We have all sorts of wonderful mediums here at New Elements Gallery! Our artists are multi-talented, incredible people. But if you’re new to art collecting, the Art World is full of unique and interesting terms that may be brand new to you. We’re here to help! This is Part One of Three Primers on Art techniques and Definitions.
These entries aren’t quite deep dives…we will absolutely give a thorough account of some these terms (or interesting aspects of them). But, they are designed to create a strong foundational knowledge base for art collectors or the casual art viewer! Perhaps if we’re lucky, we’ll have a fact or two in here one of our professional artists didn’t know!
Encaustic painting is a painting technique in which pigments are mixed with hot liquid wax. Artists can change the paint’s consistency by adding resin or oil (the latter for use on canvas) to the wax. After the paint has been applied to the support, which is usually made of wood, plaster, or canvas, a heating element is passed over the surface until the individual brush or spatula marks fuse into a uniform film. This “burning in” of the colors is an essential element of the true encaustic technique.
Encaustic wax has many of the properties of oil paint: it can give a very brilliant and attractive effect and offers great scope for elegant and expressive brushwork. The practical difficulties of using a medium that must be kept warm are considerable, though. Apart from the greater sophistication of modern methods of heating, the present-day technique is similar to that described by the 1st-century-CE Roman scholar Pliny the Elder. Encaustic painting was invented by the ancient Greeks and was brought to the peak of its technical perfection by the genre painter Pausias in the 4th century BCE.
We have a few encaustic artists who use these art techniques, including Dana Brown!
Watercolor is a painting method in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-based solution. Watercolor refers to both the medium and the resulting artwork. Aquarelles painted with water-soluble colored ink instead of modern water colors are called aquarellum atramento (Latin for “aquarelle made with ink”) by experts. However, this term has now tended to pass out of use.
The traditional and most common support—material to which the paint is applied—for watercolor paintings is watercolor paper. Other supports include papyrus, bark papers, plastics, vellum, leather, fabric, wood, and watercolor canvas (coated with a gesso that is specially formulated for use with watercolours). Watercolor paper is often made entirely or partially with cotton. This gives the surface the appropriate texture and minimizes distortion when wet. Watercolor papers are usually cold pressed papers, and gives better texture and appearance. Watercolors are usually translucent, and appear luminous because the pigments are laid down in a pure form with few fillers obscuring the pigment colors. Watercolors can also be made opaque by adding Chinese white.
American artists in the early 19th century seemed to regard watercolor primarily as a sketching tool in preparation for the “finished” work in oil or engraving. Artists who work in this art technique at New Elements Gallery includes Betty Brown and Susan Mauney.
Acrylic painting is painting executed in the medium of synthetic acrylic resins. Acrylics dry rapidly, serve as a vehicle for any kind of pigment, and can give both the transparent brilliance of watercolor and the density of oil paint. They are less affected by heat and other destructive forces than is oil paint. They found favor among artists who were concerned about the health risks posed by the handling of oil paints and the inhalation of fumes associated with them. Because of all these desirable characteristics, acrylic paints became immediately popular with artists when they were first commercially promoted in the 1960s.
Notable 20th-century artists who used acrylic paint include Pop artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Op artist Bridget Riley, color field artists Mark Rothko, Ellsworth Kelly, and Barnett Newman, and British artist David Hockney. We have a bevy of artists who use acrylic, from Ann Parks McCray to Catherine C. Martin, and many more.
by Daphne Cole