Those fascinated by expressions that have been invariably titled outsider, self-taught or naïve will eventually incorporate what is folk art, or works produced by indigenous cultures into their list of interests. Folk art shows some of the same tendencies of primitive or art brut in avoiding formal artistic rules or aesthetic traditions, and is most commonly a kind of art that a particular people use for declaration purposes. Different cultures can often be easily distinguished by the type of utilitarian art and crafts they produce, precisely because there was not a conscious effort by its creators to express a unique artistic vision.
As opposed to naïve art or outsider art, although folk paintings and other works usually do not employ traditional or conventional artistic rules, the latter is not concerned with a specific individual expression. Many of the best examples of folk art from cultures around the world are of anonymous or unknown origin, and only be identified by region or general time frame for when they were created. Certain disciplines may be followed as per craftsmanship, but these are not necessarily related to aesthetic goals or communication of a message. Outsider art, by contrast, is usually clearly labeled by the creator and relates an intentional vision or theme.
Folk art is definitely non-modern in its independence from institutional or establishment rules for art, as typically shown in folk paintings that disregard principles of perspective or proportion in representing the visual world. There is also a tendency for folk art to not have a „definitive“ version or edition for many samples, since they are frequently not associated with certainty with a specific artist. Other geographic or historical circumstances (wars, revolutions, etc.) instead of artistic criteria may be the factors that distinguish one creation from another, or whatever may have been intended by the work.
The purpose or nature of what is folk art is still useful for comparison with outsider art in showing the confluence of decisions that are made by artists not beholden to artistic convention, in whatever culture. Examples of traditional or contemporary folk art therefore often accompany individual outsider art in special exhibitions depending on the design of the gallery organizers selling the works. The ability of folklore to express cultural identity regardless of its independence of convention, is often curiously paralleled by the art brut or naïve art expression of the same culture despite the artist intending in individual vision (i.e., European outsider art often looks the same as European folk art, etc.).