Russian Language Blog

How to be an artist in Russian Posted by on Oct 2, 2014 in Russian for beginners

We have already talked about photography, so I thought it may be nice to learn to talk about other visual arts. I am not a very skilled or advanced artist, so I will concentrate on the basics. Feel free to ask me or your fellow readers for anything I don’t mention in this post!


First, Russian does not lexically distinguish between drawing and painting. Both are known as рисование. If you would like to specify the exact kind, you need to give more information about the medium/technique. The art itself is called живопись. Please mind that the school subject will most likely be called рисование or ИЗО (изобразительное искусство) as opposed to искусство (literally, “art”). Classes about art history and appreciation will, however, have the word искусство in their names.

Specific techniques include

рисовать маслом – to paint (with oil paint)

рисовать карандашом – to sketch/draw (with a pencil)

As you noticed, the material/medium is in the instrumental case. I will be listing more media below.

делать зарисовки – to sketch

делать наброски/эскизы – to sketch a study


To make a drawing or painting you will need some of the following:

холст – canvas

мольберт – easel

кисти – paint brushes

краски – paint

гуашь, рисовать гуашьюgouache; this material is very popular in Russian school art classes.

акварельные краски – watercolor paint

акварель can also refer to a watercolor painting

масло – oil paint

мелки – chalk


Many genres will be familiar from my post on photography.

пейзаж – landscape

портрет – portrait

натюрморт – still life

абстрактная живопись – abstract painting

The Practice of Art

An artist is referred to as художник. The Russian word артист usually refers to performers. Note the conjugation of рисовать – художник рисует (the -ова- suffix disappears).

Художники can show their paintings на выставке (at an exhibition). Some музеи (museums) and галереи (galleries) have постоянные экспозиции (permanent collections). Famous old paintings (картины) can sell for a lot of money на аукционе (at an auction). Коллекционеры искусства (art collectors) are ready to pay a very high price.

You may want to check out my post about colors in order to be able to describe specific paintings.

А вы рисуете? Кто ваш любимый художник?


Tags: ,
Keep learning Russian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.


  1. Gordon Trone:

    Thank you Maria for this information today. I am an artist, trying to learn Russian, and I found your article very interesting. I appreciate all of your effort in writing these articles that I have read about Russian language and life.

    Best wishes,


    • Maria:

      @Gordon Trone Gordon,

      Thank you for your comment! I’m glad when readers can relate to the posts and use them to talk about their own life.

      Hope to see you here again.

  2. samonen:

    Рисовать is semantically odd enough for non-Russians as it means both “to draw” and “to paint” depending on the medium of artistic expression, but I think something even odder is missing in this post: писать. Not only writers пишут in Russian. Sure enough, it appears in the noun живоПИСЬ, but the most Russian of art forms, painting icons, is called “писать иконы”, is it not?

    • Maria:

      @samonen That’s a great addition! You are right; people who are serious about their artistic work would probably say “писать картину” as opposed to “рисовать.”

  3. Amber:

    Thank you so much! I am an oil painter and am grateful for the vocabulary to talk about it. Would you consider writing a post on the Repin Academy/Russian art system or Russian painters?

    • Maria:

      @Amber Thank you, Amber! Glad to hear this post was useful. What would you like to see covered — the educational institution, art education/degrees in general, renowned painters from the past, or any of the above? I’m definitely not a painter (maybe sometimes a mediocre pencil artist), but I can at least research and share some common knowledge on these topics.