Know Your Art Painting Styles: 7 Most Popular

Part of the appreciation of fine art is the range of art painting styles to admire and choose from. As a fan of art, you will enjoy the experience more when you understand which particular art style you happen to be viewing at the moment. Here is an overview of the seven most popular art painting styles in no specific order.

Art Painting Styles

Art Painting Styles
Realism art

1. Realism is a style of art most people consider to be “real art.” This is because it attempts to depict the topic as it appears in real life but stops short of appearing like a photograph. Realism art is without stylization or following the rules of formal artistic theory. Instead, the artist spends a fair amount of time and effort paying attention to creating an accurate depiction of life forms and objects, perspective (creating the illusion of reality,) good composition, lights and darks, and color and tone.

photorealism art painting style
Photorealism Art

2. Photorealism (a.k.a. super-realism, sharp focus realism, hyperrealism) is an art style where the artwork looks as realistic as a photo. The illusion of reality is so minutely fine-tuned that the painting looks exactly like a large, sharply focused photograph on canvas or other paint support. It’s a look that includes meticulous attention to detail, right down to the last grain of sand on the beach or the pores and wrinkles on a person’s face. Nothing is left out, and nothing is too insignificant to be left out of the composition. That’s how realistic photorealism is.

Photorealism as a style of art became a movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s America. For more information on this art movement, click here.

painterly art painting styles
Painterly Art Style

3. Painterly art is distinguished by visible brushstrokes and texture in the paint. This style can be created using oils, acrylics, watercolors, gouache, and any other medium where a brush is used.

In the past, early painters took great pains to eliminate brushstrokes or texture from their paintings by working and blending their paint, not so with painterly artists. However, they do not attempt to hide their brushwork that has been loosely and quickly applied. The paint doesn’t have to be applied thickly either; thin layers of paint work just as well using the painterly art style.

Impressionism art painting styles
Impressionism Painting

4. Impressionism is a style of painting that has the appearance of being rough and unfinished and characterized by small, thin visible brushstrokes. The subject matter is usually of common and ordinary subjects, emphasizing the accurate depiction of light.

Impressionistic paintings are often painted outdoors to capture the natural sunlight and color of their subjects. Black is rarely used since impressionist artists prefer mixing and using dark tones and complementary colors. Impressionism is more a representation of an artist’s impression. It does not try to be accurate in its detail, but rather, it is more like an expression of the heart.

example of abstract art
Abstract Art

5. Abstract art is artwork that doesn’t resemble anything from “real life.” It’s an art style that is intentionally non-representational and seeks to achieve its point or subject using shapes, forms, colors, and textures. Every object on the canvas is represented by either colors and or shapes. For example, colors can represent emotions, and shapes can symbolize objects.

The purpose of abstract is to let the viewer interpret its meaning for themself. At its worst, abstract art looks like an accidental mess of paint. At its best, it has an impact that strikes you from the moment you see it.

example of surrealism
Surrealism art

6. Surrealism is a modern art style that juxtaposes various abstract concepts to give a startling effect. Fully recognized images are realistically painted, then reconstructed or structured within an ambiguous, contradictory, or shocking framework, removed from their usual settings and circumstances. Surrealist paintings are often illogical and express imaginative dreams with visions that emphasize the subconscious rather than rationale.

Surrealism originated in France and flourished as an art movement in the early twentieth century. For more information about the surrealist movement, click here.

example of pop art
Pop Art

7. Pop Art is a modern art style that started back in the 1950s and drew inspiration from commercial and consumer aspects of everyday life, especially in the American culture. Such imagery included advertising, mass media, comic books, celebrities, and elements of popular culture, like magazines, movies, and even bottles and cans.

Pop art paintings tend to focus on bold colors and realistic imagery. There is usually no hidden meaning in the composition either. Pop artists rarely use any of the traditional techniques of perspective to create an illusion of realism in the painting. Some pop artists use mass production techniques such as silk screening to replicate their works, mirroring the manufacturing process of consumer goods. Because of its commercial imagery, pop art is one of the most recognizable modern art styles.

