These 20 basic art questions and answers aim to give you a general understanding of a brief glimpse into the immense world of art. Art is so deep in our history, culture and our lives. In fact, art is a human need but some of us may not realise the benefits art brings us as individuals, communities, societies and also globally.
Art is all about sharing our life experiences using different expressive ways.
This article will cover the following 20 basic questions and answers:
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Here are the first four basic art questions and answers
# 1. What is art?
Many argue that art cannot be defined. The definition of art is thus broad, open, subjective and debatable.
I see art as the language of feeling. Art attempts at all times to appeal and connect with people’s feelings and evoke emotion, not the logical mind. In its broadest form, art could also be considered as an exploration of people’s condition or a reflection of their experience.
The meaning of art is commonly specific to a culture, shared among the people of a given society and dependent upon their cultural context. Art is a diverse range of human activities that involve the creation of visual, auditory or performed artefacts that expresses and reflects cultural thoughts, ideas, beliefs and imagination at a given time. Art can also be considered a universal language, in some cases, where people share common emotions.
Art can be extremely powerful expressive language to communicate and spread several ideas including philosophical, political, religious concepts, to form a way of beauty, to explore the character of perception, for pleasure, or to evoke strong emotions. Communication is a two-way street, there is a message, a sender and a receiver. Was the message clearly sent and received?
Good art connects with people and is appreciated for its meaningful context. It adds value and it tells you something about you, your culture or the world you live in. It resonates with you and it communicates with you.
In broad and simple terms, art is all about sharing the way we experience life.
# 2. How do I learn to create art?
Learning anything new will involve collecting and understanding relevant information about the subject, as the first step. The learning process is about acquiring new understanding, knowledge, skills, etc. using the relevant information.
Learning to draw and colour is similar to any other knowledge and skill we seek to acquire and apply, whether you achieve that through self-learning or structured events, e.g. art classes.
Teaching, training and other structured learning events are activities that one person passes information to another. However, the learning process itself is still an activity that we can only do for ourselves.
Art classes can help provide us with specific information which may reduce the time to collect the relevant information, but we still have to do the learning ourselves.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see“. – Edgar Degas.
Art cannot be forced and you must decide whether or not you are going to invest your time, talent and mental health into creating art. If this is what you love to do, you have fallen under the definition of the artist. And no one has a right to take that away from you.
Developing artistic skills is like an instinct in some people. It is the burning desire to fulfil a passion. When we are passionate about something, one cannot help but think about it most of the time. Practice to develop it. Push yourself to more challenges. It becomes, to a certain degree, addictive – it becomes a way of life to that individual.
“Repetition is the mother of skill.” – Tony Robbins.
Many of us spend a lot of time each week practising different skills in our lives and work. But we do not automatically get better just because we repeat the same actions and behaviours, even if we spend hours per day doing it.
If we want to improve a skill, we need to know what exactly has to change and what might get us there. Otherwise, we plateau.
If you want to reach an expert level of performance, you need to begin practice sessions with a plan in mind. You need to know what you are working on, why, and how you intend to improve it.
My journey with art goes back many years ago as a young child painting watercolour figurative art and landscapes.
Later, I became interested in photography and nearly made it into a professional career. But I continued painting as well as I was trying to see if there was a link between painting and photography.
And for the past several years, non-representational abstract painting has been my greatest passion in art.
For any visual artist, it is important to fully understand the emotional powers of colours, shapes, lines, composition and texture.
I spent a great deal of time learning and practising the elements and tools that I was using. You never stop learning no matter how long you have been practising your art.
There is no other way to improve art but deliberate practice is what turns amateurs into professionals. Across every field, deliberate practice is what creates top performers and what they use to stay at the top of their game. It is absolutely essential for expert performance.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world” – Albert Einstein.
# 3. What does art contribute to the world’s economy?
Many people are not conscious of how important art is in our lives and its economic contribution to the world.
I have come across several statistics estimating how much art generates for the world economy. It could be more than US$2.25 trillion in revenue per year, creating about 30 million jobs (a global report by Ernst & Young – 2017).
These are extraordinary figures but can give us a clear understanding of the worldwide economic value of art. So, I hope that these figures alone can provide some brief answers to the questions of what is art? And what is the relationship between art and the economy?
