Drawing and Painting

Drawing and painting are two disciplines, or types of art. Artists who work in these disciplines use a variety of media (sing. medium), or materials, to create their works of art. These are also two of the oldest disciplines of art that humans have used to express ideas.


Paleolithic, Hall of the Bulls from Lascaux Cave, c. 25,000 BCE, By I, Peter80, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2416645

Looking at the image below from the Paleolithic site of Lascaux in southern France, you can see that the artists used both drawing and painting to create these overlapping images of aurochs, large bovine animals, combined with less easily translated images of lines and dots. We can read this as naturalistic observation of the outside world around these Paleolithic artists, or, since they are in the back of the caves, we can read them as sympathetic magic, the use of images and rituals to achieve a goal, of some sort.

Drawings outline the forms, and can be used as preparatory works for larger pieces. Often, artists will use chiaroscuro to shade in the forms of the drawings to make them more three-dimensional. In the example below, notice how Michelangelo shades the figure to give it strength and depth. Notice how he also used the same piece of paper to work through a series of problems he had with placement and form.


Michelangelo, Study for Adam, c. 1508 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are a variety of media that can be used to create drawings as well. Wet media, pen and ink, felt pens, etc, are used to create a more painterly feel in the drawing. Dry media, pencils, charcoal, pastels, chalk, etc, are used to create more linear or blended works. Some contemporary artists use very different, and creative media to create their works. These can blur boundaries between painting and drawing.


Giotto, Crucifixion from the Arena (Scrovegni) Chapel, c. 1305 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In painting, artists use pigments, bits of color that have been ground up, suspended in a binder or glue to define forms and create the work. Paintings are created in a variety of media, and are directly linked to drawings. The painting above, by Giotto, is an example of fresco, or painting on the wall. Giotto used the buon, or true, fresco technique, wherein an artist will paint in sections on wet plaster, which, when dry, forms a bond with the pigments. Fresco secco, or dry fresco, is when the artist paints on dry plaster, often causing the paint to flake or crack.


Raphael, Madonna della Seggiola, 1513-1514 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In oil paintings, such as the one above, the artist can thin the paint with linseed oil or something similar to create glazes, which can create luminous areas, as in the gold threads of the Madonna’s shawl. Oil paints also typically dry more slowly then other media, such as tempera pigments, seen in the painting below. Note the differences in texture and depth in each painting.


Piero della Francesca, The Baptism of Christ, c. 1448-50 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 Many modern and contemporary artists have branched out to other types of media and techniques as well. After WWII, the development of acrylic paints allowed for artists to explore new techniques in addition to the new media. The development of street art in the 1970s and 80s allowed for the development of a more immediate, political style of painting as well. Artists are also beginning to explore digital media’s possibilities as painting media.


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