A brief overview
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Since time immemorial, man has always craved for expressing himself through various media like art, music, dance and literature. In a way, all the forms through which man conveys his creativity and ideas can be categorised under the huge canopy of being ‘art’. Visual arts include the paintings, sculpture, film making, printmaking, street art, photography and several other art forms which are a source of both entertainment and inspiration for people. Architecture includes making of certain objects or buildings in an artistic as well as planned manner. This essay gives a brief overview of several forms of arts namely Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Visual communication design, Photography, Film, video, and digital art, alternative media and processes like tattoo and street art, Craft, Sculpture, Architecture and the historic as well as prehistoric art. It has also illuminated the significance of local culture and geographic locations in shaping up the art forms. Along with the overview, there are hyperlinks to videos on these art forms.
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Why art and architecture hold such a significant position if human lives? The aesthetic essence and pleasure it gives is more than just for entertainment and inspiration in life; it provides employment to millions around globe. The various forms of visual, audio-visual and mixed media art are an essential part of everyday life. Listening to music, watching television, admiring good books and great paintings, visiting architectural sites of heritage and many more activities are actually art forms. The brief overview of some of these art forms and architecture has been summarised in the following paragraphs.
Definition and Information: In simplest of words, a drawing is a picture made using a pencil or pen rather than paint (“Drawing”, 2010). But with time, drawing extended to pictures made using charcoal, chalk, paint brushes and coloured pens. It is one of the basic and most influential forms of visual arts. It can be further divided into sub categories like pencil sketching, cartooning, doodling and shading. When it is done to produce an occupational work such as draft for a map or building, it becomes a technical drawing. Several techniques such as sketching, hatching and stippling are used to make a drawing. In case of architectural and engineering drawing, many instruments and complex techniques are used.
History: Man has been drawing since Stone Age in caves and on rocks using stones, charcoal and coloured rocks. These primitive drawings gradually prospered into an organised form of art.
Examples: The self portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci made using sanguine is one of the most renowned drawings. Madame Palmyre with her dog, 1897 by artist Henry Di Toulouse Lautrec is another example.
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Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExRRHY9wT6Q
Reference: Pen & Ink Techniques (1978), Exploring Drawing (1988), Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary (2010)
Definition and Information: The art of using paint to produce pictures is called painting (“Painting”, 2010). It is done using a paint brush, pen, crayons, knives, sponges and airbrush against a surface (usually paper). Other surfaces can be clay, canvas, wood, glass, metal, lacquer etc. Different kinds of paints such as oil, fabric, watercolour, fresco, acrylic, pastel, ink and hot wax are used to make allegory, body paintings, landscapes, portraits and illustration paintings.
History: Like drawing, painting to started in the prehistoric ages and can be found in caves. The history of paintings in Europe and Asia is so rich that it makes for a huge subject in itself to study. The Renaissance was the finest period for paintings as well as other art forms. Painting has emerged in last few centuries from classical to newer forms such as pop art, cubism and modernism.
Examples: The Monalisa and The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci are two of the most famous paintings of all time. Other examples can be Adam by Michelangelo and The Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins.
Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLX2xbxal4Q
Reference: Encyclopedia of Themes and Subjects in Painting (1971), The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Technique (1991)
Definition and Information: When artworks are made by printing on paper, it is simple known
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as printmaking. Also, printmaking takes into account paintings made by transferring the ink or colour to the surface through different media like metal or stone. A point worth noticing here is that every print of one painting is not considered as a copy but ‘original’ because each print has some distinctive features. Printmaking is divided into four categories namely Relief, Intaglio, Planographic and Stencil. Techniques like, wood engraving, linocut and metalcut are used in Relief. Intaglio makes use of engraving, etching, mezzotint and aquatint. Lithography, monotyping, and digital techniques are under Planographic and Stencil includes screenprinting and pochoir (Mayor, 1971).
History: The techniques like woodcut, engravings and etching started back in 15th century. However, the multiple prints could not be famous until 19th and digital print came in 20th century.
Examples: Portrait of Otto Müller, 1915 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner is a famous specimen of woodcut art. The Three Crosses, an etching artwork by Rembrandt is also renowned.
Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivAPODbzUso
Reference: Prints & people: a social history of printed pictures (1971)
- Visual Communication Design
Definition and Information: When an idea or information is conveyed through pictorial representations, signs, symbols or any kind of visual design, it comes under the visual communication design. It encompasses a huge range of visual arts like diagrams, paintings, posters, maps, graphs, tables, handouts, videos etc.
Examples: Geographic maps, Posters for AIDS awareness, models of human skeletal system
History: Visual communication has been in existence from always. Signs and symbols or
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cave paintings depicting how early men lived have been in use ever since man started to live socially.
Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKwd6eFxnIU
Reference: Handbook of visual communication: theory, methods, and media (2005).
Definition and Information: It is the art as well as science of taking pictures by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film or electronically by means of an image sensor. It is one of the most precious inventions for mankind as it enabled the keeping of both memories as well as crucial information in form of pictures for analysis (or cherishing). It has emerged in last century as a powerful media for communication, recreation and scientific research. There are dozens of forms of photography like architectural, landscape, fashion, fine art, nature, forensic, underwater and wildlife. Scientific importance apart, it has a great aesthetic quotient. It is one of the best forms of arts- quick reproduction of an image.
Examples: All the photographs taken by legendary photographer Roger Fenton are worth mentioning here- like Valley of shadow of death.
History: The first camera photography started in early 19th century and gradually grew from black and white to colour and finally to digital through a series on inventions. However, much before the invention of camera, the concept of pinhole camera was predicted by some scholars like Aristotle and Euclid (Krebs, 2004).
Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPYSnY6NH_8
Reference: Photography. A Critical Introduction (2004), Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (2004).
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- Film, Video and Digital Art
Definition and Information: A film or video is a series of still images on a celluloid reel which runs through a projector to create the illusion of moving images. This clip is included with a background soundtrack and a full-fledged audio-visual film is made with the help of camera. Digital art includes those artworks which have been made using digital technology.
Examples: The black and white films of The Three Stooges, the recent films like Inception, the millions of videos on YouTube are al examples of videos and films.
History: Eadweard Muybridge created the first animated image sequences photographed in real-time in 1870’s and hand-painted images were also projected as moving images by zoopraxiscope (William. 1992). Gradually, better machines were invented. Today, digital camera has enabled every ordinary man to make a video.
Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T04VB6NDKaA
Reference: Republic of images: a history of French filmmaking (1992), Film: An International Bibliography (2002), The Oxford Guide to Film Studies (1998), Digital Art (2006).
- Alternate media and processes
Definition and Information: The alternate media and processes of art include the vast expanse of street arts, tattoo, decorative art and public painting. In many western countries, brilliant street paintings can be seen. The traditional graffiti artwork, sticker art, wheatpasting and street poster art, video projection etc come under this form of art along with what people do to embellish their bodies, houses, cars and things.
Examples: Street art in the old city of Prizren, Kosovo, the body tattooing tradition in India, the graphic paintings on cars etc are all examples of this.
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History: Ever since man started living in groups, the body tattooing and embellishing was in practice. Street art has been popular since last few centuries but the invention of spray paints catapulted this practice to newer heights.
Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeL4e4TNmHI
Reference: Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution (2008)
Definition and Information: An artistic representation of any kind, professional or non-professional, is called a craft. According to Oxford Dictionary, any activity involving a special skill at making things with your hands is a craft. However, the use of hands is optional these days as digital crafts can be made too.
Examples: All the handicrafts, utensils, textile, embroidery, wooden sculptures, pottery etc come under craft.
History: Human history of making craft is vast. The earliest civilisations too were involved in craftsmanship. Coins, statuettes, ornaments etc were found in Harappan civilisation of India. Gradually, man improved his craftsmanship and led to a revolution globally. Today, crafts are one of the most treasured assets. Even in schools, children are asked to make crafts so that they understand these skills better.
Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3IT_bKUd_s
Definition and Information: A work of art that is solid figure or object made by carving or shaping wood, clay, stone, metal etc is called a sculpture (‘sculpture’, 2010). This is another
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form of art which can be studied extensively and categorised into several branches. In several countries, these sculptures were deeply associated with religious significance. From stones to metal and clay to glass, sculptors used various materials to make magnificent statues, figures, objects and motifs on buildings. Every civilisation, every nation has its heritage of sculpture which shows the degree of skill in men since time immemorial.
Examples: David, Moses and Pieta by Michelangelo are the best examples of sculpture.
History: From the classical period, through Middle Ages and Gothic period to finally the Renaissance and further, hundreds of masterpieces in sculpture were made by different talented sculptors across the globe. Nicola Pisano of Gothic Age is one of the best sculptors of all time. Michelangelo too is an immortal name in this sphere.
Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88gXWW3qN7o
Reference: Italian Renaissance Sculpture (1992),
Definition and Information: It is the process of planning, designing, and construction of physical structures, usually buildings. It also includes the particular style of building which an architect or group of people follow. It is more than building a strong and stable structure. John Ruskin had said he following in Seven Lamps of Architecture:
“ Art which so disposes and adorns the edifices raised by men that the sight of them" contributes "to his mental health, power, and pleasure (1989)”.
Thsi quote is justified by most of the great architectural wonders of the world like the Taj Mahal, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, The Syndey Opera House, The Statue of Liberty etc.
