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Artful vs. Artistic — What's the Difference?

By Urooj Arif & Fiza Rafique — Updated on April 5, 2024
Artful implies cunning or skillful creativity, often with a hint of deceit, while artistic refers to possessing or related to the qualities of art or artists, emphasizing creativity and expression.
Artful vs. Artistic — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Artful and Artistic


Key Differences

Artful is a term that connotes a certain level of craftiness or cunning, often used to describe actions, designs, or speech that is cleverly and skillfully executed, sometimes with the implication of deceit or slyness. It suggests an inventive or creative approach that is not just about aesthetic appeal but also about achieving a specific effect or outcome, often with subtlety. Artistic, on the other hand, relates directly to art or artists, embodying the qualities of creativity, sensitivity, and expression associated with artistic endeavors. This term highlights an appreciation for the aesthetic and the expressive power of art, focusing on the creation and appreciation of beauty.
While an artful individual may devise a clever plan or produce a work with an ulterior motive, an artistic person is driven by the pursuit of artistic expression and the desire to explore and convey ideas, emotions, and visions through art. Artistic talents are typically associated with activities like painting, drawing, sculpture, music, dance, or writing—fields that require a strong sense of creativity, imagination, and often technical skill.
Artful strategies or actions might be admired for their cleverness and effectiveness, especially in contexts where tact and strategy are required. For example, an artful negotiation implies a level of strategic thinking and persuasion that achieves a desired outcome, perhaps in a way that is not immediately obvious to all parties involved. In contrast, artistic achievement is celebrated for its innovation, emotional depth, and aesthetic value, contributing to cultural and personal enrichment rather than strategic advantage.
The distinction also lies in the intent behind the use of these terms. Artful often carries a neutral or slightly negative connotation, hinting at manipulation or trickery, whereas artistic is generally positive, associated with the noble pursuit of art for personal or societal benefit. Thus, while both terms acknowledge a level of skill and creativity, their applications and implications diverge significantly.
The artful use of language might persuade or influence, often with an element of subtlety, while artistic expression seeks to inspire, evoke, and communicate on a deeper, more aesthetic level. Whether describing a person, an action, or a work, understanding the nuanced difference between artful and artistic can provide deeper insight into the nature of the creativity being described.

Comparison Chart


Skillful and clever, sometimes with deceit.
Related to art or artists, emphasizing creativity and expression.


Cunning, with a hint of manipulation.
Creative, sensitive, expressive.


Strategy and effectiveness.
Aesthetic appeal and emotional depth.

Typical Uses

Actions, plans, designs.
Art creation, appreciation.

Associated Fields

Negotiation, politics, tactics.
Painting, music, dance, literature.

Compare with Definitions


Inventively Crafty.
She devised an artful solution to the complex problem.


Related to Art Production.
The artistic process involves both inspiration and hard work.


Cleverly Skillful.
Her artful management of the negotiations led to a successful deal.


Creatively Expressive.
His artistic talents were evident in his stunning paintings.


With Subtle Manipulation.
The marketer's artful presentation swayed the audience.


Sensitive to Art and Beauty.
Her artistic sensibilities are reflected in her elegant home decor.


Cunningly Designed.
The spy used an artful disguise to go unnoticed.


Embodying Aesthetic Qualities.
The architectural design of the building is both functional and artistic.


Strategically Effective.
He gave an artful answer that avoided the controversy.


Innovative and Imaginative.
The writer's artistic vision gave birth to a unique literary world.


Artful (1902–1927) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse.


Of or relating to art or artists
The artistic community.


Exhibiting art or skill
"The furniture is an artful blend of antiques and reproductions" (Michael W. Robbins).


Sensitive to or appreciative of art or beauty
An artistic temperament.


Skillful in accomplishing a purpose, especially by the use of cunning or craft.


Showing imagination and skill
An artistic design.




Having or revealing creative skill.


Characterized by, or performed with, cleverness or contrivance; clever, ingenious.


Relating to or characteristic of art or artists.


Not naturally produced; artificial; imitative.


Aesthetically pleasing.


Exhibiting or using much art or skill; dexterous; skilful.


(nonstandard) Artistically, in an artistic style.


(especially) Skilful at using dishonest or unfair means to achieve a purpose; crafty, cunning.


Of or pertaining to art or to artists; made in the manner of an artist; conformable to art; characterized by art; showing taste or skill.


(obsolete) Knowledgeable about the liberal arts; learned, wise.


Relating to or characteristic of art or artists;
His artistic background


Performed with, or characterized by, art or skill.


Satisfying aesthetic standards and sensibilities;
Artistic workmanship


Artificial; imitative.


Aesthetically pleasing;
An artistic flower arrangement


Using or exhibiting much art, skill, or contrivance; dexterous; skillful.
He [was] too artful a writer to set down events in exact historical order.


Cunning; disposed to cunning indirectness of dealing; crafty; as, an artful boy. [The usual sense.]
Artful in speech, in action, and in mind.
The artful revenge of various animals.


Not straightforward or candid; giving a false appearance of frankness;
An ambitious, disingenuous, philistine, and hypocritical operator, who...exemplified...the most disagreeable traits of his time
A disingenuous excuse


Marked by skill in achieving a desired end especially with cunning or craft;
The artful dodger
An artful choice of metaphors

Common Curiosities

Can a person be both artful and artistic?

Yes, a person can be both artful in their strategic and cunning approach to situations and artistic in their creative and expressive endeavors.

How do artful designs differ from artistic designs?

Artful designs are clever and effective, possibly with hidden motives, while artistic designs focus on aesthetic beauty and emotional expression.

Is being artful a negative trait?

Being artful is not inherently negative but can carry negative connotations if associated with deceit or manipulation.

Can a negotiation be considered artistic?

While negotiation is typically seen as artful due to the strategic and persuasive skills involved, it can also be considered artistic if approached with creativity and a sense of aesthetic in communication.

What role does imagination play in artistic activities?

Imagination is central to artistic activities, fueling creativity, innovation, and the ability to envision and bring to life new ideas and expressions.

What defines someone as artful?

Someone is defined as artful if they demonstrate cleverness or skill, often with a nuance of cunning or deceit.

Why is artistic expression important?

Artistic expression is vital for cultural enrichment, personal fulfillment, and the exploration of human emotions and ideas.

What makes an activity artistic?

An activity is artistic if it involves the creation or appreciation of beauty, expressing ideas or emotions through art.

How do artful tactics influence politics?

Artful tactics in politics can influence outcomes through strategic manipulation and persuasive communication, impacting public opinion and decision-making.

Can a piece of art be described as artful?

Yes, a piece of art can be described as artful if it cleverly achieves an effect or conveys a message beyond its aesthetic qualities.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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