Visual Arts


Visual arts are forms of art that you can see, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography and filmmaking. Design and working with textiles are also often referred to as visual art. Visual arts have changed over the centuries. During the Middle Ages artists created paintings, sculptures or prints and became famous. Today visual arts  applies to many different forms.



Drawing is creating a picture with a variety of tools, in most cases pencils, crayons, pens or markers.  Artists draw on different types of surfaces, like paper or canvas. The first drawings were discovered in caves, that date back about 30,000 years.

Ancient Egyptians drew on papyrus, Greeks and Romans made drawings on other objects, like vases. In the Middle Ages drawings were sketches that were made on parchment. When paper became common in the Renaissance, drawing became an art perfected by Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and others.




Painting is often called the most important form of visual art. It is about putting colours on a canvas or a wall. Painters express their ideas through a mixture of colours and different brush strokes .

Painting is also one of the oldest forms of visual art.  In old caves prehistoric people painted hunting scenes onto walls. Paintings became important in ancient Egypt, where tombs of pharaohs were covered with scenes of everyday Egyptian life.

During the Renaissance, painting a became very important art. Italy became the center of Renaissance painting. The era produced masters like Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian. Italian influence spread to the north of Europe, mostly to Belgium and Holland. The most famous artists of the 17th century famous painters during the Dutch Golden Age were, Rembrandt and Vermeer.

During the last 200 years painters discovered new styles. Impressionism began in France during the end of the 19th century; Picasso created Cubism at the beginning of the 20th century.



Printmaking is art that is made by covering a plate with ink and pressing it on the surface of another object. Today prints are mostly produced on paper today but originally, they were pressed onto cloth or other objects. Plates are often made out of wood or metal.

The first prints were probably made in ancient Mesopotamia. Later on they became popular in ancient Egypt and China .Printmaking spread to Europe towards the end of the Middle Ages.



Photography is making pictures by letting light through the lenses of a camera onto a film. In analogue photography  light was recorded onto a film, which had to be chemically developed. Images could then be printed onto special paper.
Today most photography is digital. Cameras have no film, the images are recorded onto silicon chips.





Filmmakers make moving images that they turn into films. It is a very expensive and complicated form of art, involving many tasks, for example scriptwriting, casting,  and editing film sequences before they can be shown to an audience. A full-length feature film often takes many weeks or months to produce.


Computer art

Today, art is no longer limited to brushes, paint and pencils.  In the last few decades artists have been working with computers to capture images and change them . Computer art consists of a wide variety of different forms, from capturing and changing sound to creating video games.



Sculptures are three-dimensional pieces of art that are created by shaping various kinds of material. Among the most popular are stone, steel, plastic, ceramics and wood. Sculpture is often referred to as plastic arts.

Sculpture goes back to ancient Greece. It has been important in various religions of the world over many centuries. In the Renaissance Michelangelo was one of the masters of the art. His most famous piece of work was David, a marble statue of a naked man.



Related Topics




  • analogue = not digital ; for example an analogue clock uses pointers and not numbers
  • ancient = old
  • apply to = here: to be made up of
  • brush = object that you use for painting
  • brush stroke = a single movement of a pen or a brush when you are painting or drawing
  • canvas = piece of cloth that an artist paints on
  • capture = save
  • casting = choose people who will act in a film
  • century = a hundred years
  • cloth = material used for making clothes
  • common = popular, much used
  • consist = made up of
  • cover = here: put on
  • crayon = stick of coloured wax or chalk that children use to draw
  • create = make
  • date back = go back to
  • decade = ten years
  • develop = here: make into paper prints
  • digital = using a system of information which is stored  in the form of numbers, usually ones and zeros
  • discover = find for the first time
  • Dutch Golden Age =time  in the 17th century, in which  the Netherlands was an important world power and produced many scientists and artists
  • editing = put parts of a film together
  • express = show
  • feature film = full length film that usually has a story and uses professional actors; it is normally shown in a cinema and watched by millions of people
  • image = picture
  • influence = power, control
  • involve = include
  • lens = part of a camera through which light travels before it hits a film
  • limit = exist only in a certain way
  • marble = hard piece of rock that becomes smooth when you polish it; it is used for monuments, floors etc.
  • master = a person who does things very well
  • Mesopotamia = area in western Asia, around the Euphrates and Tigris River;  important civilizations and cultures developed around this area and the first cities were built here
  • mixture = combination
  • originally = at first
  • papyrus = paper made from a plant that grows  in water
  • parchment = material used in the past before paper came up; it was usually made out of the skin of goats or sheep
  • perfect = to make something as good as possible
  • pharaoh = ancient Egyptian king
  • piece = object
  • plate = thin piece of metal
  • prehistoric = the time before anything was written down
  • printmaking = creating pictures by putting ink on a plate and pressing it on paper, cloth etc..
  • record = save
  • refer to = call
  • scriptwriting = write the storyline or plot of a film
  • sculpture = object made out of stone, wood or other materials by an artist
  • sequence = part of a film
  • shape = form
  • silicon chip = piece of metal that is used to save information
  • sketch = simple, quick drawing that does not show much detail
  • spread = move to other places
  • statue = image of a person or animal made out of stone  or metal
  • surface = top part of an object
  • task = job, thing to do
  • textile = all types of cloth that are used for making clothes, tablecloth etc.
  • tomb = place below the ground where a dead person is buried
  • tools = here: objects you use to draw or paint
  • variety = many different kinds of
  • various = different
  • vase = container used to put flowers in