The answers to those two questions would provide a comprehensive view of the meaning of artworks for a society’s economic and cultural development.
# 4. Why can’t everyone draw?
Is drawing a skill or a talent?
One argument says drawing is a skill that can be learned and improved. To become good at drawing, you will have to dedicate a great deal of effort, time, practice and repetition. And it all depends on the drive, motivation and perseverance.
To further develop your artistic skills, it would be necessary to push yourself to create new concepts and ideas all the time. As a matter of fact, the learning process never ends.
It is worth noting that many people get discouraged when they are trying to draw from small images which do not give them all the information that a real-life object could give them.
Drawing from imagination realistically is almost impossible, not many of us can do this yet many beginners expect to be able to draw from memory.
The other idea that makes learning to create artwork difficult is that we have to be good at painting and drawing everything. However, it is quite rare that an artist can paint or draw everything equally well. You do not have to be good at drawing everything. But, there is the argument that creating art is a talent and not everyone can create artwork.
I think everybody can draw, but some can draw better than others.
Becoming good at anything must start with a desire to motivate you to just do it or excel at it, depending on how powerful is that desire.
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# 5. How does art help children?
Art is a lot more than a decorative or entertaining activity. For children, art is definitely important especially during their early development.
Art activities develop brain capacity in early childhood. Children actively engaged in art activities usually develop better senses in open-minded activity and supports the development of cognitive, social-emotional and multisensory skills.
Generally speaking, art allows us the freedom of expression. Children experience the freedom of expression in a much better way than adults as their minds are still fresh without the added restrictions and rules that become part of adults’ lives.
Freedom of expression has a tremendous positive effect in art therapy, e.g. releasing tension and relieving stress. Children expressing themselves through art activities help them to cope with the natural stresses of growing up. Art also helps children to develop a sense of their own individuality, a sense of self-respect and an appreciation for others’ work.
Art creations are developed through the solving of problems. How do I make something meaningful from this clay? How do I portray a particular emotion through dance? Children that participate in art activities are consistently being challenged to solve problems.
Art activities and engagement have a direct effect on practising problem-solving which develops children’s skills in reasoning and understanding. Art teaches children to approach problems as exciting opportunities to challenge their skills and creativity. Art is a powerful avenue to work through problems that may occur in life.
Art is an essential element of children’s early development.
# 6. What is the connection between art and passion?
Many artists face the challenge of not a lack of passion but having too much of it without the sense of direction to grow into something.
Many times, we all face creative blocks where we feel stuck and unable to make more progress. But that feeling could be the result of having so many ideas and options, which simply makes it difficult to decide where to start.
Having too many ideas and options makes it more challenging to reach a decision and select which ideas to use and which ones to leave out. And to make matters more difficult, passions cannot be forced. Having talent alone does not always mean you have the necessary passion to keep going. Passion is always the drive to push us beyond obstacles and limitations.
So how do you continue developing passion when you feel running out of it? There is no simple answer, but believing in your goal can help us to re-charge our passion and determination to keep going. This is, by far, one of the main differences between people – those who keep on going no matter what challenges they face and those who simply give up and admit defeat. Life is all about overcoming challenges.
“The strongest tree in the forest is not the one that is in the middle protected from the weather elements. It is the one that stands in the open facing all weather conditions battling storms, rain, scorching sun – determined to face all challenges”.
Dedicated and organised commitment. It is committing to tasks without allowing distractions, even if other ‘passions’ seem overwhelmingly tempting. But the key is allowing yourself to enjoy it.
# 7. Is it important to understand art to appreciate it?
Understanding the subject of art would help us to appreciate and value the artwork and I do not necessarily mean financial value. The value of art starts with the skilful expressive language that evokes emotions and connects with our feelings. It creates something meaningful to you or to your culture.
Almost all types of art attempt to communicate with us. It is telling us something – a story, a situation, an experience or an idea. Art messages are sharing individual or community experiences and how they see the world from their point of view.
You do not necessarily need to understand art to appreciate it and you do not need to be an artist or an art graduate. If the subject of the art fails to connect with our feelings, it also may fail individual valuation, e.g. a 5 year old could have done that!