Additional Reading

Classification Of Fine Art Paintings By Genre

What Are The Classifications Of Art?

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UPDATED: 04 February 2021

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The Rules of Perspective Drawing

Perspective Drawing—It’s As Easy As One-, Two-, Three-Point!

Perspective is a drawing or painting technique. It gives an image on a flat surface a sense of depth. Artists use this tool to make their imagery look more realistic and accurate as we see it in real life. Perspective creates the illusion of depth and distance on an otherwise flat surface.

There are three basic types of perspective: one-point, two-point, and three-point. The one-, two-, and three-point refers to the number of vanishing points present when creating the illusion of depth and space. In addition to these, there is also zero-point perspective.

Rules of Perspective

Rules of Perspective drawing
One-Point Perspective

One-point perspective is the simplest method of drawing perspective. It uses only a single vanishing point on the horizon line. A vanishing point is where two or more parallel lines converge into each other at “infinity.” A long hallway, railroad track, or road with the viewer positioned face-on looking down the center is an excellent example of this perspective. As seen in the illustration, the two tracks are parallel to each other, and you know they will remain the same distance apart. However, the further away they get, the closer they appear to be until they eventually disappear at the horizon.

Rule: Use one-point perspective to create the illusion of distance in a drawing or painting.

example of two point perspective
Two-Point Perspective

Two-point perspective comes into play when a drawing contains two vanishing points positioned arbitrarily along the horizon line. This perspective places the object where the viewer can look at it from an angle and see two sides at one time. That is, looking at one corner, with two sets of parallel lines moving away.

A box, cube, or other geometrically similar objects, such as a house or building, can be used to demonstrate two-point perspective. When looking at the object from the corner, one side recedes toward one vanishing point, and the other side recedes toward the opposite vanishing point. As can be seen in the illustration, each set of parallel lines has its own vanishing point. Two-point perspective is what gives a geometric object the illusion of 3-D.

Rule: Use two-point perspective to make a geometrical object appear to be three-dimensional.

example of three point perspective
Three-Point Perspective

Three-point perspective is a little trickier than the other two because this type deals with three vanishing points. It includes two vanishing points somewhere on the horizon line. There is also a vanishing point either above or below the horizon that all vertical lines lead to. This type of perspective is excellent for rendering objects, such as buildings and cityscapes, seen at an aerial or ground view. When the third vanishing point is above the horizon, an image is created from a worm’s perspective, looking up toward the image from below. When it is below the horizon, a bird’s eye point of view is created where it feels like you are looking down on the object from above.

Rule: Use three-point perspective when you want to render building scenes, such as cityscapes, complex close-up objects, and highly detailed interior scenes.

Zero-point perspective is the technique used to give the illusion of depth when there are no parallel lines in the image and, therefore, no vanishing points. Vanishing points can only exist with the presence of parallel lines. However, a perspective without vanishing points can still create a sense of depth; that’s where zero-point come into effect. The most common example of depth without parallel lines or vanishing points is a natural setting, such as a mountain range or a landscape of hills and valleys.

In zero-point perspective, a sense of depth may be created in the following  ways:

  • Objects are larger the closer they are and decrease in size proportionally the further away they are.
  • The closer objects are, the more detailed they are. Things lose detail the further away they are.
  • Color fades, becoming more muted, blending into background colors.
  • Objects placed higher on a plane create more of the feeling of depth or distance.
  • Overlapping shapes tend to create a feeling of depth.

Rule: Use zero-point perspective when there are no parallel lines in an image to create a sense of depth.

Additional Reading

Using Atmospheric Perspective To Create Depth in Your Paintings

Using Linear Perspective to Create Depth in Your Paintings

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Classification of Fine Art Paintings by Genre

The most common method for classifying fine art paintings is by genre (or theme). Genre is a French word that means “type” or “kind.” It’s the type of image a painting has as its subject. For instance, the classification of fine art paintings by genre means a painting is categorized as a landscape, portrait, still life, seascape, wildlife, or other themes.

