What Are The Classifications Of Art?

The various classifications of art include: fine art, visual art, plastic art, performance art, applied art and decorative art.

Fine Art

example of fine art
The Ballerina

This category includes works of art that are created primarily for aesthetic reasons. Fine arts include:

  • Drawing – charcoal, chalk, crayon, pastel, pencil, or pen and ink
  • Painting – oils, watercolor, gouache, acrylics, ink and wash, tempera, or encaustic paints
  • Printmaking – woodcuts, stencils, engraving, etching and lithography, or screen-printing, foil imaging, or giclee prints
  • Sculpture – bronze, stone, marble, wood, or clay
  • Calligraphy – beautiful and stylized handwriting

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Visual Art

example of visual art
Digital Art

The visual arts include all the fine arts, in addition to the following:

  • New media – digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, Internet art, interactive art, video games, computer robotics, 3D printing, and art as biotechnology
  • Photography art
  • Environmental art
  • Contemporary forms of expression – assemblage, collage, conceptual, installation

Plastic Art

The term plastic art includes art works that are molded and not necessarily plastic objects. This category consists of three-dimensional works like clay, plaster, stone, metals, wood and, paper (origami).


Auvers, France church painting“Van Gogh’s Church at Auvers, France”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
20″ x 24″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

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Performance Art

This classification consist of an art form that refers to public performance events which occur mostly in the theater. Performance arts includes:

  • Traditional performance art – theatre, opera, music, and ballet
  • Contemporary performance art – mime
  • Hyper-modern performance art  – happenings

Applied Art

This category encompasses the application of aesthetic designs to everyday functional objects. Applied arts are intended for the use of a career. It includes architecture, computer art, photography, industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, and interior design.

example of decorative art
Decorative Art

Decorative Art

This classification refers to functional but ornamental art forms, such as jewelry, ceramics, mosaic art and other items that are embellished by ornaments and other designs. It also includes works in glass, clay, wood, metal, textile fabric, furniture, furnishings, stained glass and tapestry art.

Career Options For The Fine Artist

Artists who wish to pursue a living in as a fine artist or in a related profession will find this bit of information to be helpful.

Fine Artist Job Description

Fine Artists, or sometimes referred to as Studio Artists, create original works of art either for sale or exhibition. This field includes artists who create their art using a variety of methods such as drawing, painting, printmaking or sculpture. Fine artists may be commissioned to produce a piece of work for a client or they can create their own pieces which they then sell directly to the public or rely on galleries and art dealers to help them find buyers for their work. Their art creations may be displayed in places such as museums, commercial or non-profit art galleries, outdoors, corporate collections, or private homes.


river side painting“Along The ICW”
Marine art by Teresa Bernard
12″ x 9″
Oils on canvas panel board

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While most fine artists are self-employed, some find employment working for museums and galleries, educational and art institutions (as instructors) or work in private studios on special commissions.

List of Related Fine Artist Positions

These positions, while not actual fine artist positions, are related positions and most require the same skills and knowledge of a fine artist. This list contains some possible positions that can be applied for. The list is not comprehensive.

Art Auctioneers supervise and administers the bidding and selling process of artwork during an auction. They also provide appraisals of antiques, fine art and valuable items by assessing quality, condition, age and origin.

Art Consultants advise art buyers and clients on the purchase of fine art. They are hired by corporations, hotels, health care facilities, interior designers and private collectors to provide assistance in looking for a piece of art to give spaces a specific look and feel.

Art Critics fill the role of reporter for the art field. They write articles in which they evaluate and critique an artist’s work giving their opinions of its significance and aesthetic value as a work of art. Art critics may work for professional art organizations and the print media.

Art Dealers are responsible for displaying and selling visual works of art to their clients and general customers. They seek out new talent and commission artists looking to sell their works through an art gallery. They may also serve as intermediary connecting artists and buyers.

Art Historians, also known as Art Conservators, evaluate, restore and preserve a wide variety of historical artifacts, in addition to, works of art. They work at art galleries, historical societies, museums and other nonprofit institutions.

Art Instructors help students understand, interpret and develop their artistic skills. In addition, they instruct their students in art history, art appreciation, art theory and in various methods of creating artworks.

Art Museum/Gallery Curators organize, inventory and work with artwork, artifacts or anything of historical or artistic importance. They are involved with the acquisition of new artistic or historical pieces to the collection. They also organize art exhibitions and encourage the public and financiers to attend.

Artist Illustrators research and create drawings or illustrations for the purpose of communicating a story, message or idea. The illustrations may be prepared for advertisements, brochures, galleries, annual reports, medical textbooks, magazines, storybooks or private sale.