To appreciate artwork, just give yourself more time to see if the artwork pulls into it. If it doesn’t, that is fine, too, as not everyone will like art or the same piece of art. That is life. But if you find art or a particular piece of artwork not appealing to you, it does not necessarily mean that it has no meaningful value to others.
# 8. Who is the most famous artist?
Not taking the Cave Paintings into account, probably the most famous artist in the world is Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). His earliest surviving work is a drawing created in pencil and ink. The drawing shows the valley of the Arno River in great detail and the Montelupo Castle in Tuscany.
The date on the sheet of the drawing was on 5 August 1473, when he was 21 years old.
However, in 2018 a majolica tile was presented to the public which dates back to 1471 and is suggested to be an even earlier work by Leonardo da Vinci.
Some of his great masterpieces include:
- Mona Lisa (1503-1506)
- Last Supper (c. 1495-1498)
- Vitruvian Man (c. 1490)
- Self Portrait (c. 1490/1515-16)
- The Virgin of the Rocks (c. 1483-1486)
- Head of a Woman (1500-1510)
- Lady with an Ermine (c. 1489-1491)
- Salvator Mundi (c. 1500)
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# 9. Which is the most expensive painting in the world?
Leonardo da Vinci painted many great paintings, as explained above, but the Mona Lisa is, by far, the most expensive and most famous painting in the world. He painted the Mona Lisa between 1503-1506, according to the Louvre – the world’s largest art museum. However, other historians believe the painting may not have been painted before 1513. The painting measures 77 × 53 cm (30 in × 21 in) and it is placed at the Louvre museum in Paris.
How Much is the Mona Lisa Worth?
In 1962, the Mona Lisa was insured and had an insurance value of $100 million. This equates to more than $867 million in 2021.
To demonstrate the financial value of the Mona Lisa, it was reported that France 24 (French state-owned international news TV) suggested that the painting could be sold to pay off the country’s national debt.
Why is the Mona Lisa so Famous
Leonardo da Vinci used several new, unique and innovative techniques to paint the Mona Lisa. The painting introduced and redefined the rules of contemporary art at that time. The method Da Vinci used became an integral part of the present curriculum of the art school.
Artists at that time used to form outlines, but Da Vinci did not use outlines. His method was to use different hues to create the illusion of light shadows. Absolutely genius technique that has been used by many artists over the centuries.
Da Vinci used dark undertones to create the illusion of three-dimensional features through layers and layers of thin, semi-transparent glazes. He used darker hues to highlight features and boundaries of the artwork. This technique created great interests of the art community, particularly in Paris and was recognised and acknowledged as a pioneering innovation in painting.
The art world and art viewers were fascinated by many other innovative unique features of the painting, including the landscape of rivers and mountains in the background. Typically at that time, portraits were painted in front of a monotonous background with no other features that may divert from the focal point. But the Mona Lisa was different. It added a new feature.
The Mona Lisa’s Smile
The Mona Lisa’s smile is probably one of the most fascinating features that make it most appealing and most famous worldwide. The innovative optical illusion technique Da Vinci used to create a unique smile through perspective and shadow. The eyes of the Mona Lisa seems to fall directly into the viewer’s focus, at the same time, the lips fall just below the periphery of vision. Such a unique technique.
When you look into the Mona Lisa’s eyes, her lips seem to fall into the peripheral vision making the facial features of the mouth somewhat less noticeable. With a small shade of the cheekbones, it makes the mouth look like a smile.
But as soon as your gaze is fixed on the smile, it seems to slowly disappear, as if it were never a smile. Here lies the magic of Leonardo’s skill, which made this legendary painting unique compared to other paintings of its time.
The Mona Lisa’s fame is possibly due to many other historical circumstances combined with the painting’s appeal. Also, the theft of the painting in 1911 and the ensuing media frenzy brought it worldwide attention. The painting was later found, after two years, in Italy.
Not that the painting needed more fame, but the tour to the United States in 1963 and to Japan in 1974 increased its fame and popularity status and worldwide popularity.
# 10. What is creativity and how do I find it?
Creativity is the ability to make or recognise innovative ideas or other possibilities which will be useful in communication with others, solving a problem or creating something valuable and meaningful.
