Choosing A Painting Subject

When one has made a decision to paint as a career, one of the most challenging decisions they need to make after this is choosing the subject matter to paint.

The decision will largely depend on a number of things; what are the mediums used for the piece of art, the level of complexity that the artist can comfortably handle among other things that may matter to the artist.

One subject matter may be appealing to one artist while to another it may not be appealing at all. When one progresses in their skill, they will realize that the subject matters to paint are endless, and they do not need to restrict themselves to only what they are comfortable with handling.

One can virtually paint anything that they wish, however there are some considerations to make before making the big decision. Painting is a way of conveying a message to a target audience, and hence, a painter needs to choose their subject based on what they wish to express.

You may desire to express timeless emotions, a narrative, spirituality or political and social messages. You can choose to do this to express general artistic preferences, or if in doubt, refer to artists that you have admired over time for inspiration and how to compose a painting.

Get the message straight

The point here is to ensure that the message you pass across in the painting is clear for the target audience or to the public. Many paintings lack clarity of what the painter was trying to say. A painting needs to be truthful to itself and not overly colored. The artist must stay true to his intentions of the subject matter. 

To conceptualize the subject matter, the artist may want to begin with a sketch book and create a sketch of their message, slowly yet surely. One may try a number of subjects especially if they are still new to painting, see what they paint well, and slowly polish the skill before settling on the subject that gives them the best results.

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Using a visual approach to choose a subject

If you are painting for artistic reasons only, you need to consider if color tone form and line are the most important features to you, and consequently, choose a subject or scene suited to your art choice.

Using the painters approach

Even when a painter predominantly occupies themselves with painterly matters, they need to maintain the subject matter. They can refer to subjects created by other renowned artists, which will make it easier for them to focus on the properties of their painting.


If you are using symbols in your piece of art, ensure that you have researched well on the symbols their meanings and usage. Symbols usually have different meanings across different cultures, which are the reason why an artist needs to understand what they mean to different people, especially when the artist borrows the idea from another piece of art.

Political and social aspects

When an artist is dealing with political and social issues, they need to understand the subject very well before they can begin painting. The strength of one’s piece of art largely depends on the knowledge they have behind their work. An artist cannot afford to make naïve political or social statements and they should be knowledgeable on the subject matter.

On the other hand, it is important to reflect on people’s political views and avoid overzealous or aggressive political campaigns that may influence the arts viewer negatively. In such genres, humor works best in political and social art.

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