Painting is a mode of creative expression, and can be done in numerous forms. Drawing, gesture (as in gestural painting), composition, narration (as in narrative art), or abstraction (as in abstract art), among other aesthetic modes, may serve to manifest the expressive and conceptual intention of the practitioner. Paintings can be naturalistic and representational (as in a still life or landscape painting), photographic, abstract, narrative, symbolistic (as in Symbolist art), emotive (as in Expressionism), or political in nature (as in Artivism).
A portion of the history of painting in both Eastern and Western art is dominated by spiritual motifs and ideas. Examples of this kind of painting range from artwork depicting mythological figures on pottery, to Biblical scenes rendered on the interior walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, to scenes from the life of Buddha or other images of Eastern religious origin.
In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. The support for paintings includes such surfaces as walls, paper, canvas, wood, glass, lacquer, clay, leaf, copper and concrete, and the painting may incorporate multiple other materials including sand, clay, paper, plaster, gold leaf, as well as objects. The term painting is also used outside art as a common trade among craftsmen and builders.
Color and tone are the essence of painting 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.
Moreover, the use of language is only an abstraction for a color equivalent. The word "red", for example, can cover a wide range of variations from the pure red of the visible spectrum of light. There is not a formalized register of different colors in the way that there is agreement on different notes in music, such as F or C♯. For a painter, color is not simply divided into basic (primary) and derived (complementary or mixed) colors (like red, blue, green, brown, etc.).