There is still a debate about the above definition. And that is also part of creativity, i.e. to question different things in our life.
Creativity gives us opportunities to undertake and try out new ideas and new ways of thinking and problem-solving.
We are born creative but then we are taught to be uncreative as we grow older. (The educational model that we use today originated in the Industrial Revolution, over 200 years ago. The purpose of schooling during that time was to produce good workers who followed instructions). Rules and regulations create non-creative behaviour.
When you look at our lives, we really live a very fast-paced, busy and constantly changing life. Our brains are so very busy trying to keep up with constant changes, processing and analysing vast amounts of information we are constantly bombarded with daily, almost every second – thanks to mobile phones and social media.
We actually do not have time to think creatively – mental fatigue.
We pride ourselves on always being busy, on working long hours, on always achieving, on competing, on pushing for more, on finding success, on constantly cramming so many things every day.
We gorge ourselves on countless things we hope to someday attain and we busy ourselves endlessly, trying to reap the rewards of happiness.
Yet once we finally rest our weary heads all we feel there is a nagging sense of unease. We are overwhelmed, stuffed ourselves full, feasted on everything we possibly could to distract us from what matters the most, the one thing we will never be able to escape — the quality of our inner selves.
Step back from all of the commitments in your schedule for a moment. Ignore all of your chores, jobs, meetings, obligations and evening plans and take a look at the world as it buzzes around you. What you will see is a culture that is completely obsessed with always being busy.
We know we are not satisfied, and yet we persist. We keep piling more and more on. This is the never-ending hedonic treadmill. We will never have enough, nothing will ever be able to truly deliver our happiness. We are too busy.
Unlocking Creative Potential
One particular major influence that I firmly believe to improve and enhance our creativity is Mother Nature. We are part of her and we belong to her. Mother Nature has a fantastic ability to evoke a creative way of thinking by making us more curious about her beauty, harmony and perfect balance.
Mother nature offers all of us the simplest and one of the most powerful inspirations to re-energise our creativity. Spending time in nature also inspires a sense of awe. This feeling that the world is so much bigger than you can comprehend leads to “expansive thinking”, which allows us to consider different perspectives and can lead to innovative ideas.
- Nature can relieve stress
- Nature can relieve mental fatigue
- Nature can restore attention and boost positive emotions
- Nature can help overcome creative blocks.
- Best of all, Nature can make you feel happier and more alive
Deep observation and an open mind can help us to enhance our creativity while spending time in nature. (Deep observation and an open mind are adopted by the Slow Look Movement which several museums around the around has been promoting to their visitors to improve artwork appreciation).
In my view, Nature has the best positive effect on our physical health, mental wellbeing and has a huge impact on our creativity.
What are the benefits of being creative
Creativity is a powerful tool to help anyone to live their life, from the parent trying to find new things to inspire his or her kids, to the small businessperson looking for a new direction, to the writer or artist stuck or feeling uninspired. Some of the benefits of being creative are:
- Self Awareness and Expression
Creativity is the route to authenticity. As we create, we test the depths of our being, accessing what we think and believe. The more we create, the more we discover ourselves and realise our habits, impulses and desires. When we take the time and energy to develop our own ideas, we respect our inner nature and are better able to express ourselves to the world regularly.
- Problem Solving
Obstacles and challenges throughout life are inevitable. However, when we make creativity a habit, we continue to learn new, resourceful ways of solving problems we face in our life.
- Develop Confidence
Being creative comes with many ups and downs and a high risk of failure. Engaging in the creative process is a fantastic method to build confidence because you discover that failure is part of the process.
There are so many other benefits from being creative particularly in improving mental health and increasing happiness.
Further reading: How Can I be More Creative.
# 11. What are the elements and principles of art?
The visual elements of art include colour, value, lines, shapes and forms are the main building blocks of visual art. Each element can influence our feelings and collectively all elements together can form a fantastic expressive language.
It is that skill that differentiates one artist from the other and one artwork from another. It is the creative skill of the artist to put all these elements together in a complete balance, harmony and rhythm. These are some of the principles of visual art.
Combining the elements and principles of art together in one piece of artwork is the skill of evoking certain emotions that the viewer could connect with the artwork.
