How Does Art Express Emotion?

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Texture in art expresses emotion. A watercolor painting, for example, will usually have a very mellow, placid tone because of the way the paint absorbs into the painting. There are usually no individual brush strokes, but a soft landscape where the edges blend into each other.

A work with sharp, percussive strokes, like a Vincent Van Gogh painting, will portray a different emotional tone altogether. In Van Gogh's art, the brush strokes always give the painting an anxious tone, no matter what the subject matter. Even a starry night can look dizzying and disorienting.


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Modern art often takes the role of texture in expressing emotion even further. Modern artists can use nails and other jagged objects to make a work seem threatening and violent, or use textiles and soft things to give a sense of comfort or warmth.

Color plays a significant role in expressing emotion. Bright colors often express excitement, while duller or darker ones can express relaxation, depression, sleepiness, or other low-key emotions. Contrast can also express emotion. A painting which uses shades of color in the same spectrum will have a different emotional tone than a painting that uses hues from different spectra.

Subject matter expresses emotion in a painting. A painting of a bedroom, a monument, or a seashore will make the viewer think of those places or people and the emotions they evoke. Classic scenes and symbols can also be used to express emotion. For example, the birth of the baby Jesus can be used to express associated with hope, redemption, the innocence of childhood.



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