What is outsider art?

What is outsider art? It's a term used to describe art that is loosely understood as "outside" the mainstream art world, while "outsider artist" usually refers to any untrained artist. It's sometimes misapplied as a catch-all marketing label, regardless of the artists' circumstances or the content of their work. There are actually several terms that fall under the "outsider art" category. Definitions vary, and there are areas of overlap between them. Andy's art has been given many different titles and descriptions, so I thought it best to educate myself. I may as well share my findings with you.

Outsider Art

  • catch-all marketing label
  • self-taught artist
  • never institutionalized
  • outside the mainstream art world or art institutions
  • illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds

Art Brut

  • usually insane-asylum inmates or the mentally ill
  • sometimes children
  • immune to the influences of culture, because the artists themselves are not willing or able to be influenced

Naive Art

  • childlike simplicity in subject matter and technique
  • may or may not have formal art training
  • more conscious interaction with the mainstream art world than outsider artists

Folk Art

  • any product of practical craftsmanship and decorative skill
  • typically embodies traditional forms and social values
  • art of the people, as distinguished from the mainstream art world

Visionary Art

  • refers to the subject matter of the works
  • includes images of a spiritual, religious, or mystical nature

Marginal Art

  • essentially the same as Neuve Invention, but no interaction with the mainstream art world

Neuve Invention

  • essentially the same as Marginal Art, but some interaction with the mainstream art world

Are you still confused? I am, too. As mentioned before, a lot of the definitions overlap. I know for sure Andy isn't classified as Art Brut, though! Below are examples of his work that have been labeled outsider art, due to the unconventional ideas that inspired them.


Face 2 Face | 16x22 inches


Scrappy | 24x29 inches


What the Folk | 36x34 inches

To better understand the history and development of outsider art, check out Raw Vision or Outsider Art Fair.