The effect of each element and collectively all elements remain subjective and are influenced by personal experience and culture.
It would not be possible to create visual art without thoroughly understanding the elements of art.
Line, shape, colour, value, texture and space are mainly some of the main elements of visual art. These are primarily the tools of creating art.
How you put them together to create a powerful meaningful artwork is most essential in any artwork. Balance, harmony, contrast, rhythm, movement, proportion and variety are among the main principles of visual art.
There are other fundamentals other than the elements and principles that every artist should understand and apply. These include, but are not limited to composition, contrast, dominance, content, aesthetics and symbolism.
Thorough knowledge and understanding of the emotional powers and meanings of each element, component, principle and whatever else is used to create almost any artwork is absolutely necessary. True artists can manipulate all these emotions in the way they use every single element individually and collectively.
You could actually test part of the painting, for example, the bottom left hand corner, to see if that part on its own could stand out on its own as another separate piece of artwork. Have a look at this article for further explanation: How Can I Learn To Actually See Abstract Art.
The meaning and interpretation of the elements and principles of visual art may vary from one culture to the other. For example, the colour red in South Africa is associated with mourning and the section of red in the country’s flag symbolises violence and sacrifices that were made during the struggle for independence.
In Thai tradition, red is the colour for Sundays and it is associated with Surya, a solar God, who was born on this day.
Art is a true language and it has its own unique vocabulary, so to speak. But it is a language of expression, the language of feelings.
So what is the vocabulary of feelings?
# 12. How to improve your art?
It is quite normal to feel unhappy about your artwork, sometimes. I can understand that after spending so many hours creating your art, but the result is far from being satisfactory. I spend several days, weeks and sometimes months before satisfactorily finishing off a painting.
It is also well known that artists can be their worst critics.
Creating artwork can take a long time as art is all about self-expression and self-discovery. Art tells us to slow down and take time to connect with our innermost feelings. When you feel unhappy about your art, most likely it is because you may feel that the artwork does not express your feelings or the feeling you wanted to express through your art. This is very true as the language of feelings is not easily understood or interpreted.
I believe most, if not all, artists will experience a similar situation as they create their art. Art is definitely created with feelings.
How do you feel satisfied with your art?
From my experience, every painting I have created (and still create), I actually create a connection with that particular piece of artwork. The connection is the main part of the painting process and begins when you start communicating with the artwork itself.
It is hard to describe in words, but that connection could start at the beginning of the painting process, or in my case, it could take a much longer time. It could take hours, days, weeks or even months.
Once connected, the communication between you and your artwork develops quickly and smoothly. You will feel it and you will know it.
When it happens, it brings tremendous satisfaction and joy.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” (not Aristotle), Will Durant – “The Story of Philosophy” 1926.
Our performance, in whatever we do, improves tremendously if we are enjoying the work. To enjoy something, you need to have a purpose and passion for doing it.
If you are trying to create your art but you feel bored, you properly want to re-think your purpose of creating your art. If there is no clear purpose, there will be no clear motivation.
Ask yourself why you want to draw, paint or write.
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# 13. What is acrylic paint?
Acrylic paint is one of the most used artist paints. It is water-based fast-drying paint and is made up of pigment particles dispersed in an acrylic polymer emulsion. There are usually three main components in any acrylic paint – pigment, binder and water.
Acrylic paint is a very flexible medium. Paint flexibility, visual hardness and texture of the paint surface can be easily changed by diluting it with water or by adding another medium.
Early experiments in artistic acrylic paints began in the 1920s and 1930s. But, it is said that the first commercially available water-based acrylic paints were placed on the market in 1955.
The main two types of acrylic paints are artists quality (sometimes referred to as professional grade) and students quality. The difference between the two types is the amount and quality of pigments.
There is a wide range of acrylic paints to choose from. Selecting your paint type and brand is a very personal experience dependent on the style of art you prefer and the specific techniques you use.
Some artists may select to use high quality more expensive Primary Colours (red, yellow, blue) and lower quality Secondary Colours (orange, green, violet). This will give you a wide range of mixing different colours.
Other artists suggest using the same brands and quality of paints. If you were to use different brands of paint on the same painting, it is recommended to use the same quality and binder to avoid a potential curdling or poor adhesion.
