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Do Now

Can a Venn diagram become art? What transforms a data collection tool into fine art? What are the elements needed to allow for this transformation?


On KQED Art School, world renowned artist Chris Johanson demonstrated “how to create conceptual art” and made a painting using his personal thoughts combined with a Venn diagram style. Many artists, including another Art School-featured artist, Wendy Macnaughton, have used tools like Venn diagrams, pie graphs and flow charts for the purpose of personal expression.

Some might consider these works conceptual art, where the ideas behind the piece are the core of its message, and the final product is less important than the process of creating it. Others might consider them strictly an art image.

Art historian and critic Katy Siegel describes conceptual art as, “…a broad condition that pervades a lot of contemporary art. There is a shift in emphasis from the aesthetic aspects of the artwork, the beauty of the painting, the form, the color, or the composition, to an emphasis to the ideas behind the artwork. The ideas themselves can sometimes constitute the entire artwork, so you might read text or look at photo-documentation rather than a painting or sculpture, as we traditionally understand the artwork. It’s the idea that’s important, not its execution.”

Art is subjective and it is up to the viewer to decide whether a piece of art makes an emotional or intellectual impact. Take a look at our video of Chris Johanson’s painting demonstration, create a Venn diagram of your own, and then share your thoughts with us about the process and whether the activity allowed you to express yourself creatively, or whether you see the activity as more of a data gathering process.


KQED Art School video Making Conceptual Art with Chris Johanson
Artist Chris Johanson shares a painting project that uses a Venn diagram style.

To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #DoNowVenn

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to reply to other people’s tweets to foster more of a conversation. Also, if students tweet their personal opinions, ask them to support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets. You can visit our video tutorials that showcase how to use several web-based production tools. Of course, do as you can… and any contribution is most welcomed.

More Resources

KQED Art School video In the Studio with Wendy Macnaughton
Wendy Macnaughton explains her personal style and her “drawn journalism” publications, which she creates by spending a few weeks interacting with different communities.

PBS EGG installment What’s Conceptual Art?
Household materials, food, sometimes nothing at all –these are often the “materials” that artists use in the creation of “conceptual art.” Even an idea can be a work of art. For these artists, art isn’t just what you see. It’s what you think. In its own way, conceptual art also tends to say something about culture, about the nature of art itself. EGG gets the skinny on conceptual art, from its origins to today, from curators and critics.

  • Isaac Scarborough

    To me, as long as you’re using a lot of the necessary elements and principles in your diagram, and trying to convey some kind of emotion or tell a story, then I would consider it art.

  • Samantha Wojcik

    I don’t think that a Venn Diagram is art. It doesn’t grab my attention like art normally dose. I just don’t find a Venn Diagram as interesting as what you would find in art.

  • Camdon Hisey

    I think it could be. If it has an interesting shape and maybe even topic to it I think all information can be an art.

    • Anisa

      Do you only feel that shape is important what about color or item? I like your thought into the details.

  • Myleenismyleen

    Personally, I believe that a Venn diagram can be art. It is a form of creation and has a thought process. With a diagram like this, you can tell what is related to what and what is not. The elements needed for this transformation are connections on different things. Even if it is completely bizzare, such as “taco” it still can somewhat fit into the piece.

    • T.T

      I agree, the thought process behind the venn diagram makes it into art. It is not just average it is complex and expresses an emotion or a deeper idea. For example his taco represented his favorite food in Chicago which also connected to everything else.

  • T.T

    Yes, I believe a Venn diagram can become art. This concept is shown in Chris Johanson’s work. He uses the ideas that have a deeper connection and connects them through his art. Although this is sometimes looked at as just a data collection it can be turned into fine art by being transformed on a deeper interesting level. The ideas can be connected by the bigger picture. For example, in Chris Johanson’s art work he connected the sun with a tree and water because they are all connected. Art is interpreted in many different ways depending on who is viewing it therefore anything, in a sense, can become art.

