Painting is the visual expression of ideas and emotions, using shapes, lines, colours, tones and textures on a flat surface. It can be used to interpret a narrative theme or to create wholly abstract visual relationships. It can also be used to communicate messages and to create a specific atmosphere in a room.
The art of painting is almost as old as humankind, with some of the earliest known cave paintings found around the world. Historians and anthropologists study them in order to find out more about early civilizations and to understand our own past. It is believed that some of these ancient paintings may have been used for ritual purposes such as to attract good hunting or fertility, ward off danger or simply to give symbolic language to ideas, feelings and everyday life.
Since those primitive days, the art of painting has evolved tremendously. Artists have moved from rock walls to paper, canvas and other surfaces and the use of pigments has grown from earth minerals to synthetic varieties. Paintings have become more decorative and the subject matter has varied from mythological, biblical, historical, literary or allegorical to personal, social and political.
There are many different styles of painting and while you might not be able to recreate a masterpiece from the period in which it was created, knowing about some of the major movements is a great way to develop your own artistic skills. Understanding the use of colour, tone, brushwork and texture can help you create a unique style and build confidence when creating your own paintings.
For example, underpainting is a technique that was common during the renaissance and uses dark colours like burnt umber, burnt sienna or phthalo blue to create an undercoat. Then, lighter shades are applied over this to show light, shade and depth. Claude Monet used this technique to create beautiful lilies in his paintings. Another style is dabbing, which uses a small amount of paint on the brush and can be done quickly to add movement to a picture.
Jackson Pollock was a famous abstract expressionism painter and this is one of his most famous techniques. The splatter technique involves wetting your brush and then flicking or splattering it onto the canvas, leaving random streaks of colour. This can be done with acrylic or oil paint and it is a great way to let your creativity run wild and achieve something totally unique.
Another method is sgraffito, which involves scratching the surface of the paint to reveal the layer below. This can be done with a palette knife, the end of a brush or your fingernail and was often used by Leonardo da Vinci to draw on the Mona Lisa. Finally, stippling is where you place tiny dots of paint on the surface of the canvas. This can be achieved with a fine point brush or even the tip of your pen. The technique is reminiscent of the early cave paintings and can really add texture to your painting.