Some of the things to note if you decide to go for selecting artists paint:
- Most manufacturers will group their paints according to series (series 1 being the cheapest and series 7 being the most expensive). Earth colours tend to be the cheapest, but colours derived from cadmium can cost up to 4 times as much,
- Some manufacturers will use synthetic pigments to offer a cheaper option. Synthetic pigments are likely to have a lower colour intensity. You can find this on the product using the word “hue” after the pigment name,
- Lightfastness is the rating of pigments to resist gradual fading and good quality paint manufacturers will include lightfastness information on the product. Such as:
- ATSM I (excellent), ATSM II (very good), ATSM III (not sufficiently lightfast), or
- **** or AA (extremely permanent colours), *** or A (durable colours), ** or B (moderately durable colours), * or C (fugitive colours)
Like so many other art materials, try and experiment with different paints as part of your learning process to have a better practical understanding of the different effects and results.
# 14. What is oil paint?
Oil paints are made by mixing pigments with selected refined linseed oil (drying oil). If more flowing quality is needed, you would mix the paint with a liquid medium such as turpentine. Other mediums can be added to accelerate drying time. Oil paints have much higher amounts of pigments than acrylic paints or watercolour.
Oil painting first appeared in Northern Europe in the fifteenth century. Oil paints can be used on a variety of surfaces, such as paper, wood and most commonly canvases. Whatever surface you choose, it is important to prepare the surface with a coat of acrylic primer like gesso.
Most artists prefer to add a medium of a solvent to oil paints which makes it easier to work with and it helps to speed up the drying time.
Oil paints blend beautifully with each other making it possible to produce a wide variety of tones and shades. But experimenting with oil paint is necessary to thoroughly understand and become familiar with its properties, particularly for beginners.
Painting layers over and over is one of the main common techniques when using oil paints. But, you need to be mindful of the need to wait for each layer to be completely dry before applying the next layer.
When painting layers, it is important to always start with a thin paint layer (mixed with a solvent) and gradually increase the amount of paint on the next layers. This technique is known as “fat over lean” (thick over thin). This is to ensure that the thinner layers will dry before the thicker layers on top.
The drying process of oil paints is different from that of acrylic paints and watercolours. The oil in oil paints reacts with the oxygen in the air causing it to solidify (this is known as oxidisation). This process is very slow and can take a long time.
This explains the principle of fat over lean, to avoid cracks in top paint layers drying before the lower layers.
Impasto is another great technique commonly used by many artists by applying thick layers of paint to achieve a three-dimensional appearance.
Similar to acrylic paints, the main two types of oil paints are Professional or Student quality. The main difference is in the amount and quality of pigments.
# 15. What are the most commonly used canvases?
Canvas is probably the main surface choice that professional artists and beginners use to create their paintings, particularly for acrylic painting. There are many shapes and sizes to suit every need and every budget. It is such a versatile painting surface.
The two main and most popular types of canvas fabrics are cotton and linen. Linen is more expensive than cotton as it is considered the better choice due to the quality of the surface and its durability.
Linen canvas is made from flax and is considered far more superior than cotton. By nature, linen is less absorbent than cotton and is also less prone to expand and contract due to moisture. Linen is able to keep its natural oil content.
Canvas is usually made from natural fibres that are woven together, producing different textures depending on how finely it is woven. Canvas surface texture ranges from fine to rough surfaces. Each surface will suit the different applications, for example, fine surfaces are best suited to smaller detailed work, while the rougher surface would be more suitable for broad brush strokes and larger paintings.
Heavier canvases refer to how much fabric is used and is determined by both thickness of the thread used to weave and how tightly it is woven. However, if the canvas is primed the weight shown on the canvas will, most likely, include the primer, too.
Primed canvases with gesso are most common among most artists. Gesso helps to prevent the paint from being absorbed into the fabric of the canvas. However, some artists prefer to paint on unprimed canvases for the dull textured effect it produces.
Selecting the right canvas is not an easy task for a beginner as there are many choices available online and at art supply stores. But you will learn more about the different types of canvases as you paint more.
# 16. Which colour is the most popular in the world?
According to a few surveys carried out in many countries, the most favourite colour in the world is blue. And the same colour is popular among both sexes. Followed by green, purple, red and orange.
