Part 2 of our series Art Techniques and Definitions is here!
New Elements Gallery is so proud of the variety of work we offer in different media. This is a sampling of what our artists do! And while this is not a deep dive, it’s the perfect place for you as an art collector to pin down the more technical terms.
Gouache is a painting technique in which a gum or an opaque white pigment is added to watercolors to produce opacity. In watercolor the tiny particles of pigment become enmeshed in the fiber of the paper; in gouache the color lies on the surface of the paper, forming a continuous layer, or coating. A gouache is characterized by a directly reflecting brilliance. When applied with bristle brushes it is possible to achieve a slight but effective impasto (thick coated) quality; with sable brushes, a smooth, flawless color field is obtained.
A painting technique of great antiquity, gouache was used by the Egyptians. It was a popular medium with Rococo artists such as François Boucher (1703–70). Contemporary painters use gouache alone or in combination with watercolor and other mediums.
New Elements Gallery artist Betty Brown not only works in watercolor, but she also works in gouache! She falls under so many definitions.
Oil painting is a medium consisting of pigments suspended in drying oils. The outstanding facility with which fusion of tones or color is achieved makes it unique among fluid painting mediums; at the same time, satisfactory linear treatment and crisp effects are easily obtained. Opaque, transparent, and translucent painting all lie within its range, and it is unsurpassed for textural variation.
Artists’ oil color are made by mixing dry powder pigments with selected refined linseed oil to a stiff paste consistency and grinding it by strong friction in steel roller mills. The consistency of the color is important. The standard is a smooth, buttery paste, not stringy or long or tacky. When a more flowing or mobile quality is required by the artist, a liquid painting medium such as pure gum turpentine must be mixed with it. To accelerate drying, a siccative, or liquid drier, is sometimes used. Traditionally, paint was most often transferred to the painting surface using paintbrushes, but there are other methods, including using palette knives and rags. Palette knives can scrape off any paint from a canvas and can also be used for application.
WOOD ENGRAVING or WOODCUT
Wood engraving is a printmaking technique, in which an artist works an image or matrix of images into a block of wood. Functionally a variety of woodcut, it uses relief printing, where the artist applies ink to the face of the block and prints using relatively low pressure. By contrast, ordinary engraving, like etching, uses a metal plate for the matrix, and is printed by the intaglio method, where the ink fills the valleys, the removed areas. As a result, wood engravings deteriorate less quickly than copper-plate engravings, and have a distinctive white-on-black character.
Wood-engraved blocks could be used on conventional printing presses, which were going through rapid mechanical improvements during the first quarter of the 19th century. The blocks were made the same height as, and composited alongside, movable type in page layouts—so printers could produce thousands of copies of illustrated pages with almost no deterioration. The combination of this new wood engraving method and mechanized printing drove a rapid expansion of illustrations in the 19th century. Further, advances in stereotype let wood-engravings be reproduced onto metal, where they could be mass-produced for sale to printers.
By the mid-19th century, many wood engravings rivaled copperplate engravings. Wood engraving was used to great effect by 19th-century artists such as Edward Calvert, and its heyday lasted until the early and mid-20th century when remarkable achievements were made by Eric Gill, Eric Ravilious, Tirzah Garwood and others. Though less used now, the technique is still prized in the early 21st century as a high-quality specialist technique of book illustration, and is promoted, for example, by the Society of Wood Engravers, who hold an annual exhibition in London and other British venues.
Catch up on Part One and read Part Three of Art Techniques and Definitions!
by Daphne Cole