Common Painting Themes

classification of Fine Art paintings
Abstract Art

Abstract Art is artwork that looks like a two-year-old did it. It has no defined meaning. It seeks to break away from the traditional representation of physical objects in real life. More often than not, abstract art is a collection of meaningless shapes, textures, and colors thrown haphazardly onto a canvas. Its purpose is to let the viewer interpret its meaning for themselves.

cityscape urban landscape

Cityscapes, often known as Urban Landscapes, are paintings that depict the physical characteristics of a city, urban life, sections of a town (such as a city block, street corner, outdoor café, rooftops, etc.), or other metropolitan areas. A Townscape is similar to a cityscape; only it is of a township with a smaller population and perhaps less modern architecture. See the example of a cityscape.

classification of Fine Art
Genre Scene Art

Genre Art is scene art of everyday life. It depicts real life in action with ordinary people at work or in recreational situations. These artworks include intimate scenes of daily life, costumes, domestic settings, interiors, celebrations, tavern scenes, markets, and other street situations. It could also show a busy street, a beach party, a dinner gathering, or anyplace where living goes on. The subject is frequently represented in a realistic manner.

history painting

History Paintings or Historical Paintings feature subject matter borrowed from classical history and mythology, as well as the Bible. A wide range of historical issues and topics can be shown in history paintings. It frequently depicts a scene from a story or a significant event from the past. It should not be mistaken with genre paintings that reflect events from ordinary life.

Fine Art paintings

Landscape paintings showcase the natural beauty of the great outdoors with its mountains, valleys, meadows, trees, rivers, woods, sky, and weather. It can even include the countryside, farms, and structures that one would expect to find there, such as fencing, bridges, barns, windmills, or farmhouses. See the example of a landscape painting. Title: The Grand Teton Mountains

example of marine maritime art
Maritime Art

Marine Art or Maritime Art derives its inspiration from the sea. This genre of art depicts life on the open seas, boats and ships, fishermen, etc. It includes art showing shipping on rivers and waterways and all art showing boats and ships.  It almost always consists of some element of a seafaring vessel. Ship portraits are a style of maritime art that is still popular today and depicts a single vessel.

example of naive art
Naïve Art

Naïve Art is characterized by its childlike simplicity, which includes minute detail, vibrant colors, disproportionate figures, and a lack of perspective. It depicts basic, easy-to-understand situations of ordinary life that are frequently romanticized. The absence of perspective often creates the illusion that figures within naïve paintings are weightless or floating. Naïve artists are frequently self-taught. They have very little or no formal art training.

Portrait Painting of Tera
Portrait of Tera by Teresa Bernard

Portraits are artistic representations of a person, especially the face. Besides the likeness, the essence of a portrait also captures the mood and personality of the subject. A portrait of an individual may be of the face-only, or it may be head and shoulders, or the full-body. Portraits usually portray the person in a still position, and often the subject is looking directly at the painter. Included in this genre are Group Portraits (consisting of more than one individual), Self Portraits (one in which the artist does an artwork of him/herself), and Pet Portraits (a beloved pet, however, animals usually fall into the wildlife category).

Communion Table still life
Religious Art

Religious Art, also known as Sacred Art, is a kind of visual expression that draws on religious inspiration to convey a message intended to improve the morals of those who view it. The subject can be either a sacred story or a profession of the artist’s faith. Religion means any set of individual beliefs, either Christian or non-Christian, regarded as sacred, holy, spiritual, or divine. Shown is an example of religious art and is titled The Communion Table.