Background Artists, sometimes called Background Stylists or Background Painters, are responsible for creating backgrounds for video games, animated and live-action films, or other forms of media. Their involvement includes establishing the color, style and mood of the scene, as described by the writer, artistic director, or animation layout artist. The methods used can either be through traditional painting or by digital media such as Adobe Photoshop.

Book Illustrators create drawings that accompany the narrative of a story in a book, such as a children’s book. They may use traditional drawing methods or computer applications to produce illustrations. Most book illustrators work as freelance artists for book publishers on a per book basis.

Courtroom Artists illustrate scenes from courtroom trials and other judicial proceedings. They create sketches of the parties involved in the case as well as the emotions and atmosphere of particular moments.

Gallery Directors are responsible for running and managing the day-to-day operations of an art gallery and ensuring its profitability. They also take on the responsibility of organizing and marketing art exhibitions, as well as the sales from those exhibitions. A good director builds the reputation of a gallery by collecting or exhibiting work by important artists and creating high levels of interest among the art community and the public.

Gallery Owners are the proprietors of for-profit businesses that exhibit and sell works of art in the local community, nationally, or worldwide. Their involvement extends into many areas of the galleries they operate.

Greeting Card Artists, also called Greeting Card Designers or Greeting Card Illustrators, are responsible for decorating greeting cards with drawings, illustrations, pictures and graphics that are applicable to the celebration or topic. Greeting card illustrators use their artistic skills and experience to help create concepts for cards with writers, and sketch rough illustrations for cards. Card artists may work as freelancers or be employed by large greeting card companies.


east coast lighthouse painting“Currituck Beach Lighthouse”
Marine landscape by Teresa Bernard
11″ x 14″
Oils on stretched canvas

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Medical Illustrators are professional artists with specialized training and advanced education in medicine, science, art, design, visual technology, media techniques, and in theories related to communication and learning. They  prepare medical illustrations for use in textbooks, informational pamphlets and other publications that are used by patients, students and medical professionals. They also create images of surgical procedures that doctors can follow when they’re learning how to perform a particular type of surgery.

Mural Artists apply paint on a grand-scale to create larger-than life paintings on exteriors of buildings or interior walls. Their paintings tend to be much larger than traditional paintings that hang in homes. Most muralists work as freelancers.

Painter Artists use media like watercolor, acrylic, and/or oil paints to create works of art on canvas. Many choose an area of focus within their genre, for example, landscapes, portraits or abstract. Painters often specialize in different artistic styles, spanning anywhere from realism to abstract art.

Police Artists (a.k.a. Police Sketch Artists, Criminal Sketch Artists, Forensic Artists or Composite Artists) aid law enforcement by sketching likenesses of suspects and missing persons using witness descriptions. Additionally, artists in this field will sometimes create age-progressed illustrations of missing persons. They will use mediums such as charcoal, pencil and pastels to create their drawings.

Scientific Illustrators are responsible for creating accurate and detailed renderings of specimens that visually communicate information and ideas to a diverse audience. Their work is vital in helping others understand people, animals, and other things from an anatomically correct perspective. Their drawings appear in text books, academic journals, popular magazines, museums exhibits, websites and many other sources of scientific information.

Sculpture Artists use various materials (both traditional and non-traditional) and techniques to mold and create aesthetically pleasing three-dimensional works of art, including carving, shaping clay, whittling, or chiseling. Materials used in sculpting include stone, concrete, marble, bronze, gold, plaster, ice, wax, fired ceramics, various metals and wood. Sculptors may work on public art installations, however, they are typically self-employed artists, working in their own studios and selling their art to collectors and galleries.

Technical Illustrators create detailed and precise renderings of products and services offered. Their drawings are used in technical publications, instruction manuals, reference books, textbooks and various other publications where accurate illustrations are required to help others understand complex scientific or technical information.

What is Fine Art?

Auvers, France church painting
Van Gogh’s Church At Auvers, France

Fine art is a visual expression or application of human creativity involving both technical know-how (skill) and the ability to think 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 the word “fine” does not indicate the quality of the artwork, but rather, the purity of the discipline. 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, screenprinting, 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.)

Holy Lands wall art“Sea of Galilee at Capernaum”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
20″ x 16″
Oils on stretched canvas

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Fine Art Skills

The creation of fine artworks requires knowledge in art theory, design techniques and adequate usage of the tools of the trade that is necessary for composition, design and the creation of fine works of art. The skills necessary 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:
1) picturing within one’s mind familiar objects or concepts in a new light,
2) digging down beneath the surface to find previously unnoticed patterns, and
3) finding connections between seemingly unrelated attributes.