Artists & Art History · Beginner Art · Drawing · Painting Techniques

4 Famous Artists Worth Knowing About

Many students and learners I teach are new to the world of art and although they may have heard of Van Gogh find the world art a daunting and strange place.  Many like learning about art and artists but don’t know where to start.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know all the famous artists.  I offer a few suggestions on where to start and explain why,  of course these suggestions are just ideas.  You may find other artists’ work more interesting and you should follow your own interests but these artists may give you a starting point.

Matisse (1869 – 1954)

Matisse - Cut out work
Matisse – Cut out work

Matisse is well know for his cut outs of bold colours and simple shapes such as the one on the left. They were created with scissors and paper after the painter fell ill with cancer and could no longer paint.

I think his drawings are more interesting because of the fluid use of line (see below).  It takes confidence to draw with just line and to be so economical with it.  As a beginner you can learn by looking at the simplicity of the drawings Matisse created.

Matisse - Line Drawing
Matisse – Line Drawing

Matisse drew with charcoal on the end of a long stick, this allowed him to create these simple fluid drawings.  Looking at Matisse’s drawings we are reminded to loosen up, many of us are working very small with many overworked lines when we start drawing.


Georges Seurat (1859 – 1891)

Many drawings of famous painters like Seurat are equally impressive
Many drawings of famous painters like Seurat are equally impressive

Seurat was a french impressionist, he is famous for some of his paintings such as Bathers at Asnieres but again I think it is his drawings that most interest me.  Seurat was a master at creating drawings with the use of tones.

He pioneered a technique called Pointillism, see my post What is Pointillism? to find out more about this technique.  Pointillism is a process of using dots to build up colour or tone.

There is no use of line in Seurat’s work, he uses a conte crayon or charcoal/thick pencil on grainy paper to create these very atmospheric drawings.  Seurat teaches us that we don’t have to use the line, we can create a tonal drawings by looking at the tones of light and dark.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)

Van Gogh used many marks to create his drawings
Van Gogh used many marks to create his drawings

Probably one of the most famous artists ever, Van Gogh’s work is great to look at for use of mark-making.  See my post What is Mark-making?

His use of swirls, dots, and dashes are great examples of how we can use all sorts of marks to create art.


Edward Hopper (1882 – 1967)

Edward Hopper 'Nighthawks'
Edward Hopper ‘Nighthawks’

Hopper was an American realist painter known for his oil paintings and prints.  He used often extreme lighting to create mood in his work.  He often observed scenes at night, looking in illuminated shop windows and cafes.

He also created several works using very sharp daylight with long distinct shadows. His work teaches us about the use of contrast, the extremes of dark and light and how they can create more drama in artwork.  As beginners we are often afraid of the extremes of dark and light in painting but it is the extreme dark and light that can give depth to artwork.

Of course there are hundreds of other artists you can look and and learn from but these are some of my favourites.

3 thoughts on “4 Famous Artists Worth Knowing About

  1. Hello Rebecca, It’s Alan from the Wednesday night art group. I have a terrible cold and so cannot attend tonight. I was looking to asking you how I could proceed with art classes. I did enjoy the session we did on portraiture. Kind regards Alan

    Sent from my iPad


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