The last 4 basic art questions and answers
# 17. What is colour theory?
It is said that Aristotle developed the first known theory of colour. He suggested that all colours came from white and black (lightness and darkness). That was the understanding of colour for over 2000 years.
In the 1660s, Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727), an English mathematician and physicist, began a series of experiments with sunlight and prisms.
Newton demonstrated that clear white light was composed of seven visible colours; the visible spectrum (the colours we see in a rainbow). He identified the ROYGBIV colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet).
The visible spectrum is the narrow portion within the electromagnetic spectrum that can be seen by the human eye.
The cells in our eyes called cones are sensitive to the wavelengths found in the visible spectrum. They allow us to see all the colours of the rainbow.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe(1749-1832), a German writer and politician, challenged Newton’s views on colour, arguing that colour was not simply a scientific measurement, but a subjective experience perceived differently by each viewer. His contribution was the first systematic study on the physiological effects of colour. This view was widely adopted by artists. Goethe considered his Theory of Colours to be his most important work.
French Jacob Christopher Le Blon (1667-1741) was the first to outline a three-colour printing method using primary colours (red, yellow, blue) to create secondary colours (green, purple, orange). He makes an important distinction between “material colours,” as used by painters and coloured light, which was the focus of Newton’s colour theories.
Le Blon’s distinction marks the first documentation of what is now referred to as additive and subtractive colour systems. Rainbows, TVs, computer screens and mobile devices all emit light and are examples of an additive colour system (the subject of Newton’s Opticks, a book published in 1704).
Red, green and blue are the primary additive colours and when combined they produce transparent white light. Books, paintings, grass and cars are examples of a subtractive colour system that is based on the chemical makeup of an object and its reflection of light as a colour. Subtractive primary colours – blue, red, and yellow – and when mixed together they create black.
Further information about colour theory.
# 18. How can you express your feelings through art?
Art is an expressive communication language that helps people to express more than emotions and feelings. Art becomes more effective when it combines the expressions of several elements such as thoughts, ideas, imagination, observations, beliefs as well as emotions and feelings.
A thorough understanding of the elements and principles of visual art is essential in how best to use them for a meaningful interpretation of the artwork.
It would be necessary to develop the knowledge, understanding and experience of the medium and tools you would use in performing your art. This knowledge in addition to understanding the effects of colours and shapes on our moods are important to be linked with your inner feelings for it to be expressed externally in whatever form of art.
I am fascinated by the challenges of non-representational abstract painting, particularly artwork that is not depicted from the real world. I am still not sure if that actually is possible.
I find non-representational abstract painting offers the ultimate freedom of expression; without rules, restrictions or limitations.
As a powerful expressive language, I still think that art should not be restricted to human-made rules. It is all about letting go and that is key to expressing your feelings through art.
# 19. What makes an artist?
Every person is created unique and every artist is unique. There are no two people the same and there are no two artists the same.
Every artist, knowingly or unknowingly, attempts to express who they are, what they feel, what are their thoughts, their personalities, their views about their lives and how they can share their life experiences with the rest of the world.
No two people can express the same thing in the exact same way.
Many have said that artists live in their heads. Yes, I believe that is true and it is a world that never gets boring, however to the outsider we may not seem to be paying attention. But artists are very aware (hyper aware in fact) of everything and how things look, taste, sound, feel and smell. Often analysing or noticing shapes, patterns, colours, expressions and more they have a strong appreciation for aesthetics and heightened senses and intuition.
“No great artist ever sees things as they really are” – Oscar Wilde.
Artists seem to have strong feelings about ‘what is right’, personal values and strive to consistently meet the expectations they set for themselves; often these expectations are high and unattainable which can make artists frustrated or depressed.
Artists need more personal space than other types. They can often be seen as reserved and difficult to know, however at heart they are very sensitive and loyal to those they let in.
The challenge for the artist is to have ‘thinking and creating’ space. When artists do not get enough personal space they become scattered, unproductive and moody.
Artists tend to take life very seriously. Sure there are carefree and light-hearted days but overall life is serious business. They seek meaning in even the most mundane tasks.
