Artist’s Technical Terms Explained!

What is Paper Mache? Basically, with this you get some newspaper and rip it up. Pummel it with water which leaves you with a soggy lump. At this stage it is ready for you to mould it into any shape that you like.

When it is at the wet stage, you then add glue to it. Once you have acquired your required shape you have to leave it to dry. Similar to wood you can then put a primer on it, before you go on to paint your article.

The advantages with this being that this medium is both strong and yet also light. This is so useful as it can be used to create so many things.

Sugar Cane is paper made from the actual husk of the sugar cane. It comes in many colours and you can tear it, even though it is thick and fibrous. Good for paper mache, because it is very absorbent, but it is also used as a surface to be drawn on.

Gesso – This is a priming coat for canvas or other surfaces before you actually start to paint. It is a sort of glue. This normally consists of whiting, chalk, white pigment or plaster.

This will seal your canvas and the white gesso gives a reflective surface to paint on and hopefully keeps the canvas from rolling.

Impasto – With this, heavy layers of paint are transferred to the canvas, either by loading a paintbrush or by using a palette knife. Usually this will create a textured surface as you have bristle marks in the paint creating stroke impressions.

Pigment is the actual substance used to colour the paint or dye. Very finely ground down particles make up the paint medium. Many are made synthetically. Years ago they came from plants, animals and minerals.

Embossed – A surface that has been stamped or marked so that you have a pattern, or it could also be carved. This, sometimes, is done on metal with a hammer.

Fixatives are a way of trying to preserve your painting. These can be sprayed or brushed on.

Positive and Negative Shapes – If you analyse shapes within a painting or drawing, the terms often used, are positive and negative. The main object or the main parts of your drawing or painting are obviously the positive shape.

The negative shape will be what else surrounds it. Bear in mind for your drawing to work, both parts need equal attention.

A Grid is used for still life drawings. With a sheet of mounting board, you draw squares onto this and place it like a screen behind your objects to be drawn. This makes it possible then to decide where the shadows and shapes need to be for your painting.

Acrylic Retarder – 10% of this can be used with acrylic paints. It will increase the amount of the paints open drying time. Good for wet in wet styles, blending and shading. It will also lessen skin forming on your palette.

Acrylic Gloss Varnish, if mixed with colours, will increase the way the paint flows, also their transparency and luminosity. This is good for quick drying glazes. It also makes your brush strokes blend well on your surface and is certainly flexible.


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