The title basically says it. I’ve gathered, over the years, a pretty definite impression that a visual artist who makes pictures for books and stories, is not usually thought of as "An Artist ", no matter how excellent their work may be.“That just don’t seem right” to me – illustrators are usually masters of technique at least, and I have been as deeply moved by pictures from books as by images seen in galleries and museums.
Out of all the theoretical arguments for this I can come up with, only this one is not irritatingly dependent on cultural snobbery: the idea that an artist who does pictures for a book, no matter how much talent and skill s/he puts into the work, is still drawing or painting pictures from the author’s mind and imagination, not her/his own; thus the illustrator is an extension or accessory of the real artistic effort, i.e. the written piece. That , at least,is an arguable point it seems to me .All the other reasons I can imagine seem rather elitist and high-handed to me – have I arrived at the real reason, then?
If a gallery/museum acclaimed visual artist agrees to illustrate a book – whether it’s becausae s/he digs the work and weants to collaborate or because they could use a nice check this week – does that smirch or lower their reputation and that of their previous works in the eyes of those who make that kind of call?