Painting Styles

Painting Styles

There are different styles of painting like abstract art, conceptual art, Hyperrealism, pop art, Futurism, Impressionism and so on. As artists you can focus on single styles or a combination of styles.

Before we start painting we need to know WHAT we are talking about. I’ve often had people contact me for commissions and telling me they want it in a modern style. Once painted I have often realized that they misinterpreted the meaning and look of the style. It’s important to be able to identify what style you are working in and be able to explain what it looks like.

Realism

Realism, in which the subject of the painting looks much like the real thing rather than being stylized or abstracted, is the style many people think of as “true art.” Only when examined close up do what appear to be solid colors reveal themselves as a series of brushstrokes of many colors and values.

Realism has been the dominant style of painting since the Renaissance. The artist uses perspective to create an illusion of space and depth, setting the composition and lighting such that the subject appears real. Leonardo da Vinci’sMona Lisa” is a classic example of the style.

Painterly

As its name suggests, the emphasis is on the act of painting: the character of the brushwork and pigments themselves. Artists working in this style don’t try to hide what was used to create the painting by smoothing out texture or marks left in the paint by a brush or other tool, such as a palette knife. The paintings of Henri Matisse are excellent examples of this style.

Impressionism

Impressionism emerged in the 1880s in Europe, where artists such as Claude Monet sought to capture light, not through the detail of realism, but with gesture and illusion. You don’t need to get too close to Monet’s water lilies or Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers to see the bold strokes of color, however, there’s no doubt what you’re looking at.

Objects retain their realistic appearance yet have a vibrancy about them that’s unique to this style. It’s hard to believe that when the Impressionists were first showing their works, most critics hated and ridiculed it. What was then regarded as an unfinished and rough painting style is now beloved and revered.

Expressionism and Fauvism

Expressionism and Fauvism ​are characterized by their use of bold, unrealistic colors chosen not to depict life as it is, but rather, as it feels or appears to the artist. 

The two styles differ in some ways. Expressionists, including Edvard Munch, sought to convey the grotesque and horror in everyday life, often with hyper-stylized brushwork and horrific images, such as he used to great effect in his painting “The Scream.” 

Fauvists, despite their novel use of color, sought to create compositions that depicted life in an idealized or exotic nature. Think of Henri Matisse’s frolicking dancers or George Braque’s pastoral scenes.

Abstraction

Abstraction is about painting the essence of a subject as the artist interprets it, rather than the visible details. A painter may reduce the subject to its dominant colors, shapes, or patterns, as Pablo Picasso did with his famous mural of three musicians. The performers, all sharp lines and angles,​ don’t look the least bit real, yet there’s no doubt who they are.

Or an artist might remove the subject from its context or enlarge its scale, as Georgia O’Keeffe did in her work. Her flowers and shells, stripped of their fine detail and floating against abstract backgrounds, can resemble dreamy landscapes

Abstract

Purely abstract work, like much of the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1950s, actively shuns realism, reveling in the embrace of the subjective. The subject or point of the painting is the colors used, the textures in the artwork, and the materials employed to create it.

Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings might look like a gigantic mess to some, but there’s no denying that murals such as “Number 1 (Lavender Mist)” have a dynamic, kinetic quality that holds your interest. Other abstract artists, such as Mark Rothko, simplified their subject to colors themselves. Color-field works like his 1961 masterwork “Orange, Red, and Yellow” are just that: three blocks of pigment in which you can lose yourself.

Photo realism

Photo realism developed in the late 1960s and ’70s in reaction to Abstract Expressionism, which had dominated art since the 1940s. This style often seems more real than reality, where no detail is left out and no flaw is insignificant.

Some artists copy photographs by projecting them onto a canvas to accurately capture precise details. Others do it freehand or use a grid system to enlarge a print or photo. One of the best-known photo realistic painters is Chuck Close, whose mural-size head shots of fellow artists and celebrities are based on snapshots.

Edgar Degas

Art Quote

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

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