Laid Open – Artists Technical Terms Explained!…

by Anna Meenaghan

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.

You have to get it to the wet stage before glue can be applied to it. Once you have managed to form the shape you might need, you proceed by leaving it to dry naturally. Once it has been dried you can apply a primer to this, a bit like you do with wood, before you actually paint it.

This is beneficial, as if you use this medium, it is light, so useful for creating so many things and is very strong.

So who would have thought you could make paper from the Sugar Cane plant? Yes, this is true, it is made from the actual husk. It can be used as a drawing surface, but is very good, in fact, for paper mache too, as it is very absorbent. Even though it is thick and fibrous, it can be torn easily and it comes in a selection of colours.

Gesso is used on canvasses and other types of surfaces as a primer before you go on to paint. Really it is a bit like a glue. A mixture of white pigment, whiting, chalk or plaster.

This gesso, you will find, will make a seal on your surface which, you ought to discover, is reflective too, better as the canvas doesn’t roll.

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 – In the past this was derived from minerals, animals and plants. However, much now is made synthetically. In a nutshell, this is the substance that is used to colour the dye or paint, consisting of tiny fragments which are so fine, they make the medium.

Embossed – This is a pattern which has been marked or stamped on to the surface and in some cases carved. It can also be used with metal and a hammer.

Fixatives can be brushed or sprayed on and this is simply a way of keeping your work in good nick!

Positive and Negative – Consideration needs to be given to the painting and what is contained in it, to decide upon the positive and negative sections. The positive shape has to be your main object or section.

What remains, in this instance, will be the negative shape. Time has to be apportioned equally to both shapes for it to work well.

Grid – A grid is something very useful to the artist for doing still life drawing. Usually a thick sheet of white card which you then draw squares on. By placing your objects in front of this, it will be helpful to decide where to draw your shadows and objects on the paper.

Acrylic Retarder is used to lengthen acrylics drying time. Maximum use of 10% with acrylic is recommended. This is pretty handy when shading or blending in Wet in Wet techniques and it helps to combat skin forming on your palette.

Acrylic Gloss Varnish. This varnish is perfect for quick drying glazes. Should you mix 10% with the paint, it will increase the luminosity, transparency and most of all, their flow. Brush strokes come easier to blend, making them more flexible and they adhere to the surface well.

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