abcs of art abcs of art

ABCs of Art Terms: Understanding the Basics of Artistic Language

From the sleek sheen of fresh oil paints to the crisp edge of a new canvas, understanding your art supplies transforms shopping from a challenge to a treasure hunt.

Get ready to arm yourself with the tools that will bring your next masterpiece to life.

A is for Acrylic

Acrylic paint, a relatively new medium, dries swiftly, making it ideal for artists on the go.

It’s known for enabling crisp edges and dynamic shapes, a stark contrast to the slower-drying oil paints.

The pigments pop, thanks to a transparent binder that isn’t water-based.

Imagine painting with colors so vivid they’re akin to David Hockney’s renditions of California—sharp and unclouded by the murky tones of traditional mediums.

Key Attributes of Acrylic Paint:

  • Quick Drying: No need to wait ages for your masterpiece.
  • Vivid Colors: Each stroke brings a burst of intensity.
  • Shape Friendly: Straightforward to craft smooth lines and forms.

B is for Brushes

Brushes have evolved significantly since their inception over two million years ago, when the ancient Egyptians and Chinese began mastering the art of painting.

  • Natural Brushes: Once crafted from various animal hairs, like the sturdy hog or the smooth sable, for distinct textures.
  • Synthetic Brushes: Nowadays, you’ll find synthetic versions that mimic these traditional brushes while being animal-friendly.

Discover brush types that complement your art style and technique preferences.

C is for… canvas

Throughout the past few centuries, you’ve probably noticed that artists shifted from using boards to canvases.

But did you know not all canvas is cut from the same cloth?

Think of canvas as a sturdy fabric made from intertwined strands of tougher fibers like hemp, cotton, or linen.

Before getting all artsy, this fabric gets a good coat of size—a sort of primer traditionally whipped up from rabbit skin—to make sure the oil paints adhere well.

Keep in mind, this switch-up isn’t new. Even a Dutch genius like Vermeer chucked the board and embraced canvas.

When you’re on the lookout for painting surfaces, remember, each has its own vibe.

D is for Drawing Boards

When you’re diving into your next piece, remember a solid drawing board is your trusty sidekick.

It’s a no-brainer to give your art the angle it deserves, so avoid a flat surface catastrophe.

Picking your size? A1 works wonders for easel action, or shrink that down for something more lap-friendly.

  • Size Up: Aim for A1 for easel work, or A2 to hold comfortably.
  • Smooth Edges: Take the splinter-prevention route with some light sanding or edge taping.
  • Keep It in Place: Secure your paper or canvas with kind-hearted masking tape or adhesive that’ll bow out gracefully once you’re done.
  • Using Clips: If tape’s not your jam, grab some big artist clips. You’ll dodge those pesky indentations bulldog clips love to leave.

E is for… easels

When choosing an easel, opt for durability over a flimsy design.

If your workspace is limited, a foldable tabletop easel is ideal as it saves space.

Invest in quality; it’s going to endure a lot of use.

F is for… Fruit

In the art world, you’ll often find fruit as a trusty subject. Here’s what you need to set up an engaging still life:

  • Use an odd number of fruits for a dynamic composition.
  • Arrange them to create visual paths along vertical and horizontal lines.

G is for… Gouache

  • Composition: You’ve got watercolor that’s beefed up with gum arabic.
  • Opacity: Unlike typical watercolors, it’s not see-through—thanks to its solidity.
  • Evolution: Acrylics stepped onto the scene, but gouache still rocks its own blend of sheer and vivid tones.

H is for… House paint

  • Versatility: For you, the ambitious artist tackling vast canvases, house paint can be your go-to due to its cost-efficiency compared to typical art paints.
  • Technique Friendly: Whether you’re channeling Jackson Pollock or exploring other styles, house paint’s fluid nature is perfect for techniques like dripping and flicking.
  • Color Spectrum: While the range might seem narrow, custom mixing services ensure you have access to a broad spectrum of shades to express your vision.

I is for… Ink

  • Primary Use: Often found in printing.
  • Artistic Pairing: Enhances watercolor paintings.

