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What Are the Different Types of Visual Art?

Visual art is a rich tapestry that includes painting, sculpture, photography, and more, each with unique mediums and expressions. From the classical grace of Renaissance art to the raw emotion of Abstract Expressionism, the diversity is boundless. How do these forms connect with our emotions and cultural identity? Explore the vibrant world of visual art with us and discover its impact on society.
Dee Jones
Dee Jones

Visual art is art that is meant to be appreciated visually. There are many types of visual art, and artistic works can be created using a wide array of materials, media, and techniques. Some artists, like painters and cartoonists, work in two dimensions, applying a medium to a flat surface to create an image. Other artists, like sculptors and architects, work in three dimensions, molding, carving, and combining materials to create their artistic works. Photographers and video artists use cameras and video recorders to capture images in artistic ways.

Painting and drawing are two forms of visual art that involve creating images on a flat, two-dimensional surface, be it canvas, drawing paper, a piece of cardboard, the side of a building, or even a sidewalk on a busy city street. A painter typically uses a brush to apply the medium of his choice to that surface, although there are many other options available to the artist. The mediums a painter can choose from include oils, watercolors, pastels, and acrylics. Along with painters, other artists who specialize in creating images on flat surfaces include comic book artists, animators, editorial cartoonists, children’s book illustrators, and caricaturist. Throughout history, artists have used a vast array of instruments and supplies to create their artistic works, including pencils, crayons, pens, markers, and even soft metals like silver and tin.

Prehistoric humans known as Cro-Magnons created some of the earliest examples of visual art.
Prehistoric humans known as Cro-Magnons created some of the earliest examples of visual art.

Some forms of visual art, like sculpture and architecture, are three dimensional. A sculptor uses a material like stone, glass, wood, clay, or even ice to form shapes by either chiseling or carving away certain sections of the material, or molding the material into a particular shape. A sculptor can also create a sculpture by putting different materials and objects together. One form of sculpture, called topiary, involves trimming a bush, shrub, or tree into a desired shape. Other forms of three-dimensional visual art include baskets, pieces of jewelry, and origami.

Illustrations, like those created by Norman Rockwell, often serve to convey a society's moral and civic values.
Illustrations, like those created by Norman Rockwell, often serve to convey a society's moral and civic values.

Certain forms of visual art involve using equipment, like cameras and video recorders, to capture images in an artistic way. The three main types of photography include color photography, black and white photography, and monochrome photography, where the photographic image is produced using a single hue. Compared to photography, video art is a relatively new visual art form, which was first introduced in the 1960s. In video art, the artwork created can either stand on its own, or can be incorporated into a larger artistic work, like a sculpture, or a performance art presentation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main categories of visual art?

Sculpture is a visual art form that involves constructing or carving three dimensional pieces.
Sculpture is a visual art form that involves constructing or carving three dimensional pieces.

Visual art is broadly categorized into two main types: fine arts and applied arts. Fine arts include painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, and photography, which are created primarily for aesthetic and intellectual purposes. Applied arts, on the other hand, encompass design-oriented fields such as graphic design, fashion design, industrial design, and decorative art, where the aesthetic aspect is combined with a functional purpose.

How does painting differ from other visual art forms?

Oil paintings are a form of visual art.
Oil paintings are a form of visual art.

Painting is a unique visual art form that involves applying pigment to a surface, such as canvas, paper, or a wall, to create imagery. Unlike sculpture, which is three-dimensional, or photography, which captures real scenes or objects, painting allows for a wide range of expression through various styles, techniques, and mediums. It can be realistic, abstract, or somewhere in between, offering an expansive canvas for artists to convey their vision.

What role does photography play in visual arts?

Origami is considered a visual art.
Origami is considered a visual art.

Photography is a visual art form that captures real-life images using light-sensitive materials or digital sensors. It plays a crucial role in documenting reality, expressing artistic vision, and influencing social change. According to the International Federation of Photographic Art, photography is not only a popular hobby but also a powerful medium for storytelling, with the ability to evoke emotions and provoke thought through a single captured moment.

