The Basics of Painting


Painting is a mode of visual art that involves creating images with color, movement, space and light. It is one of the most popular forms of artistic expression. It has been used by cultures around the world since time immemorial. Paintings can be realistic or abstract and may represent real experiences or be an interpretation of a theme or idea.

The first step in any painting is to prepare the surface. This is usually done by applying a thin uniform cover to the whole surface called a wash. This helps the paint to adhere better. It also helps the colors underneath stand out more. Depending on the type of painting, a more substantial cover, called gesso, may be needed for certain surfaces like wood or rough canvas.

Once the surface has been prepared, the next step is to draw the composition. This can be done freehand, or by tracing a photograph or other source of inspiration. It is important for the artist to establish a design and an expressive vocabulary before starting to paint. This will help them to communicate their ideas with the viewer. The design is how the lines, shapes, tones, and textures are arranged to create a force of harmony or tension in the painting.

Many painters have a style or a set of tools that they use to make their work unique and distinctive. These can be as simple as how they hold their brush or the types of strokes that they make. The style or technique that a painter has developed will be the result of years of practice and experimentation. This is why it is so important to study the works of master painters and learn from their techniques.

Some painters prefer to use an easel while they are working on a piece of art. This allows them to sit up and reduces strain on their backs and necks. It can also allow them to keep their work secured from moving or getting damaged. It is also helpful to have a supply of different solvents and mediums close at hand, so the artist can change the consistency of the paint or speed up the drying time.

The final stage is to begin adding the luscious colors of the painting. It is usually a good idea to start with the background and then move on to the smaller details like petals, for example. This allows the artist to build up the darker tones before tackling the lighter ones, which can sometimes create an unbalanced look.

The formal interplay of the lines, shapes, tones, and colors in a painting are what give it its life, self-sufficiency, and presence. They can be arranged to produce optical sensations of depth and volume, to create forces of harmony or tension, and to express emotions and ideas. Often these elements are influenced by representational and symbolic considerations, but a great painting will be able to communicate its message purely through the arrangement of lines, shapes, colors, and textures alone.