As someone who has been labeled an "illustrator," I must tell you, in the pecking order of the Art Word, it's not a compliment. Especially when the term comes from an expert who likes to pontificate about "Fine Art."
Fine Art is by definition an offshoot of the avant-garde movement which prioritized concept and intellectual purpose over aesthetics (i.e. something that looks "like a photograph"). This judgement has more to do with "the true expression of the artists, distinguishing it from decorative art or applied art." In other words, artwork that doesn't look like a photograph. Although, it must be said, there is an off-shoot of Fine Art that includes photo-realism as an art form. I have to agree with some wag who quipped, "Art is anything you can get away with."
Speaking of which, we are doing a cover story on the greatest Western artist, and I've been working on an idea—an illustration—for the issue.
Big idea, but it needs big skills. Here's the original sketch, which has a looseness, lost in the finals. So typical, of me.