Can you explain what printmaking is?

Cartoons and animation are forms of visual art.
Cartoons and animation are forms of visual art.

Printmaking is a process of creating artworks by printing, typically on paper. This art form involves transferring ink from a matrix such as a plate, block, or screen to another surface. There are various techniques like etching, lithography, woodcut, and screen-printing. Each method has its own unique qualities, allowing artists to produce multiple copies of a single image, known as prints, which can reach a wider audience than one-of-a-kind pieces.

What distinguishes sculpture from other forms of visual art?

A visual artist may use graphite drawing pencils to create artistic works.
A visual artist may use graphite drawing pencils to create artistic works.

Sculpture stands out from other visual art forms due to its three-dimensional nature. It involves shaping materials like stone, metal, or wood to create physical forms that occupy space and can be viewed from multiple angles. Sculpture can be freestanding or relief, where the design is attached to a background surface. It engages the viewer's spatial awareness differently than two-dimensional art forms, offering a tactile and immersive experience.

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Discussion Comments

indigomoth

I went to a school for visual art a few years ago and I have to say it is really hard to narrow your focus down to a single kind of craft when there are so many.

We had the choice between skills as varied as metal smithing, to painting with wax, to carving, to life drawing, to graphic art and claymation.

Claymation turned out to be my favorite, but I enjoyed all of it. It is amazing that so many different skills can all be put under the same term, visual art.

It takes a real genius to be able to specialize in more than one of these skills which is why Leonardo Di Vinci was so amazing. He was pretty much good at them all (except claymation, but probably only because it didn't exist back then!)

irontoenail

I think children's book illustrators are often not as appreciated as they should be in the art world. Contemporary art seems to mostly revolve around presenting an idea, rather than just something beautiful or something which brings joy to the viewer.

There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but I like to think it is possible to do both.

There are some wonderful illustrators who manage to do this, by combining a, perhaps simple but still meaningful, idea with gorgeous artwork.

Shawn Tan is one of my favorite examples, but there are many others and I think they deserve more credit.

Mor

Video is one of the newest forms of visual art, but it is one of the most powerful mediums at our disposal.

I have noticed lately that there are a lot of openings for people to work in developing countries, teaching video and documentary making. I think this is wonderful, as the more quickly we start getting movies out of places with very little voice in the greater community, the better.

Not only would this allow people in other, luckier countries to become aware of issues suffered by their less fortunate neighbors, it would also expand their horizons.

And that is always a good thing.

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    • Prehistoric humans known as Cro-Magnons created some of the earliest examples of visual art.
      By: Bayes Ahmed
      Prehistoric humans known as Cro-Magnons created some of the earliest examples of visual art.
    • Illustrations, like those created by Norman Rockwell, often serve to convey a society's moral and civic values.
      By: Keijo Knutas
      Illustrations, like those created by Norman Rockwell, often serve to convey a society's moral and civic values.
    • Sculpture is a visual art form that involves constructing or carving three dimensional pieces.
      By: Brad Pict
      Sculpture is a visual art form that involves constructing or carving three dimensional pieces.
    • Oil paintings are a form of visual art.
      By: dred2010
      Oil paintings are a form of visual art.
    • Origami is considered a visual art.
      By: amphotolt
      Origami is considered a visual art.
    • Cartoons and animation are forms of visual art.
      By: Denis Pepin
      Cartoons and animation are forms of visual art.
    • A visual artist may use graphite drawing pencils to create artistic works.
      By: undrey
      A visual artist may use graphite drawing pencils to create artistic works.
    • Illustrators are visual artists.
      By: Pakhnyushchyy
      Illustrators are visual artists.
    • Watercolors are a common form of visual art.
      By: picsfive
      Watercolors are a common form of visual art.