What is a Painter?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

A painter is an artist or craftsman that creates works made using paint. Some are formally trained through art school or an apprenticeship, while others choose to train themselves. Painters, like any artists, have a chance at becoming famous or wealthy through their work, but most painters do their work out of a love and passion for it, rather than for the possibility of lucrative returns.

Some of the earliest known paintings were made by prehistoric humans at the caves of Lascaux.
Some of the earliest known paintings were made by prehistoric humans at the caves of Lascaux.

As far as experts can discover, painting is one of the world's oldest art forms. Examples of paintings in French cave-dwelling societies date back to around 30,000 BCE. Not much is known about these earliest painters, who used natural pigments to create murals of animals, abstract geometric figures, and human beings. Historians are not even sure what the paintings commemorate, or why they were made. The painters of Lascaux and Chauvet do serve as an ultimate reminder of the vast history and culture of painting, and may even provide inspiration for painters today.

A painter can be an artist who works with watercolors or oils.
A painter can be an artist who works with watercolors or oils.

There are many famous painters throughout history, each beloved by fans for their unique perspective, prodigious skill, or vision. There is not one quality that makes a great painter, because the styles brought to the medium are so diverse. Luckily, the ongoing human fascination with the arts has allowed many famous paintings to be preserved, studied, and used to influence new generations of painters and art lovers alike.

Those who paint often may set up their own studio.
Those who paint often may set up their own studio.

To become a painter, a few basic tools are required. Paint comes in several different varieties, including acrylic, oil, and watercolor versions. When just beginning, it may be important to experiment with different types of paint, brushes and canvas material to determine personal preferences. Even if a new painter has a desire to be mostly self-taught, some experts suggest taking one basic class in each major painting medium in order to better understand the qualities and use of each paint type.

Painting has existed for thousands of years.
Painting has existed for thousands of years.

A painter may like to have a completed pencil or ink sketch of the finished work before actually painting it on a surface, but others prefer to work without a plan. Basic drawing skills may be helpful in creating drafts of a painting, especially if a painter wishes to have an element of realism in the drawing. For a painter that wishes to create at least semi-realistic art, an understanding of light, color, figure drawing, and shading is important. An artist who prefers to create abstract art may choose to eschew all formal ideas of an art education so as to better express his or her personal viewpoint.

For many artists, painting is a passion and hobby rather than a salable skill.
For many artists, painting is a passion and hobby rather than a salable skill.

Painters can choose to sell or display their work in many different ways. Some hold shows or art exhibitions, offering their work for sale. Others reproduce their finished paintings to create other objects, such as greeting cards, stationary, mugs, or even clothing. Some painters become muralists, creating large scale paintings on walls, ceilings, or even skyscrapers. For many artists, painting is a passion and hobby rather than a salable skill; they may choose to keep paintings or give them as gifts rather than try to sell them.

A painter may be contractor or other professional who colors walls and ceilings of a home.
A painter may be contractor or other professional who colors walls and ceilings of a home.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments

robert13

I mostly agree with @Engelbert’s point but if you are set on living off your artwork, I think it can be done. Like most other businesses of the kind, art is not about what you know, but who you know. You need to be able to network with people in the industry and be practicing painting all the while. This is what makes art school beneficial.

Engelbert

@anon123512 - I don’t necessarily think it’s a good idea that you begin painting solely for the reason of profit. I think it’s by and large true that artists only become talented - and therefore can actually make a profit - because they love what they do, so they’re going to do it regardless of whether it earns them money or not. There are probably exceptions, but I think painting is an especially competitive medium to work with. The art industry is tough to break into so if you’re not fully committed to doing the work I think it’d be hard to make a living off of it.

My advice would be first to find a way to enjoy expressing yourself and then think about selling your paintings. It can be frustrating at times, sure, but if you put in the hours you’ll ultimately be rewarded.

anon123512

Unfortunately I am not rich with an unearned income to pay the bills while I sit in a studio all day composing artwork to express my inner feelings.

If I were to put all my time and money into a painting it would have to be to sell it and make a profit. But not just for the enjoyment of expressing myself, unfortunately. I would like to read that poor talented people like myself can earn a living off their artwork?

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