Why Do Artists Paint? Find Out Here

Artists have been inspired to paint since the dawn of humanity. Early humans used cave walls to paint images of war, family, and love.

Later on, art movements such as the early renaissance, the golden age, and impressionism became labeled and well-known styles attached to respective cultures, countries, and time periods. So, why have artists from the beginning of time chosen to paint? 

Artists paint to express messages that range from emotional to political and beyond. Every artist has their own reason for painting, but historically, paintings have been created to elicit a reaction in a viewer. 

In this article, the reasoning behind why artists paint will be discussed. You will find information on why artists choose paint instead of other mediums and some of the messages behind famous paintings. 

What Are the Most Common Reasons Artists Paint?

Suppose you went and visited a college painting class. You ask all 30 students why they’ve chosen to take a painting class. You’ll likely get 30 different and unique answers to your question. The reason is simple: art is subjective.

Since the beginning of time, it has been a medium used by so many to connect, express, and feel. 

The most common reasons artists paint include:

  • Expression – To express emotion or opinions that they are unable to express verbally 
  • Communication – To communicate a message to someone close to them 
  • Stress relief – To reduce stress in their day-to-day lives 
  • To share beauty – To make beautiful works of art that can be viewed by them or someone else 
  • Inspire discussion – To open up a discussion in a community, society, or within a close group 
  • Enjoyment – Simply because they enjoy painting 

These are reasons artists themselves give for why they paint. No matter what the reason, there’s no wrong answer. The beauty of art for many people is that it can be used in so many different ways.

Humans are complex and have always partaken in art for a variety of reasons. It’s no different in the medium of painting. 

Why Was Painting as a Form of Art Invented? 

To look at where painting came from, we have to look at the history. According to A Brief History of Cave Paintings, scientists believe that the first paintings ever created were painted for a reason. 

Painting as an art form began with cave people. Reasons early humans painted include: 

  • Beauty. They thought it was beautiful and wanted to paint the things they most often saw 
  • Storytelling. They wanted to tell stories through their art
  • Spirituality. They wanted to communicate with their spiritual deities through art 
  • History. They wanted to keep a history of their experiences through art 

We’ll never truly know why cavemen painted, but it’s possible that any of these reasons could be why. It’s not too far off from why people paint today. 

Reasons to Paint Evolved as Humans Evolved

Later in history, when oil painting was invented, people started to paint to keep historical records of famous and royal people. 

However, this wasn’t the only case. One of the most famous painters, van Gogh, painted to express his inner turmoil and love of art.

While he was alive, no one appreciated his art, and many did not know about it. When he died, his art became some of the most famous of all time. 

Why Artists Choose Paint Over Other Mediums 

So, why would an artist choose to paint? Why not use colored pencils or pens or some other media? 

Artists choose to paint over other media due to personal preference. Sometimes, using paint will express the message of their work better than another material might. 

Below are some examples where an artist might find it more suitable to use paint than another medium. 

  • Subject choice.  An artist chooses to paint a forest scene and needs to use paint to texturize the background and layer it to appear 3D. 
  • Experience level. An artist is not experienced with any other media and has spent a lot of their time painting and would prefer to stick with paint. 
  • Flexibility. Due to the variety of paint types, textures and drying times, artists can have more flexibility when creating. 

These are just a couple of scenarios in which an artist might choose to paint. Some artists believe that sculpting is the best form of media for them. It’s subjective to the person creating, and only they can decide what they want to use. 

Common Messages Behind Paintings 

Understanding why artists choose to express themselves through painting can be helpful to understand the common messages behind artworks. 

Here are some famous paintings and the reasons they were painted. 

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh 

According to the brief history we have of van Gogh, historians know that he painted Starry Night while at an asylum when he was recovering from an episode of mania. It is said that he created this painting to capture the view outside his asylum room’s window. 

Mona Lisa 

Mona Lisa was a painting done by Leonardo da Vinci. This is one of the most famous paintings of all time, and it was said to have been painted to celebrate the birth of model Lisa del Giocondo’s second son. The painting was put up in her home.

The Kiss by Klimt 

The Kiss was a painting more controversial for its time. The artist, Gustav Klimt, refused to remove anything sexual or romantic from his work. He painted The Kiss as an act of rebellion and to express the love between two people through physical touch. 


Overall, painting has always been part of humanity. Artists have existed since the very beginning of recorded human history and have painted for many reasons.

Whether an artist paints to express love, act out of rebellion, or put up a pretty picture in their home, painting has the same effect. 

No matter how technologically advanced the creative arts get, painting will most likely always remain. For some, it’s simply the best form of art to partake in. For others, it’s a classic style that will live on for a lifetime. 

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