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A brief description of the arts

“What is art?” Different people can come up with different answers to this question, and they can all be correct.

This reflects the dilemma that has hounded the concept of art from the first time man attempted to define it.As society evolves art does, too; as such, to attempt to place boundaries around art is as futile an exercise as to define the former, since both share the characteristic of perpetual change.

With this fact in mind, I have decided to limit the references used in this paper to sources that are not only up-to-date but likewise education-related.  Solely for the purposes of coherence and clarity, I have chosen to adopt the standards set by the revised North Carolina Arts Education Standard Course of Study (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/curriculum/artsed/scos/artsed.pdf) and the Arts Education Mandate of the Washington OSPI [Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction] which provided a chart of the elements and principles of organization of the subjects to be discussed.

It is my belief that an exposition of the subjects of painting, dance, theater, and music done along the lines of education is more relevant than any discussion done in another perspective.

I will begin my discussion with the subject of painting.Painting is a branch of the visual arts – this alone sets it apart from the other three subjects, which are all branches of the performing arts.

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The Encarta encyclopedic entry (2005 edition) for painting defines it as an art wherein “color, derived from any of numerous organic or synthetic substances, is applied to various surfaces to create a representational or abstract picture or design”.

There are quite a number of techniques in painting that correspond to the medium used by the artist, the most popular of which are as follows: oil, fresco, tempera, enamel, encaustic, gouache, grisaille, watercolor, and acrylic.

There is another way of classifying painting styles, and that is through the subject (what is depicted) of the work. Mural paintings, still life paintings, icon paintings, and miniature paintings are some of the categories under which a work may be classified. In this discussion it is important to cover drawing – another branch or form of visual art – briefly, since painting employs the basic principles in drawing.

To quote the entry for “drawing” in the Encarta encyclopedia: “In drawing from any object or model, the first step is to observe and sketch in the dominant structural lines, contours, and masses. The more important details are added and corrected, and the minor details are left to the last.” This approach is likewise often used by painters.

As for the elements in painting, I have taken the liberty of taking on the elements prescribed by the Arts Education Mandate of the Washington OSPI, which are as follows: (1) color, (2) form, (3) line, (4) shape, (5) space, (6) texture, and (7) value/shading. These elements – with the exception of space – are unique to the art of painting as far as the other subjects of this paper are concerned because simplistically speaking, the said elements are applicable only to the visual, and not the performing arts.

Music concerns the arrangement of sounds artistically over a period of time. As in painting, the field of techniques (or means of expression) for this particular art form is vast. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the world is divided into musical cultures, with each culture carrying a distinct sound and a distinct method of producing music.

Aside from that, with the steady progress of technology came the intermarriage of cultures, which in turn paved the way for an expansion in the methods by which a person can express himself musically.

I found more than twenty types of musical compositions, but for the sake of brevity let me just mention a few: aria, ballad, chant, hymn, sonata, symphony, and the tone poem.  Although there is an overwhelming number of techniques of execution in music, all these share the same elements: (1) beat / rhythm, (2) expression [dynamics, style, tempo, phrasing], (3) form, (4) harmony, (5) melody, (6) notation, (7) pitch, (8) texture, (9) timbre / tone color.

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