they "do music." For them, the prosaic verb is "play" music. The lyrical verb that musicians like to use, to express how sublime it is to create music, is "make" music. When they talk about making music, you might almost get the feeling they're talking about an activity akin to making love. "Making music" is romantic and magical. "Playing music" is a bit more workmanlike.

I suspect visual artists' use of "I do art" is closer to "Let's make music together"; while "I make art" is closer to "I play music" -- a more literal, technical description.

  • I suspect that it's down to dialect. “I do art” sounds more American English, it follows: "Let's do lunch" and "He did good". Now, I'm not saying British English speakers never say the former, but it's definitely has an American "sound" to my ears. – Mari-Lou A Apr 22 '17 at 6:08
  • @Mari-LouA - I don't know what the statistics are, but out of curiosity I googled "does art" and looked at a handful of hits. Half were from the US, half from the UK. (That was not a scientific sampling!) – aparente001 Apr 23 '17 at 3:54

It seems that "making art" deals with an outcome that some would see as art, while "doing art" is more to do with the process for a specific outcome. While I have never used either, they seem to be saying that "art" is any creative endeavor whether it has any value outside of the process.

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You've got it, there's nothing more to it. Doing art, although frequently used, is so vague that it has almost no meaning. For this reason, it implies that the speaker cannot be more specific because he or she doesn't understand enough about art to be able to find the right words. The same thing is happening when people say that someone "does computers".

  • I think it depends on the context. Say, if someone was describing a manufacturing process, then using doing computers would implicitly mean getting involved in manufacturing computers. Whereas if someone were talking about repairing workshops, doing computers would mean repairing or servicing them. It could even mean learning computers if someone was talking about schooling. I would assume that when someone uses a phrase like doing something they would have already set the necessary context for the audience to make a precise interpretation rather than explicitly describing it. – Mrinal Apr 22 '17 at 0:35
  • I don't think this answer helps the OP understand Johndoesart as cited in the helpful comment below the question. – aparente001 Apr 22 '17 at 3:56

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