The Basics of Painting

Painting is the expression of ideas and emotions using a visual language that can be as abstract as a symphony or as realistic as a photograph. Its components include shape, lines, colors, tones and textures applied to a flat surface to create sensations of movement, volume, space and light. The result is often a representation of real experiences or an interpretation of a theme.

In its earliest form, it was done by direct application of pigments to a support that could be paper, wood or cloth, such as canvas. It became more versatile when oil was introduced as a medium, and the ability to mix paints allowed for a wide variety of color combinations. The painting surface can be a natural or man-made material such as glass, wood, stone, plaster, clay and even concrete.

A common tool used to apply paint is a brush, but there are many other techniques and tools that can be employed such as palette knives, roller brushes, sponges, rags or airbrushes. Paint may be applied in a liquid or semi-liquid state, and this has the potential to soak into the porous support material, weakening and damaging it over time. To prevent this, the support is usually covered with a ground which is a mixture of binder and chalk that, when dry, becomes a non-porous layer on which to paint.

When a person paints, it is often best to work at an easel, as this helps with the artist’s posture and reduces strain on the neck and back. It is also a good idea to have various solvents and mediums nearby that can be used for cleaning brushes, thinning out paint or producing a desired finish.

Young children should be given large pieces of paper and a variety of brushes to experiment with. This will allow them to experience color mixing which is one of the most basic and interesting techniques. It is important for children to have the freedom to paint wherever they are comfortable, and to use the entire surface of the paper. It is also helpful for them to have a clear area where they can paint, with their supplies in a safe location and where there are easy clean-up steps.

For adults, it is useful to learn the basics of painting such as color mixing and other techniques to make the most out of a limited amount of paints. Then a person can begin to paint more freely on their own. For example, when painting a wall, it is a good idea to cover furniture with drop cloths and protect hardware such as doorknobs with small plastic sandwich bags secured with tape.

Great paintings can be as powerful as music, poetry and prose, and they can convey political, cultural, historical or educational views. They are often used to express emotions and thoughts that are difficult to convey in words. Some of the most famous examples of paintings are Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Vincent van Goh’s Starry Night.