There is no universally accepted definition of art. Although commonly used to describe something of beauty, or a skill which produces an aesthetic result, there is no clear line in principle between (say) a unique piece of handmade sculpture, and a mass-produced but visually attractive item. We might say that art requires thought - some kind of creative impulse - but this raises more questions: for example, how much thought is required? If someone flings paint at a canvas, hoping by this action to create a work of art, does the result automatically constitute art?
Even the notion of 'beauty' raises obvious questions. If I think my kid sister's unmade bed constitutes something 'beautiful', or aesthetically pleasing, does that make it art? If not, does its status change if a million people happen to agree with me, but my kid sister thinks it is just a pile of clothes? .
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface (support base). The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used.
In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. Paintings may have for their support such surfaces as walls, paper, canvas, wood, glass, lacquer, clay, leaf, copper or concrete, and may incorporate multiple other materials including sand, clay, paper, gold leaf as well as objects. The term painting is also used outside of art as a common trade among craftsmen and builders.
Painting is a mode of creative expression, and the forms are numerous. Drawing, composition or abstraction, among other aesthetics, may serve to manifest the expressive and conceptual intention of the practitioner. Paintings can be naturalistic and representational (as in a still life or landscape painting), photographic, abstract, be loaded with narrative content, symbolism, emotion or be political in nature.
A portion of the history of painting in both Eastern and Western art is dominated by spiritual motifs and ideas; examples of this kind of painting range from artwork depicting mythological figures on pottery to Biblical scenes rendered on the interior walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, to scenes from the life of Buddha or other images of eastern religious origin.
Oil painting is the process of painting with pigments that are bound with a medium of drying oil. Commonly used drying oils include linseed oil, poppy seed oil, walnut oil, and safflower oil. Different oils confer various properties to the oil paint, such as less yellowing or different drying times. Certain differences are also visible in the sheen of the paints depending on the oil. An artist might use several different oils in the same painting depending on specific pigments and effects desired. The paints themselves also develop a particular consistency depending on the medium. The oil may be boiled with a resin, such as pine resin or frankincense to create a varnish; often prized for its body and gloss.
Although oil paint was first used for the Buddhist paintings by Indian and Chinese painters in western Afghanistan sometime between the fifth and tenth centuries, it did not gain popularity until the 15th century. Its practice may have migrated westward during the Middle Ages. Oil paint eventually became the principal medium used for creating artworks as its advantages became widely known. The transition began with Early Netherlandish painting in Northern Europe and by the height of the Renaissance oil painting techniques had almost completely replaced tempera paints in the majority of Europe.
In recent years, water miscible oil paint has come to prominence, to some extent replacing the usage of traditional oils. Water soluble paints contain an emulsifier which allows them to be thinned with water (rather than with paint thinner), and allows very fast drying times (1–3 days) when compared with traditional oils (1–3 weeks).
Water Painting is a painting method in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water soluble vehicle. The traditional and most common support for watercolor paintings is paper; other supports include papyrus, bark papers, plastics, vellum or leather, fabric, wood and canvas. In East Asia, watercolor painting with inks is referred to as brush painting or scroll painting. In Chinese, Korean, and Japanese painting it has been the dominant medium, often in monochrome black or browns. India, Ethiopia and other countries also have long traditions. Finger-painting with watercolor paints originated in China. Watercolor pencils (water-soluble color pencils) may be used either wet or dry.
Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions. It is one of the plastic arts. Durable sculptural processes originally used carving (the removal of material) and modelling (the addition of material, as clay), in stone, metal, ceramics, wood and other materials but, since modernism, shifts in sculptural process led to an almost complete freedom of materials and process. A wide variety of materials may be worked by removal such as carving, assembled by welding or modelling, or molded, or cast.
Sculpture in stone survives far better than works of art in perishable materials, and often represents the majority of the surviving works (other than pottery) from ancient cultures, though conversely traditions of sculpture in wood may have vanished almost entirely. However, most ancient sculpture was brightly painted, and this has been lost.
Sculpture has been central in religious devotion in many cultures, and until recent centuries large sculptures, too expensive for private individuals to create, were usually an expression of religion or politics. Those cultures whose sculptures have survived in quantities include the cultures of the Ancient Mediterranean, India and China, as well as many in South America and Africa.
The Western tradition of sculpture began in Ancient Greece, and Greece is widely seen as producing great masterpieces in the classical period. During the Middle Ages, Gothic sculpture represented the agonies and passions of the Christian faith. The revival of classical models in the Renaissance produced famous sculptures such as Michelangelo's David. Modernist sculpture moved away from traditional processes and the emphasis on the depiction of the human body, with the making of constructed sculpture, and the presentation of found objects as finished art works.