The 10 Essential Types of Art to Know
Art can be broken down into 10 fundamental categories. Understanding these essential types of art is vital for artists and art lovers alike.
We all have a favorite piece of art, even if it's something we don’t necessarily immediately think of as art.
Whether it’s a favorite movie, song, or painting you just can’t stop thinking about, art is a crucial part of our everyday life. For centuries, humans have communicated and entertained using art. Art corresponds with moments in history and is the perfect measure of time and cultural change.
There’s a wide variety of art types. In this article, we’ll talk about the main types of art and discuss what art is. It’s a meaty topic that’s sure to lead to some thought-provoking questions.
So let’s get into it by talking about a controversial question: what is considered art?
What is Art?
What is art? That’s a great question, and it's one that art critics and intellectuals have been asking for centuries.
Art is the conscious use of skill and creative imagination, especially in the production of aesthetic objects - Merriam-Webster's Dictionary
Certainly, you would consider famous artist’s work to be art, whether it’s Monet’s watercolor paintings, a movie by Jean-Luc Godard, or Michelangelo’s statue of David.
But that begs the question, where do we draw the line on what is and is not considered art?
Are comic books art? What about street graffiti? A piece of junk you find on the street and hang on your wall?
One controversial and thought-provoking piece of art is The Fountain by Marcel Duchamp. Widely acknowledged as a vital piece of 20th-century art, it scandalized critics when it was first exhibited in 1917.
The Fountain is an example of ‘found art’ or ‘ready-made’ art, a form of art where artists take seemingly meaningless objects and use them to make an artistic statement.
This urinal with a name scribbled on it changed the way many people think of art. At the time, many critics said that this was just a form of mischief exhibited as art.
So, is The Fountain art? We’ll let you decide that for yourself, but it certainly sparked a lot of interesting questions within the art world.
This kind of out-of-the-box thinking by Duchamp inspired artists like Andy Warhol and Tracey Emin to create their own controversial art pieces.
There are 10 major types of art that we will cover in this piece. Let’s get into it.
Types of Art
The majority of “art,” depending on how you define it, can be broadly sorted into these 10 categories: painting, graphic design, illustration, sculpture, literature, architecture, film, music, theater, and fashion.
Familiarizing yourself with these categories and how they are represented in contemporary and historical art is a great way to better understand art and artists.
There are, of course, other ways you can express yourself artistically. Sewing, pottery, and even juggling are just a few examples of more obscure art forms that didn’t make our list.
These 10 types of art are the fundamentals, both old and new, which have shaped art history and our shared culture.
From cave painting to cathedrals, painting is the foundation of what many people consider to be art.
A painting is a work of art constructed using pigments to create a design on a canvas or paper. Watercolors, acrylics, and pastels are all different mediums that can be used to create a painting.
Painting is the type of art that commonly fills museums, art galleries, and our homes. It emerged in prehistoric times when nomadic people (often known as cavemen) made illustrations on cave walls.
The oldest paintings we know of were created by humans who lived over 42,000 years ago in Spain.
Painting evolved drastically from the earliest cave paintings and continues to evolve today. Some famous painters you’ve almost certainly heard of are Pablo Picasso, Van Gogh, and Claude Monet.
Arguably one of the Important moments in the recent history of painting is the Renaissance. The Renaissance was a period of time ranging from the 14th century until the 17th century in European culture, where prolific artists flourished.
Since then, there have been many important art movements, including Impressionism, Pop Art, and Surrealism, to name just a few.
In the 21st century, we are seeing a significant emergence of Dada Art, a movement with outspoken political statements and a refusal to accept the status quo.
This conjunction of art and technology has become increasingly popular with the rise of the digital era. Graphic design is one of the newest types of art on this list.
Graphic design is a form of digital art that uses visual content to create designs. Graphic designers typically use a mix of images and typography to execute their work and communicate a message or story.
Often, graphic design is used to create advertisements. Because of this, examples of graphic designs are everywhere, websites, posters, and digital ads. Graphic design draws inspiration from many art movements, including Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, and Art Deco.
The digital age propelled graphic design into popularity. With the creation of Photoshop in the 1990s, graphic design took off and became the hugely popular art form that it is today. Some famous graphic designers include Chip Kidd, Rob Janoff, and Carolyn Davidson.
Here at Vectornator, we’re obviously partial to this art form, but it is undeniably popular and culturally significant.
Just consider political campaigns and the impact graphic design can have on the political climate with buttons, signs, and posters.
This contemporary art style is often seen in books, video games, and digital designs.
Traditionally speaking, an illustration is an interpretation of a text in a visual format. Digital illustration is the depiction of a piece of art in a graphical form.
Illustration is sometimes conflated with graphic design, but there is a distinction between the two. Let’s break it down.
- Graphic design focuses on digital storytelling
- Illustration centers around the creative interpretation of a text
Famous illustrators include Maurice Sendak, Beatrix Potter, and Hayao Miyazaki.
Illustration art started primarily as drawings in children’s books or guidebooks. This art style has heavily evolved and grown in popularity with the rise of technology.
With the growing popularity of video games, illustration has become a staple of pop culture and entertainment.
This classical art form dates back to before the first cave painting and is still popular today.
Sculpture is the creation of two or three-dimensional forms by carving into a material.
