This is a simplistic and generalized explanation of the types and styles you might be interested in learning, to assist you in understanding differences and to aid you in making decisions about what to learn. I also hope that this will help you to understand why you want to begin with easier subject matter and styles until you master techniques, composition and value structure.
I often get people who want to create abstracts because ‘they’re easier’. Experienced painters seem to create loose and spontaneously, but that carefree look comes from years of practice, failures and eventually, confidence.
Abstracts just look easier. Good abstracts are based on a thorough knowledge of composition, color theory and value studies. You get all this information and instruction in my classes, but you will need to give yourself time to learn it all. I usually recommend students begin with learning a chosen medium (oils, watercolors, etc) and then move into creating abstract pieces.
Landscape, People, Animals… oh my!
I recommend beginners start with simple landscapes or a still life with no man made objects or animals in them. Why? Unless a student has had anatomy (human and or animal), then trying to paint figures, portraits or animals and make them look correct is extremely HARD. You honestly need to know how the bones fit together, how the muscles attach and work underneath all that skin, hair or fur. Otherwise you end up with a very skewed looking creation.
Man made objects (buildings, boxes, watches and wheels – you name it) all require a good basic understanding of perspective. If you’re a beginner learning to paint, I suggest starting off with non-man made objects so you’re not having to struggle with understanding perspective at the same time you’re learning how to mix colors, see value structure and apply paint. Did you know that there are literally hundreds of ways to apply paint with a brush alone?
Many people have difficulty understanding the differences between abstract art and non-objective art. Surrealism, minimalism, cubism and fauvism are all forms of abstract art. Abstractions goal is to take subjects from reality and present them as an interpretation while retaining an echo of the initial idea to create a sense of mood or emotion.
Representational Art includes photorealism which aims to reproduce the image as realistically as possible with meticulously detail. Realism, impressionism, idealism and expressionism can fall under the category of representational art as they all present the viewer with recognizable subject matter that stays relatively the same. Some representational work is more realistic and some flirts with abstraction.