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.
Abstract painting uses a visual language of form, colour and line to create a composition that may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Abstract expressionism was an American post-World War II art movement that combined the emotional intensity and self-denial of the German Expressionists with the anti-figurative aesthetic of the European abstract schools—such as Futurism, Bauhaus and Cubism, and the image of being rebellious, anarchic, highly idiosyncratic and, some feel, nihilistic.
Surrealism developed out of the Dada activities of World War I and the most important center of the movement was Paris. From the 1920s onward, the movement spread around the globe, eventually affecting the visual arts, literature, film and music of many countries and languages, as well as political thought and practice, philosophy and social theory.
Painters must have manual dexterity as well as steady nerves to work in high places. They should not be allergic to or bothered by paint fumes, toxic materials and spray dust. They should have a certain artistic sense in order to do a first-class job. Good eyesight and sense of color is especially important to properly mix paint to specific colors.
Modern artists have extended the practice of painting considerably to include, as one example, collage, which began with Cubism and is not painting in the strict sense. Some modern painters incorporate different materials such as sand, cement, straw or wood for their texture. Examples of this are the works of Jean Dubuffet and Anselm Kiefer. There is a growing community of artists who use computers to "paint" color onto a digital "canvas" using programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, and many others. These images can be printed onto traditional canvas if required.