OR coast south of the sea lion caves

Seascape paintings are much like landscapes; only this genre of art depicts the sea with marine landscapes, beach scenes, fish and marine animals, or views of the ocean itself. Fish and other marine animals can also be categorized as wildlife.  Seascapes are not to be confused with Maritime Art which depicts life out on the open sea. The example shown is titled: Oregon Coast Looking South of the Sea Lion Caves.

lunar footprint painting
Space Art

Space Art also referred to as Astronomical Art, is a genre of art that attempts to communicate ideas and appreciation related to the infinite variety and vastness of outer space. It often depicts interstellar and interplanetary elements as its subject. Since the invention of telescopes, artists can now depict the grandeur and majesty of our universe by rendering what they see out there. Planets, stars, constellations, spacecraft, astronauts, black holes, moons, comets, and other heavenly bodies can be found in space art. Some additional art terms related to this category include lunar landscape, moonscape, moonset, etc. The sample shown is a commission painting titled: First Footprint On The Moon.

classification of paintings

Still Life paintings feature an arrangement of everyday inanimate objects laid out on a table or similar surface. The objects used can be either natural or man-made. Examples of natural objects are flowers, food, wine, rocks, seashells, dead animal skulls, etc. Examples of manufactured items are drinking glasses, books, bottles, pottery, coins, dishes, musical instruments, and so forth. The sample shown is titled: Still Life With Fruit and Candle.

african wildlife painting
Wildlife Art

Wildlife Art depicts the natural world and the wild or domesticated animals that live there. It dates back to prehistoric cave paintings as one of the earliest forms of art. Portraits of animals or fish (whether wildlife or family pets) would fit into this genre. The wildlife art sample shown is titled Raging African Elephant.

Additional Reading

Know Your Art Painting Styles: 7 Most Popular

What Are The Classifications of Art?

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What is Fine Art?

what is fine artFine art is a visual expression or application of human creativity involving technical know-how (skill) and thinking of new things (imagination). Artists who create fine works of art do so primarily for aesthetic reasons, and they usually specialize in a specific type of art, such as painting or sculpture.

It is helpful to note that the word “fine” does not indicate the quality of the artwork but rather the discipline’s purity. In other words, creations considered as fine art include calligraphy, drawings, paintings, printmaking, and sculpture. It excludes applied art, decorative arts, and crafts. (See What are the Classifications of Art? for more information.)

Types of Fine Art

    • Drawings—chalk, charcoal, color wax pencil, crayon, graphite pencil, inked brush, marker, pen and ink, pastel, stylus, or various metals like silverpoint
    • Paintings—Acrylic, aerosol paint, enamel, fresco, gouache, hot wax, inks, oils, pastel, tempera, or watercolor (For more information on the various styles of paintings see Know Your Art Painting Styles: 7 Most Popular)
    • Printmaking—engraving, etching, foil imaging, Giclée print, lithography, monoprint, monotype, screen-printing, stencil, or woodcut
    • Sculpture—clay, glass, metal, plastic, stone, or wood
    • Calligraphy—the art of beautiful handwriting or fancy lettering (See Calligraphy for more information.)

Fine Art Skills

The creation of fine artworks requires knowledge in art theory, design techniques, and adequate usage of the tools of the trade necessary for composition, design, and the creation of fine works of art. The skills required can be developed in a variety of ways. These include, but are not limited to:

    • Apprenticeships under other accomplished fine artists
    • Attending college courses at all levels
    • Attending workshops and classes conducted by other artists
    • Joining artists’ collectives
    • Studying the Old Masters and other works of art by modern-day artists

Creative Imagination

Creative thinking is the ability to form a mental image of new ideas or something that has not yet been thought of or beforehand experienced. It involves:

    • picturing within one’s mind familiar objects or concepts in a new light,
    • digging down beneath the surface to find previously unnoticed patterns, and
    • finding connections between seemingly unrelated attributes.

Additional Reading

What Is Art Appreciation?

Related Articles

Classification Of Fine Art Paintings By Genre

Know Your Art Painting Styles: 7 Most Popular

What Are The Classifications of Art?

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UPDATED: 14 March 2022

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Bible Scripture And Visual Art

Bible scriptures and visual art

What does the Holy Bible reveal about the visual arts?

Let’s see what the Bible tells us about this topic. It is always best to study scripture in context. If possible, you might want to read the verses that come before and after the verses listed to establish context.

