As both an ancient and contemporary art medium, wood has been used to create sculpture, crafts, and functional objects of art. An extensive array of wood types has been used in the creation of artistic objects. Wood finishes have ranged from natural to painted or stained. Due to the organic nature of wood, many of the earliest wood objects have deteriorated due to time; however, wood has been used by people to create artistically rendered objects prior to recorded history. Even today, its artistic uses are extensive.
As the planet contains more than a trillion tons of wood, it remains an easy source material for artists and artisans. Wood has historically been an essential material for humans who used it to build some of the world’s first structures and shelters. Not surprisingly, wood continues to be a vital element of architecture. It is used to create functional objects as well as ornamental items. Until the end of the nineteenth century, wood was also the structural component of boats and ships. Wood has been used to create furniture since antiquity and many of the finest pieces from various historic eras are housed and displayed in world museums and galleries.
While extremely useful, wood also poses many challenges for artists and crafters. Wood must be treated or it is subject to dry rot, water rot, and insect damage. Training is often required in the areas of carpentry and wood-working to create masterful works of wood-based art. Wood carvers also use special techniques and tools to achieve desired outcomes. Instrument makers employed great technical skill to fashion musical instruments such as violins, cellos, and guitars; the most revered are regarded as priceless works. Decoratively speaking, wood burning and marquetry also employ wood as the primary feature of compositions.
Both hardwoods and softwoods are used as art mediums. Carpentry, woodworking, woodcuts, parquetry, wood engraving, and woodturning employ wood as their primary medium. Wood is used in the creation of furniture, decorative objects (i.e. frames, jewel boxes, ornaments, etc…), sculpture, and more. Wood has also been used as an important medium in the fine arts as well as folk art. Many early masters painted their great works on wood. Consequently, many artisans who work in art restoration have trained to become proficient in techniques associated with wood and period restorations. Artisans and designers that work with wood rely on their skills to effectively work with a chosen type of wood. Wood may be chosen based on its strength, durability, grain, and color as well as its specific characteristics as they relate to a given art form.