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The Visual Arts

Updated on January 9, 2014

Defining the Visual Arts

Imagining a world without art is just about impossible. The general public relies on and incorporates visual arts into their everyday lives more often than one would notice on a daily basis. People often forget that the visual arts is not only paintings and sculptures one would find at the local museum. There is so much more to the visual arts than people realize. “The visual arts can help us give meaning to what seems meaningless and help us recapture feelings and experiences that we have once had or would like to have again” (Jewell, 2002, Chapter 10, Visual Arts—Feast For the Eyes).

According to (2013), the visual arts are various forms of art perceived mainly by sight. The different types of visual arts are endless. A few examples include painting, sculpture, drawing, carving, weaving, electronically or technologically influenced art, interior design, graphic design, fashion design, video, filmmaking, and photography (Wikipedia, 2013). Artists create visual works of art through this plethora of different forms. There are also many different types of artists. Each artist is different in their own way. Art can be anything, but not just anyone can create art.

According to Sayre (2010), “All people are creative, but not all people possess the energy, ingenuity, and courage of conviction that are required to make art” (Chapter 2, Developing Visual Literacy). Artists tend to view the world differently from others. People usually trust in the saying, “Seeing is believing.” Artists attempt to broaden their audience’s minds. They try to get the audience to view the world through the same looking glass as an artist. Sayre (2010) categorizes artists in four separate groups: artists that help their audience view the world differently; artists that feel the need to visually preserve people, places, and events of their present day lives; artists that make functional objects and buildings visually appealing as well as enhance the meaning of the object; and artists that attempt to give the hidden or universal meanings some type of form (Chapter 1, A World of Art).

This website has a great collection of green artwork.  It's worth taking a look over, in my opinion.
This website has a great collection of green artwork. It's worth taking a look over, in my opinion. | Source

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Forms of Expression

Every artist’s creation is different because his or her inspiration derives from personal and individual expression, intuition, and emotion. Everyone expresses his or her emotions in different ways. “Remember that art is a language all of its own that is different from our normal spoken language” (Jewell, 2002, Chapter 10, Visual Arts—Feast For the Eyes). Whether it be written, drawn, painted, sung, or even sculpted, artists convey their passions and excitement through their own means in order to fully express themselves as an individual in this vast world of art. According Jewell (2002), “Through paintings, drawings, and other visual arts, we can discover worlds of experience that are all around us--or inside of us--that cannot be described quickly or easily with mere words (Chapter 10, Visual Arts—Feast For the Eyes).

The numerous forms of visual arts are not the only forms of expression. Different forms of art are an artist’s personal expression of reality—of what they see in front of them. There are many different ways to express artistic ideals. “In a broader sense, art refers to any useful activity that is performed skillfully not only in terms of technique but also in terms of aesthetic expression” (“Artistic expression,” 2013). A few examples of artistic expression other than the visual arts include music, dance, and poetry. These examples are not considered visual arts because of the way the expression is conveyed. According to “Artistic expression” (2013), visual arts, such as painting and drawing, are categorized as a visual art purely due to the type of visual aspect and nature of the piece of work.


Values and Eras in Visual Arts

There are many different influences for the creation of any type of visual art. There are three values that serve somewhat as subcategories in order to differentiate between different works of art: historical values, social values, and aesthetic values. The three values when associated with different eras in time demonstrate an enormous influence within the art community. With its many different forms, modern art has been influenced by these values.

According to Wikipedia (2013), “Aesthetics (also spelled æsthetics) is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of art, beauty, and taste, with the creation and appreciation of beauty” (para. 1). Artists use aesthetics to tap into the audience’s emotional values. Different cultures aesthetically create their work of art through their cultural values, which derives from their historical values or social values.

When artists implement social values into their pieces, the piece conveys emotions directly motivated by society and social interactions. According to Stanford University (2012), “Definitions of art, consequently, spuriously confer ontological dignity and respectability on social phenomena that probably in fact call more properly for rigorous social criticism and change” (Traditional Definitions). Art impacts society in a big way by being everywhere. Modern day art is on the computer, the television, and the streets. The Sweet Briar College (2010) website sheds light on the fact that “graphic design is just as much influenced by social and cultural factors as fine art, but perhaps in a more noticeable way” (para. 21). Other than technology, the arts’ enormous influence has rarely changed in comparison to the past.

Historical values can be defined and comparable to cultural values. Many works of art are influenced by culture, not necessarily the artist’s direct culture. The artist could pay tribute or respect to another culture. According to Sweet Briar College (2010), “Visual Culture is defined within the study of art history, as a focus on cultural meaning of a work of art, rather than on its aesthetic value” (para. 3). When a piece surrounds the significance of the aesthetic value, the artist portrays the philosophical beauty or the emotional connection to the piece. When a piece attempts to convey the historical value, the artist portrays the culture or history of a specific era. There is a large cultural influence involved with visual art.

This is one of many photos of a Visual Arts Photography showcase of student work.  Click the link to enjoy a few more.
This is one of many photos of a Visual Arts Photography showcase of student work. Click the link to enjoy a few more. | Source

Cultural Influence

Art, in whichever form or type, has an overwhelming influence over people in general. Prather (2013), “Art can serve as inspiration to awaken the imagination, talent and skill hiding in someone. It can unlock your fears and insecurities about creating and push you toward picking up a paintbrush or a camera” (To Become Artists and Create Art). Most of the inspiration Prather mentions derives from many different cultures. Even Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon painting was influenced by an art showing Picasso attended with African American tribal masks (Sayre, 2010, Chapter 1, A World of Art). Present day art, or modern art, continues to be influenced by the various cultures the melting pot named America embeds within its people.



  • Artistic expression. (2013). In The free dictionary. Retrieved from
  • Jewell, R. (2002). Experiencing the humanities. Retrieved from
  • Prather, M. (2013). How does art influence people?. Retrieved from
  • Sayre, H.M. (2010). A world of art (6th ed.). Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection.
  • Stanford University. (2012). The Definition of Art. Retrieved from
  • Sweet Briar College. (2010). Art and Visual Culture. Retrieved from
  • Visual arts. (2013). In Retrieved from
  • Wikipedia. (2013). Aesthetics. Retrieved from
  • Wikipedia. (2013). Visual arts. Retrieved from

© 2014 Grace Peterson


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