The 5 Main Genres of Visual Art

Throughout history, the main genres of art have been constantly rearranged overtime in terms of valor, importance to the time period and the dominant members of power. I will elaborate on those ideas but first, here are the four main categories of paintings plus one that isn't as easily grasped, yet necessary.

1. Portraiture: Since the Egyptian period, portraits of powerful leaders and their symbols of power have been held in high regards and to this day, still carry a lot of weight. It wasn't until after the industrial revolution that artists could be commissioned or hired by wealthy business owners or the middle class that allowed artists to pursue an independent trade. Before, you couldn't work as an artist unless you were employed by a guild or the wealthy landowners and churches to paint exactly what they wanted. Whether it is the portrait painted of the President or a self portrait of the artist, they carry an emotional connection that mankind has always been partial towards. At times, it feels like looking into a mirror for us.

2. Religion/Historical: This genre has been the forerunner genre of mass impression and scale as they were artworks used to tell stories on church walls or within the king's halls. They were the most expensive commissions of the times and they were, in my belief, the first loose application of art and design as a means of advertising and swaying the viewer. Arguably, this still is the highest respected work but because of the indentation Modernism has had on our culture, the 5th genre I speak of holds our highest regards. This is because of our pursuit of individualism and freedom from oppressive ideas and regimes through projecting and sharing our ideals through art.

3. Landscape: Everyone knows and can connect with landscape paintings. Whether the awe of natural sunset's colors or the familiarity of the depicted landscape, we most easily gravitate towards the horizontal presence of landscape paintings. Although they were used more as settings and backgrounds throughout the middle ages and renaissance, they have always been a technical adventure for an artist. I personally, have discovered the strongest separations from my ego when drawing or painting landscapes outside.

4. Still Life: The classic still life. Roses and daffodils in a vase. 5 oranges and a glass of water. Sometimes symbolic and sometimes banal. In the past, still life paintings were at the very bottom in terms of importance and worth of being painted. In a sense, still life paintings have been used for studying light and color or adding symbolism to a larger message. Many times, woman were not allowed to paint much more than still life paintings and other women and children; An odd happening for a few hundred years. Luckily within recent times, still life painting has more validity and can still show a truly skilled artist by their precise attention to detail and/or loose handling.

5. Progressive concepts/ Abstraction: This realm leans into all aspects in the sense that you can paint an abstract portrait or still life. The point I want to get at is the art for art sake combined or fueled by an individual's attempt to express something about their life. Because of the ease of obtaining art supplies you can buy all needed supplies and create something within hours. This opens play to both children and professionals merely expressing. At times this is the most valuable art: American Abstract Expressionism. While other times it is deemed trivial such as a child's family portrait including the house, a tree, and the sun. This is a more recently developed and accepted sect of art that has allowed individuality and diversity to flourish.

As an artist, when I saw this list, I always wondered, "Now how do I choose which one to work in? Don't I want to create historically based paintings as they are the most respected? Do I try to be the hot new thing because I am required to be different?" But I already knew a few things. One, I have already made artworks of all genres. Who hasn't drawn a self portrait and a landscape? Two, it really doesn't matter. Chuck Close is a renowned portrait painter while Mark Rothko is renowned for large color fields. Two totally different styles yet both accepted because of the pursuits and passionate expressions they both put into their work.

Now that I am this far down my path, I can say I have more series that are portrait and figure based, yet I have multiple abstraction series, abstract expressionist, and a series of large skyscape paintings. The reality is that all of these genres allow us to express something different. They too, have a specific time and place where, if implemented properly, the conceptual impact will be greatly magnified. This means do not limit yourself. Don't tell your self you only create X kind of paintings and Y kind of paintings have no value to your expression. As art imitates life, art has to sway and shift just as rapidly. Enjoy the process and allow it to free you.