  • MS2014

    Venn diagrams are expressions of comparing and contrasting. To me, art is a different way of expressing words. Using shapes, Venn Diagrams use art to compare and contrast different ideas. That said, Venn Diagrams are able to transform data collection into fine art.

  • Matt

    I believe a Venn diagram can be art as demonstrated by these artists in the article who use it as a tool of expression. What transforms data collection into art could be the surrealism, creativity, style, and colors. The elements needed would be paint and a paintbrush, pencils, colors, etc..

    • MS2014

      I totally agree, art is a form of expression that uses anything other than words to convey messages. Using shapes, Venn Diagrams compare two issues to make a creative comparison. If you use words in a Venn Diagram, it can still be considered art, considering words are a form of typography.

  • Guest

    I do believe that a Venn diagram can be art. I think a Venn diagram of any sort is art. Simple diagrams may not be fine art,but they are a form of art. The diagrams become fine art when the artist has a passion for

  • Daniel Rodriguez

    I think a Venn diagram be art in its own way it makes it as a way to express what the person likes. It needs the persons feelings and their feelings.

  • Anisa

    I think that a venn diagram can become art because it is a plan to a final piece. Its like a mind map but in venn diagram form.

    • Eric Alexson

      See, I agree with you in saying that a venn diagram is a plan to a final piece but I disagree with you that a venn diagram could become art because I think that art has to have meaning, emphasis, and evoke emotions and I just don’t see a venn diagram doing so.

  • Madison

    I think that a Venn diagram could be art if they are personal.

    • DogsAreMarsupials

      I agree, art is a form of expression like this example.

  • ali

    i think venn diagram expresses the person who’s looking at it in a different way.i believe he it can be art,even tho its kinda confusing

  • Bella

    I do believe that Venn diagrams are art. Not all are fine art, but they are all art. They become a fine art when the artist has a passion for creating it. It definitely needs color to become art. As well as it needs to mean something to the person who created it. Just because a Venn diagram may be educational, it can also be artistic.

    • Eric Alexson

      I agree with you when you said that they become fine art when the artist has a passion for creating it, but I personally just don’t see a venn diagram becoming a piece of art unless it has meaning, emphasis, and evokes emotions. I disagree with you when you said that it definitely needs color to become art because art doesn’t always have to include color, there could be black and white art pieces, someone sketched something really amazing but didn’t color it for a reason, etc.

  • Anisa

    Check out this clever venn diagram!

  • MS2014 This Venn Diagram is art, because it uses shapes, color, and different types of typography to make comparisons.

  • DogsAreMarsupials

    I believe that a Venn diagram can become art if it contains enough artistic elements. Simply drawing a Venn diagram doesn’t make it an artwork, there needs to be an artistic appeal. In my opinion, there needs to be visual representation or expression involved. Colors, imagery, symbolism and passion behind the artist’s motives are ways a Venn diagram can be transformed into fine art.

    • Sydney De Santolo

      Why would adding color and symbolism make it art? why wouldn’t it just be a Venn diagram if it has these elements? What takes it across the line of just being a representation of information to art??

      I believe that art can use the idea of taking two things and putting them together to have similar meaning as a venn, but I think that to call it a Venn Diagram it has to represent information in a way that cannot be considered art.

      This in my opinion is right on the edge because it isnt really a venn diagram which is why i say it cant really uphold the name when it crosses the line

  • Eric Alexson

    Personally, I do not think that venn diagrams are art. It is simply just a way to express your ideas so that you could develop a final product. Yes, art consists of elements such as shape, color, etc. which you could use with venn diagrams but art is so much more then elements. Art is about evoking emotions and reaching out to the viewers and an artist puts meaning and emphasis into their work, even if it’s just a bunch of paint splattered on a canvas. I mean, if one were to put a lot of meaning and emphasis into their venn diagram and it could be used to reach out the viewers and evoke emotions then I don’t see why it wouldn’t be considered art.

