I spent about fifteen years from 1986 until about 2001 looking for a definition of art. Sculptor Henry Moore said "Art is the expression of imagination, not the duplication of reality."
Many laypeople and most people before the 1850s considered art as a way to document what was around them. The definition above is a far more intellectual definition understood by those who create art.
Art has nothing to do with its medium. Creative writing is art. The shape of your car's tail lights or TV remote control are industrial design, which is art. The improvisational singing of a song and composing music is art. Poetry is art. The patina applied to a brass instrument is art. An Apple computer's case is art. Furniture is art. The font used to make printed letters is art.
If you insist on a more structured definition, know that all the people who design these items have long resumés and have attended many art schools like Art Center.
Art is a world more than oil on canvas.
I'm shocked how some otherwise competent artists fall into this rut and fail to consider their own work as art just because it's some other medium than oil on canvas. Many of these stuck in this rut are photographers, and astound me at their self-denigrating use of the phrase "real art" to mean oil on canvas and not their own work.
If your art expresses yourself, it's art. Real art. Period.
Million dollar checks and legally binding contracts may still be written on toilet paper.
If the business world ignores the medium in favor of the message, certainly the art world accepts anything as art, regardless of its medium.
Must art be beautiful?
Here's where the discussion will digress and I'll step aside. Ansel Adams chose to make art that he felt was. Others don't. I prefer art I find pleasant.
To each their own.
What makes good art or a good photo?
Do you like it? That's the definition.
This in entirely subjective. Attempts to put numerical scales and grades on art or photos fail.
Rating images encourages people to follow a formula and make crap. Follow your heart.
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