Portrait paintings are representations of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person. The art of the portrait flourished in Ancient Greek and especially Roman sculpture, where sitters demanded individualized and realistic portraits, even unflattering ones. One of the best-known portraits in the Western world is Leonardo da Vinci's painting titled Mona Lisa, which is thought to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo.
A still life is a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects—which may be either natural (food, flowers, plants, rocks, or shells) or man-made (drinking glasses, books, vases, jewelry, coins, pipes, and so on). With origins in the Middle Ages and Ancient Greek/Roman art, still life paintings give the artist more leeway in the arrangement of design elements within a composition than do paintings of other types of subjects such as landscape or portraiture. Still life paintings, particularly before 1700, often contained religious and allegorical symbolism relating to the objects depicted. Some modern still life breaks the two-dimensional barrier and employs three-dimensional mixed media, and uses found objects, photography, computer graphics, as well as video and sound.
As with many construction jobs, those who successfully complete apprenticeships best-position themselves for successful painting careers. For painters, apprenticeships can last up to four years. Apprentices must have a high school diploma or its equivalent before they are eligible to complete the requisite 144 hours of technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid, on-the-job training. Common lessons include aesthetics, such as how to adequately match colors, as well as using and caring for painting tools and equipment, safety practices, application techniques and wood finishing. Prospective painters may also choose to attend two-year technical schools that offer courses linked to union and contractor organization apprenticeships. Credits gained from apprenticeships typically count toward an associate degree.
Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The liquid/paste is then applied to a surface—usually prepared wood, though canvas and other materials are often used. The simplest encaustic mixture can be made from adding pigments to beeswax, but there are several other recipes that can be used—some containing other types of waxes, damar resin, linseed oil, or other ingredients. Pure, powdered pigments can be purchased and used, though some mixtures use oil paints or other forms of pigment. Metal tools and special brushes can be used to shape the paint before it cools, or heated metal tools can be used to manipulate the wax once it has cooled onto the surface. Other materials can be encased or collaged into the surface, or layered, using the encaustic medium to adhere it to the surface.
Color, made up of hue, saturation, and value, dispersed over a surface is the essence of painting, just as pitch and rhythm are the essence of music. Color is highly subjective, but has observable psychological effects, although these can differ from one culture to the next. Black is associated with mourning in the West, but in the East, white is. Some painters, theoreticians, writers and scientists, including Goethe, Kandinsky, and Newton, have written their own color theory.