Examples: The Parthenon in Greece, the Taj Mahal, Red Fort and Agra Fort in India, the House
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Of Parliament, London, the Empire State Building etc. are all examples of great architecture.
History: The architectural heritage traces back to 1st century AD in Rome. Every dynasty that ruled a region in any country had a trademark architecture which was marked in the pages of History. The Italian, Roman, Mughal and Greek Architecture are known for its magnificence.
Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUJYHsXbMHA
Reference: The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1989), A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method.
- Historic Art: A Survey
Definition and Information: There are thousands of specimens of historical art across the globe from the historic period. From the Pyramids of Giza to temples in Indonesian archipelago, from Monalisa to the Weeping Woman, there is a long list of monuments, paintings and art forms which can be proudly associated with the historic age. The autobiographical and biographical works by several painters and authors have served as a mean to survey the historical art across the globe.
Examples: Giorgio Vasari, Johann Joachim Wincklemann and many other authors/artists are teh source of historical knowledge of art forms. These authors mainly dealt with art and architecture.
History: It began as early as in 1st century AD and had continued since then. There are archaeologists who keep surveying and looking for historical art. And there are these writer’s works which help people study and perceive historical art. Even today there are writers who complete the survey and analysis of a location and store it for future generations to study.
Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZ8Wdo4LCHM
Reference: The Essential Gombrich (1996).
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- Pre-historic Art to Modern Art
Definition and Information: Prehistoric art was produced in the pre historical cultures and continued as a media of record-keeping, like cave paintings. The Dancing Girl of Mohenjodaro in Indus Valley Civilisation and the bushman rock painting at Drakensberg tell how art was essentially a part of life in prehistoric times as well. It gradually crossed all the intermediate phases and reached the modern art of 21st century.
Examples: The Dancing Girl from Mohenjodaro, Bronze head from Sanxingdui, the Rape of India by M F Hussain.
History: These art forms date back to thousands of years back. From the cave paintings by primitive man to metal sculpture from earliest civilisations, the prehistoric art contains innumerable specimens to study. Gradually, the art has reached a stage today where innovation is more important than what aesthetic beauty a piece of art gives to its beholder.
Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTiIiCmD_Eo
Reference: Prehistoric Figurines: Representation and Corporeality in the Neolithic (2005).
Role of culture in defining art forms
The culture has a significant role to play in human life (Chase, 2005). When one notices the architecture and sculpture of India, there is a strong influence of Hinduism because it is the major religion of that country. Similarly, the ancient Italian and Roman art forms have a strong influence of Christianity. So, an art form- be it drawing, dance, film, sculpture or street art, there is a strong influence of the local culture on it. There are multifarious cultures in the world. That is why, there is such an amazing diversity in the art forms across the globe. Each has a unique trait and its own essence.
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There are reasons why geography of a location has strong influence on the lifestyle and culture, hence has some effects on the art forms prevailing there. Firstly, the landscapes are different. So is weather! Hence, the visual feed which a person gets in a hilly region is different than what a person perceives on a sea beach. It shapes the visual art forms. It is not that a person in a hilly region cannot draw the landscape painting of a beach. Still, the films, the architecture and the visual communication design would be according to the geographic conditions.
Art is a great gift of creativity and innovation which can be used to express oneself. Be it through drawing on a sheet of paper or erecting a building or making a moving film, these foods for visual or audio-visual pleasure and understanding mean a lot from the aesthetic point of view. So, these art forms must be known and respected. Those who want to pursue art should be encouraged. Each form of art is a vast sphere to learn and understand. And each good artist eventually adds something great to the artistic global heritage.
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- Banister Fletcher, A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method
- Beth Grabowski and Bill Fick. 2009. “Printmaking: A Complete Guide to Materials & Processes.” Prentice Hall.
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- Crombie, A. Science, optics, and music in medieval and early modern thought, p. 205
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- Hagener, Malte, & Toteberg, Michael (2002). Film: An International Bibliography. Stuttgart: Metzler
- Hill, John, & Gibson, Pamela Church (1998). The Oxford Guide to Film Studies. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
- John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture, G. Allen (1880), reprinted Dover, (1989)
- Kenneth Louis Smith (2005). Handbook of visual communication: theory, methods, and media.
- Lewisohn, Cedar (2008) Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution, Tate Gallery, London, England
- Mayer, Ralph. 1991. The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques. Viking Adult; 5th revised edition.
- Mayor, A. Hyatt (1971). Prints & people: a social history of printed pictures .New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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- Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary (New 8th ed.). (2010).Oxford: Oxford University Press
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- Paul, Christiane (2006). Digital Art. Thames & Hudson
- Krebs, R. E. (2004). Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Greenwood Publishing Group.
- Williams, Alan Larson (1992) Republic of images: a history of French filmmaking. Harvard University Press