Painting media are applied to a variety of support materials, including paper, canvas, wood, plaster, clay, lacquer, and concrete. Pastel and oil pastels are popular for blocking form because they do not require drying time. A water-soluble pastel, such as gesso, has a waxy consistency and allows color to be applied directly to the support. Water-soluble pastels are prone to lifting pigment and should be framed under glass.
Earlier cultural traditions controlled the craft of painting, as well as subject matter and imagery. Painting artists were employed as skilled artisans. However, in Renaissance Europe and Asia, the notion of the “fine artist” emerged. These painters gained social status, signed their designs, and had a personal relationship with their patrons. As a result, painting techniques became more abstract. But the definition of what is an abstract painting differs greatly from its more figurative counterpart.
Despite its wide scope, painting is the most recognized form of art. Although the definition of what constitutes painting has become increasingly ambiguous due to the advent of digital art and mixed media, the term “painting” is still the most popular definition. Painting is the application of paint to a surface to create an image, design, or decoration. Paintings may be two-dimensional or three-dimensional and may be abstract, naturalistic, symbolic, or a combination of these.
Encaustic, also known as hot wax painting, involves adding pigments to a mixture of beeswax and pigment. This mixture is then spread or brushed across a support surface. Encaustic paint is a traditional method, dating to the first century C.E., and was used extensively in funerary mummy portraits in Fayum, Egypt. Because of its durability, encaustic paint often forms a tough skin on the surface when completely cool. Modern electric and gas tools can extend this process, enabling artists to manipulate the paint for longer periods of time.
Oil paint is another popular medium used for painting. It is a slow-drying medium made of color pigments suspended in oil. Oil paint can create textured effects and is often used to achieve a more detailed look. However, oil paint can be messy and contain toxic elements. Oil paint is a good choice for paintings that feature rich colors. Aside from oil paints, acrylics and watercolors are also common for portraits and landscapes.
Photorealism, or photo-realistic painting, is a form of art based on the use of photographs. This technique creates paintings that are incredibly realistic in appearance. During the 1960s and early 1970s, photorealism was a reaction to Abstract Expressionism. While there were similarities between the two forms, the main difference is that the latter involves the use of photographs to gather information for the paintings. Unlike the former, photorealism is more realistic and uses photographs to create a picture.