From the Scriptures, we learn:

Artistic ability is God-given

    • Exodus 28:3 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood.
    • Exodus 31:1-11 – The Message (MSG)
      1-5God spoke to Moses: “See what I’ve done; I’ve personally chosen Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur of the tribe of Judah. I’ve filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him skill and know-how and expertise in every kind of craft to create designs and work in gold, silver, and bronze; to cut and set gemstones; to carve wood—he’s an all-around craftsman.6-11“Not only that, but I’ve given him Oholiab, son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan, to work with him. And to all who have an aptitude for crafts, I’ve given the skills to make all the things I’ve commanded you: the Tent of Meeting, the Chest of The Testimony and its Atonement-Cover, all the implements for the Tent, the Table and its implements, the pure Lampstand and all its implements, the Altar of Incense, the Altar of Whole-Burnt-Offering and all its implements, the Washbasin and its base, the official vestments, the holy vestments for Aaron the priest and his sons in their priestly duties, the anointing oil, and the aromatic incense for the Holy Place—they’ll make everything just the way I’ve commanded you.”
    • Exodus 35:30-35 – The Message (MSG)
      30-35Moses told the Israelites, “See, God has selected Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. He’s filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and know-how for making all sorts of things, to design and work in gold, silver, and bronze; to carve stones and set them; to carve wood, working in every kind of skilled craft. And he’s also made him a teacher, he and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. He’s gifted them with the know-how needed for carving, designing, weaving, and embroidering in blue, purple, and scarlet fabrics and in fine linen. They can make anything and design anything.”

Art is a skill

    • 2 Samuel 5:11 – New International Version (NIV)
      Now Hiram, king of Tyre, sent envoys to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David.
    • 1 Chronicles 22:15 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      You have an abundance of workmen: stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and all kinds of craftsmen without number, skilled in working
    • 2 Chronicles 2:14 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre. He is trained to work in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood, and in purple, blue, and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and to do all sorts of engraving and execute any design that may be assigned him, with your craftsmen, the craftsmen of my lord, David, your father.
    • 2 Chronicles 24:12 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      The king and Jehoiada gave it to those who did the work of the service of the house of the Lord; and they hired masons and carpenters to restore the house of the Lord, and also workers in iron and bronze to repair the house of the Lord.
    • Proverbs 31:24 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      She makes linen garments and sells them and supplies belts to the tradesmen.
    • Jeremiah 18:1-6 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      1The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2“Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
      5Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”

Art is beautiful

    • 1 Kings 6 – As you read through this particular passage, you should note that God goes into a great bit of detail on how He wants His temple to be constructed. Some of the instructions even required craftsmen and artisans to complete. From reading these verses, it is clear that God wants a beautiful place of worship for His people.
    • 1 Kings 7:13-51 – In addition to specific instructions regarding the temple construction, God also goes into detail about how He wants the furnishings for the temple to be constructed.
    • Song of Solomon 7:1 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter! The curves of your hips are like jewels, The work of the hands of an artist.
    • Philippians 4:8 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Art glorifies God

    • Psalm 50:2 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth.
    • 1 Corinthians 10:31 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
    • Colossians 3:23 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,

God is the original Artist, the prime Master Craftsman

    • Genesis 1:1, 27 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
      27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God, he created him; male and female, he created them.
    • Genesis 2:7 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
    • Job 10:8-9 – New International Version (NIV)
      8Your hands shaped me and made me. Will you now turn and destroy me? 9Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?
    • Job 38:4 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding.”
    • Psalm 139:13-16 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      13For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them
    • Isaiah 29:16 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
    • Isaiah 45:9, 18 – New International Version (NIV)
      9“Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands?’
      18For this is what the Lord says—he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited—he says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other.
    • Isaiah 64:8 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.
    • Zachariah 12:1 – New International Version (NIV)
      A prophecy: The word of the Lord concerning Israel. The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person, declares:
    • Romans 9:20-21 – New International Version (NIV)
      20But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
    • Ephesians 2:10 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
    • Colossians 1:16 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
    • Hebrews 1:10 – New International Version (NIV)
      He also says, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
      and the heavens are the work of your hands.
    • Revelation 4:11 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

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