The Art of Painting

Painting is the act of applying pigments to a canvas, resulting in an expressive, two-dimensional visual language. The elements of this language, including shapes, lines, tones, colors and textures, are combined into expressive patterns that can be used to represent real or supernatural phenomena, to interpret a narrative theme or simply to create wholly abstract visual relationships. Artists can use a wide variety of materials and tools to paint, but many focus on one or more specific styles. These styles often correspond to eras of history and are called art movements. By learning about these painting techniques and experimenting with different approaches, you can start to develop your own unique style.

Using the brush to create the impression of movement, dabs or splashes of paint is a popular technique in painting. Dabbing is a great way to add texture to your work and works well with both acrylics and oils. The stippling technique is another way to create a sense of motion and can be done with a brush, palette knife or even your fingernail.

The line, or a linear design, is one of the most important elements in a painting. The way these edges of tone and color masses, as well as the directional axes of images, are emphasized or implied by the artist—consciously or intuitively—creates the design that defines the picture. The manner in which these different kinds of lines relate to each other, weaving a unifying pattern throughout the whole painting, is what makes a painting alive and what sets it apart from other forms of visual expression.

An important step in creating a painting is the underpainting, which is typically done in a monochrome palette. Once a base color has been applied, the artist will then start adding layers of paint in order to give the painting depth and shadows. This technique is known as the wet-on-wet approach and was favoured by painters such as Monet who would sometimes complete entire paintings in a single sitting.

In the 17th century, Vermeer created a masterpiece titled The Art of Painting or Allegory of Painting. The painting features a woman model adorned with a laurel wreath for honor, a large book for knowledge and a trumpet for glory as she sits in front of an artist with his paintbrush. Art historians have long interpreted this as an allegory of the relationship between art and history. The model represents Clio, the muse of history, while the painter is representing his art.