Many things can make a painting a painting. Sometimes the artist intends to create a certain feeling or message with their work. Other times, the way the paint is applied to the canvas makes it a painting. And sometimes, it is simply the colors and composition of the work that make it a painting. But no matter what makes a painting a painting, one thing is sure: paintings are meant to be enjoyed!
The older painting becomes an art form, the harder it gets to describe. Is a painting simply an image or a representation of something? Or is it something more? These days, we might say that a painting is anything from a digital file to an installation. But what about the traditional paintings hanging in museums and galleries? What makes those paintings?
A painting has four main characteristics: composition, color, brushwork, and medium. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
Composition is the way the elements of a painting are arranged and includes the subject matter, the placement of objects within the space, and the work’s overall design. Color is another important element of a painting. The colors used can create different moods and feelings and can also be used to convey certain messages.
The brushwork is how the paint is applied to the canvas. It is done with a brush, a palette knife, or even your fingers! The type of brushwork used can also create different effects and can be used to convey certain messages.
Medium is the material in which the paint is applied. It can be canvas, paper, wood, or even metal. The type of medium used can also affect the look and feel.
It used to be so simple: a painting was the mediated result of an artist’s wet paint application on a flat surface. No more. These days, anything can be a painting—even an immaterial digital file. And while the medium may have changed, paintings are still created for the same reasons: to communicate an idea, to document or memorialize something, to make us feel a certain way, or to please our eyes. Below, we explore what makes a painting a painting in the 21st century.
One of the most important things that can make a painting a painting is the artist’s intention. When an artist sets out to create a work of art, they usually have a message they want to communicate or a feeling they want to evoke. It gives paintings their power—they aren’t just pretty pictures but windows into the artist’s soul.
Another thing that can make a painting a painting is how the paint is applied to the canvas. It separates paintings from other forms of art, like photography or sculpture. Applying paint to a surface is what makes a painting a painting.
Finally, the colors and composition of the work can also make it a painting. It makes paintings so visually appealing—they are often pleasing to look at because of how they are put together. Paintings can be calming or exciting, depending on the colors and composition used by the artist.
No matter what makes a painting a painting, one thing is for sure: they are meant to be enjoyed! So go out and enjoy some paintings today!
So, what makes a painting a painting? It all comes down to these four elements: composition, color, brushwork, and medium. When all of these elements are combined, they create a work of art that is truly unique!