J is for… Jars

  • Dry Brushes? Pop ’em in a jar, bristles up to keep them straight.
  • Artsy Still Lifes? Jars full of brushes add character.

Keep those bristles happy!

K is for… Knives

  • Palette knives – essential for texturing.
  • Painting knives – create bold strokes.

Thick, textured applications are at your fingertips!

L is for… Linocut printing

  • Carve your image onto a linoleum block.
  • Roll ink onto your carved linoleum.
  • Press onto paper to reveal your print.
  • From crafts to fine arts, it’s a versatile technique.

M is for… Masking Tape

  • Adheres gently to surfaces, securing paper or photos.
  • Peel slowly to prevent damage to your artwork.
  • Ideal for positioning items temporarily on boards or walls.

N is for… newsprint

You can snag this super affordable paper in large quantities. It feels a bit like tracing paper and isn’t as thick as what you’d find in sketchbooks.

Grab your pens, pencils, or charcoal, and start hashing out those initial concepts.

O is for… Oil Paint

Your palette isn’t complete without the rich textures of oil paint.

It’s pigment blended with oils like linseed for when you crave that extra gloss and tactile finish. Perfect for capturing depth and vibrancy!

P is for… paper

Hey, artist! Paper isn’t just for doodling. Check this out:

  • Types: Loads out there, but rough textured paper’s a fave.
  • Prep: Soak it, let it dry. No wavy lines when you’re laying down color.

Wanna try painting on paper? Get your brush ready!

Q is for… Quill Pens

  • Artists’ Tool: Quill pens offer a unique writing experience.
  • Calligraphy: Ideal for elegant scriptwork.
  • Signatures: Adds a ceremonial touch to your art pieces.

R is for… Rollers

In the printmaking game, you’re working with rollers to apply ink onto your chosen medium—it’s all about that single-color application.

Think of how Andy Warhol rocked the art world layer by layer. Dig more into printmaking to see how it unfolds.

S is for… Soft Pastels

  • Vibrant: Your palette comes alive with these colorful sticks.
  • Blendable: Smear and mix colors with ease.
  • Versatile: Ideal with a variety of darker papers for contrast.

T is for… Tempera

  • Medium: Egg tempera
  • Surface: Typically wood board
  • Quality: Luminous glow
  • Epoch: Medieval & Renaissance periods
  • Technique: Learn the use of egg tempera

U is for… underpainting

  • Underpainting: It’s like laying down the groundwork for your masterpiece.
  • It involves prepping your canvas, so your final piece has a solid base.

V is for… viewfinders

Craft your own viewfinder using just a card or photograph frame mount—it’s perfect for framing the ideal scene to draw, especially if landscapes are your jam.

Simple, yet effective, it’s like a window to focus your artistry.

W is for Watercolors

You’ve probably seen watercolors in action, manifesting as light washes or vibrant hues on paper.

They’re made by marrying water with solid pigments, delivering a range of dilutions.

These aren’t just for hobbyists—masters like Turner have shot to fame using them.

You’ll find them shining in landscape art, detailed botanical illustrations, and those tiny, intricate portraits from way back in the 17th century.

  • History: Once overlooked, now a staple in fine art.
  • Use: Perfect for capturing the subtle shifts found in nature.
  • Famous for: Miniature portraits that caught the eye of 17th-century high society.

X is for X-Acto Knife

Your X-Acto knife is the bridge between a typical craft knife and a surgical scalpel—ideal for your precise cutting needs.

Y is for… yellow light

  • Natural Illumination: Artists often prefer sunlight due to its authentic quality.
  • Artificial Lighting: Sometimes, you might need a consistent light source, which can be an ordinary bulb with a yellowish glow.
  • Cooler Options: Alternatively, go for a daylight bulb—it casts a whiter light, akin to actual daylight.

Z stands for Zinc White

  • White in the Palette: Discover the role of white in mixing hues.
  • Preparing the Surface: Learn how zinc white sets the stage for your masterpiece.
  • Evolution of White Paint: Dive into the narrative behind white pigments.

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