Artists are like explorers, constantly gathering specific information and shifting it through their value systems, in search of clarification and underlying meaning.
As thinkers and vision seekers with visionary and intuition gifts, artists can solve problems in creative ways. Though they might not be the most vocal ones on a work related team, they will be the doer on the team.
Most artistic people are highly disciplined and gifted with superior powers of concentration – almost to the point of obsessiveness. Because of this level of concentration, they are capable of producing great quantities of high quality work; however, they also enjoy frequent periods of recreation and inactivity.
To those they care deeply about, they are loyal to the end and also generous. They are also very sympathetic and can be idealists on one hand trying to fix the woes of the world. They have a strong desire to please and show their love through actions rather than words.
Artists are interested in contributing to people’s sense of well-being and happiness and will put a great deal of effort and energy into tasks which they believe in.
Out of all the personality types, most artists are not people manipulators and are not the sales type of people and they do not like superficial things. In their world there is a drive to create and express non-verbally, find daily meaning, have independence and personal space and contribute to the things they believe deeply in.
Artists create art to communicate and self-express their feelings, ideas, thoughts, etc. and to share their life experiences.
Being an artist is self-proclaimed and only you can choose whether you want to be one. Art should be a passion for your expression, not a struggle.
An artist is a blend of several elements of talent, skill and massive imagination. What combines all these fantastic elements is a strong desire and passion to create unique artworks. Unique enough to gain the respect of the wider society.
A degree in art does not necessarily make professional artists. It is one of many ways to learn about art. Many professional artists recognised worldwide for their great artworks do not actually have a degree or even higher education in art.
But they all share that same burning desire and passion about their subject of art and express that passion in their artworks.
Artists are those who can thoroughly understand how to use the art language effectively. To me, art is a powerful universal expressive language that does not necessarily need words.
Some of the steps to become a professional artist in the sense of financial success include:
- The drive and the strive to financial success of creating your art,
- Creating high quality artwork on an ongoing basis to reflect your commitment and dedication to being a professional artist,
- You know exactly your current and future objectives and how you are going to achieve those objectives (remember you are also an entrepreneur),
- You know what your art is about and what it contributes, communicates, expresses or add to the wider art audience and the art world,
- You have an identifiable style or technique where no one can question the quality of your work,
- You have an excellent link and rapport with the art world. (Perhaps, this is one of the most important steps for all professional artists to develop and maintain),
- You invest the necessary time and energy in promoting and selling your own work.
The list goes on.
Primarily you would have to develop the necessary skills needed for a business venture.
And this is where many artists may find the challenge is way too big for them. Developing the necessary skills to promote and sell your artwork can take a lot of time. This, in turn, will need better more effective time management between creating your art and promoting and selling.
# 20. Why is art for everyone?
Art is a universal language. Thousands of years ago, mankind told stories through paintings on cave walls. Through the ages, artists have relayed history through drawings, paintings, architecture and sculptures. Joy, sorrow, anger, peace – the emotions and experiences of artists are shared in a sketched line or a splash of colour.
Today’s technology offers us greater opportunities to share our art experiences. Social media plays a major part in giving us the possibility of reaching a large audience worldwide.
It is interesting to know that we all need art in our lives, but most of us do not realise or appreciate this need. If we can define art in its broader sense and understand that art is a lot more than a beautiful piece of decoration or entertaining and truly understand that art is part of the human experience. Art fuels our creativity and hope. Art helps us to energise our optimism, eases our burdens, opens up new possibilities.
Art is very important to children’s early development. Art plays a major role as a stress relief. It is necessary for a successful economy, to our mental health, social cohesion, to our sense of identity, to our happiness and to our well-being.
‘Great art helps to develop thinking, imagination and understanding. Artists translate nature, our environment and our lives into what we see in our galleries, theatres and concert halls, adding depth and helping us to appreciate the value of our existence. But unlike with medicine, you cannot see the immediate result.’ – Valery Gergiev, Principal Conductor, London Symphony Orchestra
Art is for everyone to share and enjoy.
I hope these basic art questions and answers will provide some useful information for those who are interested in art.
Your comments are welcomed.
Note: All the painting images shown in this article are my own paintings which I created over the past years. I have also included the source(s) of other image(s) used in this article.