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Painting Technique Terms


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Gilding: water gilding
water size mixture of dissolved gelatin and water is painted over the bole and the gold leaf is laid on (crinkly) and then burnished to a high shine.
An Italian word literally meaning "light dark", used to describe the skillful balance of light and dark in a painting, with strong contrasts to create dramatic effect. The paintings of Caravaggio and Rembrandt are good examples.
Cracks: age cracks
Breaks in a ground layer, paint, or varnish. The pattern or series of visible cracks is called crackle, craquelure, or crack pattern. Cracks can be caused by aging, drying, and mechanical factors, or by a combination of these. Age cracks can result from dimensional changes in the stretcher, canvas, or panel support, placing stress on any or all layers of the painting, which lose elasticity with age.
An alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his mind during the process of painting.
Dry coloring matter, usually an insoluble powder, to be mixed with water, oil, or another base to produce paint and similar products. Pigments can be organic or inorganic.
Italian: first paint layer. The initial stain of color painted on a ground. It provides a painter with a toned ground that may reflect up through the paint layers.
The substance that binds the pigment in paint, for example linseed oil, walnut oil or poppy oil. Can also be something used to change the consistency of the paint.
Alla Prima
A style of painting where, instead of building colours up with layers, the painting is done in one session while the paint is still wet. From the Italian word which literally means at once.
Body Color
Body color/ mass tone of a paint color (or hue) is the color it appears when the paint is applied thickly, when you don't see any other color beneath it or the support showing through the paint. Also used as undertone and underdrawing
The first layer applied to a canvas, which provides a relatively smooth surface to paint on and also serves as a sealant for the porous canvas. Typically gesso.
invented in 1754 in France. Wooden support frame for canvas with corner joints that can expand and contract in both directions to adjust tautness of the canvas.
A full-sized, preparatory drawing for a painting, fresco, mosaic, or mural.
mixture of mastic and linseed oil. It makes the paint glossy and easy to work with, however the paint becomes yellow and brittle with age.
pigment suspended in a medium such as egg yolk, oil, or water.
a thicker gesso mixture to create a raised ornamental design prior to gilding
The initial coating put on a support before the ground layer (gesso), and paint layer is applied. It protects that support from the paint, and affects the absorbency of the support.
fumato is a painting technique in which the colors blend softly into each other, rather than objects or shapes having sharp outlines or hard edges.
A technique where a top layer of color is scratched to reveal a colour beneath. The term comes from the Italian word sgraffire meaning (literally) "to scratch". Seen in 14th c panel paintings, where the tempera paint layer is scratched away to reveal the gold leaf under-layer.
Cracks: Drying Cracks
Drying cracks are caused by the evaporation of volatile paint components and the consequent shrinkage and splitting of the paint; they are located in the upper paint layer(s), and need not correspond with cracks in the lower paint layers or ground layer. Drying cracks can also be caused by siccatives or dryers, by painting "lean over fat" (that is, applying paint that is relatively poor in medium over layers that are rich in medium), by painting over a paint layer that is not fully dried, or by using an overly smooth ground. 'alligator skin' appearance.
Dead Coloring
Essentially the underdrawing.
Italian! Combination of Rabbit skin glue and Calcium Sulfate (NOT calcium carbonate). Used as the ground layer: the first layer applied to a canvas, which provides a relatively smooth surface to paint on and also serves as a sealant for the porous canvas
Gesso Sotile
Fine gesso
Gesso Grosso
Thick gesso
Any of the several solid or semi solid organic substances (mastic, copal, dammar, amber etc) dissolved in organic solvents. Helps protect paint layer if applied one year after drying.
Application of a thin layer of lighter opaque or semi-opaque paint over a layer of different, often darker, colored paint.
Gilding: mordant gilding
pre-polymerized oil (linseed probably) was painted onto the surface to be gilded with a fine brush, usually an area of delicate decoration. The gold leaf is laid over the painted area and the remainder is brushed away.
Gilding: shell gold
essentially a watercolor of real gold powder and gum arabic. Good for retouching and areas of delicate design.
the white of an egg, used in sizing or glazing.
higher ratio of medium to paint, as as to be become somewhat transparent. A glaze can change the color cast or the texture.
Amber colors
Copal resin and drying oil. Raises the refractive index, making paints more translucent.
How did painting techniques change post 16th century
New Pigments available, along with collapsable paint tube, and pre-prepared canvases, allowing the painter to move away from the 'craft' or guild guided approach to painting, giving the painter more liberty. Academy promoted certain ideals: emphasis on draughtsmanship and careful underdrawing. polished paint surface, with no evidence of brush strokes.
Pigments introduced in the late 18th century
SIPEN Scheele's Green: arsenic green Indian Yellow: outlawed in 1908 (useful for dating) Prussian Blue: popular by 1750 Emerald Green: (arsenic green) replaced Scheele's green Naples Yellow: replaced lead tin yellow
Pigments introduced in the 19th century
ZA 4 C's Zinc: white and yellow Alizarin Crimson: Cobalt: blue, violet Chromium: red, yellow, orange Cadmium: red Coal Tar colors:

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