Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.
Introduction: Many Types of Painting
For thousands of years, artists have used paint to create images. The earliest paints were natural substances, but painting methods and materials have changed over time. First, however, a deceptively simple question -- what is paint? It's a combination of a dry colored powder, called a pigment, and a binder, a substance that holds the pigment and allows you to spread the paint. The binder determines what kind of paint it is. The surface to which paint is applied is called a support, which includes everything from paper to wood panels.
Different kinds of paint are used in different ways and sometimes require different techniques. Let's explore three kinds of painting.
Watercolor painting is a method of creating images by using paints with a water-soluble binder. When you add water, the result is a colorful, transparent, rapidly drying paint. Watercolor artists must be fearless about their work. If they make a mistake, they have to start over because you can't paint over watercolor to fix it!
Watercolor paintings are usually done on thick paper. You can get wonderful effects with watercolor paint through thin washes, where the paper is brushed with water and then thin layers of paint are brushed on. You can then work other colors in through a wet on wet process, which means brushing thinner lines of a color through a still-wet surface. Watercolor can also be applied with a dry brush technique. Dipping the brush in the paint with much less water and using it on dry paper results in deeper color and more sketchy, solid lines.
Some of the most famous artists in the world, including Leonardo Da Vinci and Vincent van Gogh, worked in oil paints. Unlike watercolors, oil paints are made with a binder of a natural water-resistant substance like linseed or poppy oil. The result is a thick, buttery paint with rich color that can be used in layers. Oil paints take a long time to dry, and if you make a mistake you can rework it or paint over it. You can apply oil paints with a brush or a knife, and using different tools gives different effects in the paint surface. Artists squeeze the paint out onto a palette, a flat support that they can hold in their hand, so that they have the colors that they need nearby. Oil paintings can be done on supports of wood, stretched canvas, or even metal.
There are two ways to approach an oil painting. If you're working in an indirect way, you carefully complete a drawing of the subject, and then add a monochromatic (variations of one color) underpainting on the canvas. You allow that layer to dry and then add thinner layers of more transparent paint. This is called glazing, and it allows for the detail of the drawing and underpainting to show through but adds brilliant color. Each layer dries before the next in added, and the completion of a single painting can take months. Leonardo da Vinci worked in an indirect manner.
On the other hand, in direct painting, also known as alla prima, you apply paint directly to the canvas without a lot of underpainting. The artist blocks in areas of color, works back into the areas to add more detail, and can work in a faster manner than indirect methods. Sometimes layers are still allowed to dry between coats, but glazes are rarely used. Artists can also use the paint very thickly, which produces texture and dimension --this type of painting is known as impasto. Vincent van Gogh worked in a direct style of painting.
One of the newer types of paints available to artists are acrylics, which were invented in the 1940s. They have a plastic polymer emulsion as a binder, and are known for their flexibility. The have shorter drying time than oils, but can be manipulated to dry slowly. You can thin them and rinse brushes in water, but when it dries acrylic paint becomes water-resistant. Oil painting techniques work with acrylics, but you can also use them in a way similar to watercolors.
These are three of the most popular painting methods, but there are several others. The best way to learn about different kinds of painting is to try it. So be adventurous -- get some paints of your choice and explore what you can do with them!
Artists have made images with paint for thousands of years. Paint is a combination of a powdered pigment and a binder that holds the paint and allows it to be spreadable. Artists use different types of paint, such as watercolor, which can be used to do washes, wet on wet techniques or dry brush techniques; oil paint , which is more versatile and can be used in an indirect method using glazes. Oils can also be applied in a direct way, sometimes in very thick applications called impasto. A newer type of paint, acrylics, is water-soluble when wet but dries to a permanent finish. It offers flexibility and an artist can use oil and watercolor methods.
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