    • DogsAreMarsupials

      What if the Venn diagram had sentimental value?

      • Eric Alexson

        To the artist or to the viewer? I could only imagine it being sentimental to the artist because they created it but not the viewer. For it to be considered art, I think, it would have to evoke emotions and have meaning and emphasis.

        • DogsAreMarsupials

          To the artist, they are simply expressing how they feel, it can be interpreted differently by different people. Like the example that I posted on Madison’s, let’s say you love tea, it could evoke an emotion of happiness because you like tea so much.

  • Eric Alexson

    I personally believe that venn diagrams are not art, however, the two venn diagrams that I found (links above) prove that venn diagrams can be art. The two that I found are considered art because the artist invested time into creating angry birds for the first link and an owl cat for the second link and you can tell that the artists put a a lot of meaning and emphasis into creating the two diagrams.

    Also, I found another one that proved me wrong:
    This looks like it could be used for a science class because it looks like an atom.

  • Cole Reinhold

    I think both the idea and the execution are both equally important. There are some cases in which that could be exempted, but overall it doesn’t work. I say this because even though your idea could be good, execution is what helps you get your point across. If its done badly or in an offensive way then it won’t send the same idea.

  • Arthur Clemons

    I don’t believe it can be a work of art. I don’t see how a source for organizing information can be turned into art without omitting the reason for making a diagram.

  • Wesley Seidelmann

    I believe that the idea has a little more emphasis than the execution. If you don’t have an idea when you create it then you don’t know what you’re going to create. I think anything can become art, its just based upon someone’s perspective. Some people will interpret something as art and others will not.

  • Ben

    I think anything can be art depending on the way you look at it. Some people have different perceptions and could look at things like venn diagrams and see art. You really can’t tell someone what is and isn’t art.

  • Clay

    Both the idea and the execution of the art are equally important. Your
    idea could be super duper fantastic, but its the actual execution of the
    idea that really sells the idea of the art.

  • john

    I believe they are equally important. If you have a good plan but it is not executed correctly then its nothing. And if you can execute a plan but the plan isn’t a good idea then you still have nothing. That is why i believe they are both equally important.

  • Brandon Milligan

    Anything you look at can be considered art. Some may think something is art and others may disagree with that person. There is no definite way of saying what is art and what isn’t.

  • Kyle Williams

    I think both are important but the execution is what makes the art, but it takes a real artist to not make what he did, so he had a good idea, but used the same work of art he did during his first year of elementary school.

  • Cesar Aguilar

    Both the idea and the execution should be important when creating your idea. It work out a lot better.

  • From Spain, URJC, our Storify:

    Thanks for this great chance!

  • Sydney De Santolo

    I do not think that a venn diagram can be art. I think that a venn diagram is a way of taking two pieces of information and presenting similarities. I think that once a venn diagram becomes art, it looses its use and therefore only looks like a venn diagram but does not preform the same fuction. To make a data collection tool art, you have to take away the boring facts factor and use the simpler meaning, for venn diagrams that is the combination of two to shoe similarities. Art takes somethign we think of as average and turns it into a creation that grabs our attention and creats an interest.

    I have chosen these three examples. My first example shows how the idea of combining two things is used but the diagram looses its origional meaning.

    My Second example shows how art is something that applies to peoples interest while still portraying a meaning even as simple as this.

    My third example is to show that a real venn diagram, still withholding its origional meaning just is not art, it is a diagram.

  • Venn diagram basically represents the set theory. In my opinion it could be art as there are many creative venn diagrams out there. Here are few types of venn diagrams I have seen,

    1. Question type (Source: creately )


Kristin Farr

Kristin Farr is KQED's Arts Education Manager. She is the creator and producer of the Emmy Award-winning video series, Art School, which brings audiences into artists' studios to learn about contemporary art, and engages learners with ideas for new ways to get creative. She is also an artist and a contributing editor for Juxtapoz Magazine.

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