Illustrators and artists both spend years in Art School. They each achieve a level of mastery of their technical skills and develop patterns of creating art that work for them. Each works tirelessly on composition, balance, scale, color… Each has a personal style and probably a favorite medium for expressing it.
Whether for independent art or a commissioned piece or series, a painter who is telling a story must become immersed in the narrative. S/he creates the environment for the story action, establishes a location and time period (real or imagined), does careful research or designs from scratch appropriate attire, hairstyle, accoutrements…. Of course, s/he recreates selected details from the tale, but s/he also goes beyond the text to stimulate the viewer’s own imagination.
The higher the illustrator’s level of skill and vision, the more he will be loved by viewers, and the longer his creations will endure and stir the hearts of story lovers. The same is true for fine artists who strike out on their own to help others see and make greater sense the world visually.
By what ever name s/he is called, artist or illustrator, there are several fine creative geniuses whose work almost always touches my soul: Kay Nielsen, Arthur Rackham, Virginia Frances Sterrett, Ivan Bilibin, Edmund Dulac…. And there are several images I rejoice to see time and time again.
The artistry of the artist and of the illustrator do indeed cross.
Simply put: an illustrator is an artist with a day job. Making Art.