The first known sculpture was discovered in Germany and dated back to the Paleolithic period around 35,000 BC. Historically famous sculptures include Michelangelo, Auguste Rodin, and more recently, Damián Ortega.
Greek sculpture is perhaps the most recognizable era of sculpture. During the 4th and 5th centuries, known as the Early Classical period, artists started to sculpt human figures that were incredibly realistic and and evocative.
Sculpture as an artistic movement has continued to be popular and has evolved over time.
Jeff Koons is a contemporary sculpture artist who has crafted some larger-than-life sculptures.
He is widely known for his iconic sculptures, Rabbit and Balloon Dogs. Standing at 12 feet tall, these sculptures are certainly hard to miss.
Literature is the art of sharing stories using the written word. It spans languages, continents, and eras and is arguably one of the oldest types of art on this list.
Books, poems, magazines, and any digital materials created with the written word are considered literature.
Like painting and sculpture, literature has gone through different periods. There are four generally accepted literary movements: Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism.
Some famous authors you were likely forced to read in English class include Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Emily Dickinson.
Literature is closely related to theater, another fundamental type of art on our list. Without the written word, theater as we know it today wouldn’t exist.
Architecture is all around us. It’s an undervalued form of art that you pass each day without considering.
Architecture is defined as the art of designing and constructing buildings. But it doesn’t just cover the remarkable wonders of architecture.
Of course, when you think of architecture, you think of the Eiffel Tower, the Roman Colosseum, and the Taj Mahal.
These buildings are feats of architectural brilliance. But don’t forget about the unique buildings in your neighborhood: the churches, old buildings, and modern skyscrapers.
Even the building you’re reading this article in right now can be considered a piece of art.
There are eight broadly accepted architectural styles:
- Greek and Roman Classical Architecture
- Gothic Architecture
- Neoclassical Architecture
- Victorian Architecture
- Modern Architecture
- Post-Modern Architecture
- Neofuturist Architecture
Architecture is a functional practice but also an aesthetic one. Some famous architects include Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, and Zaha Hadid.
Of course, some homes or buildings are built primarily for function, but the elements of design are still prevalent in the building’s aesthetic appearance.
This form of expression is perhaps the art form we actively consume the most in the modern world. It is also one of the more recent forms of art on this list.
Film, a style of art more commonly known as movies, motion pictures, or cinema, are moving pictures displayed on a screen that relay a story.
Motion pictures were first created about a century ago and have taken the world by storm since then. The movie industry has grown into a wildly complex production-based art form. Creating a movie today requires special effects, make-up teams, directors, stunt doubles, and more. Some famous filmmakers include Jean-Luc Goddard, Gregg Toland, and Christopher Nolan.
Movies have evolved from black and white silent films to hyper-realistic works of art, reality television, and even Tik-Toks.
Yes, that’s right. The art of film doesn’t just refer to the 3-hour long, complex movies that you see in the theater. Short films, sketches, and YouTube videos are also included. Take this short film, for example. While it is only 12 minutes long, it is an excellent example of the creative feats that filmmakers can make in a short time.
Music is defined as instrumental and vocal sounds joined together to create a harmonious sound.
Music has strong associations with literature and theater. It’s hard to date the exact emergence of music, but there is evidence that ancient people created music with their vocals and man-made instruments. Some famous musicians include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Elvis Presley, and Madonna.
From Mozart’s symphonies to Tupac’s raps, music is an art form that is pleasing to the ear and the soul.
In fact, studies have shown that listening to and singing a song can dramatically change and improve your mood.
Popular genres in the 21st century include pop music, indie, techno, rap, country, punk, folk, and many more.
People have enjoyed the theater for centuries. Though the way we consume theater productions has changed, the draw to live productions and the drama of the stage have not faded.
Theater is defined as the act of acting in, directing, or writing plays. The art of theater combines acting, movement, and often singing.
The history of theater can be traced back to 5th-century Ancient Greece.
Perhaps the most famous playwright and author of all time, William Shakespeare, lived from 1564-1616 and created upwards of 38 plays in his lifetime. Other famous playwrights include Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many theaters and acting groups were forced to shut down because of social distancing restrictions. Many famous plays on Broadway migrated to streaming channels, and theaters had to rethink how to bring their art to people.
This resulted in some seriously cool innovations in theater, including live streaming shows, outdoor performances, and an increase in streaming shows.
Fashion is a form of self-expression and art that involves styling clothing to make a statement.
Fashion is defined as clothing, accessories, makeup, or hairstyles that are trending or popular in the mainstream and the fashion industry.
It’s hard to deny fashion is an art form when you see the intricate, beautiful designs that populate the runways of prominent designers.
Many pieces are barely functional to wear off the runway and are mostly seen as an artistic statement. Famous fashion designers include Coco Chanel, Giorgio Armani, and Calvin Klein.
Street fashion has become a popular trend in recent years. Instagram and other social media platforms are filled with examples of gorgeous clothing combinations that are nothing short of art.
Art has evolved and changed over the years, but the way that it creates connections and tells culturally relevant stories will never fade.
Hopefully, this article has given you a fresh perspective on what art is and what it can be.
Whatever your creative outlet is, we hope you feel inspired to create something great after reading this.
As always, we love to see the stuff you guys create. Create something beautiful using Vectornator, post a picture of your art on social media using #vectornator, and we might share it with the rest of the community!
July 14, 2021