The Wet Canvas Art Glossary: C - D

Article No. 124
Created: 08:11 AM 10.01.04
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C – Indicates a fugitive color when seen on a paint tube. A fugitive color is a short-lived color, made from inferior pigments and usually found in student grade paints.

calligraphy- Decorative or ornamental lettering or handwriting. 

canvas – A fabric support, generally used for oil and acrylic painting. Traditionally made from linen and hemp, now often made from cotton. Synthetic fibres such as polyester are being introduced that offer some advantages over natural fibres as painting supports. Canvas can be stretched over a frame or applied to a hard surface such as heavy cardboard or hardboard.”

canvas scraper - A tool with a curved blade used to scrape oil or acrylic paint from a

cardboard - Stiff paper of varying thickness. Includes illustration board, corrugated cardboard and foam core board.

caricature – Exaggerating or distorting the feature of a subject. Often used for comic effect on facial and body features, especially on political subjects. 

cartoon - A drawing often with a story and captions. Usually for amusement, it can be used for educational purposes or to provoke an emotional response to a subject. A cartoon was also an Old Master’s technique of making life sized drawings and then transferring these to a support by brushing charcoal over pinholes set in the drawing, often used in large fresco works.

casein paint – Paint made using milk protein as the binder. Water-soluble when applied, it becomes increasingly insoluble over time. Noted for its matt finish.

charcoal - Compressed burned wood used in drawing. Can be made with different woods in for varying degrees of hardness.

chiaroscuro – A term used to describe the use of light and shade in a painting or drawing, particularly when strong contrast is employed. From the Italian for light (chiaro) and shade (oscuro). 

china marker – A marker for drawing on or marking smooth surfaces. Also known as grease or wax pencils.

chipboard – see hardboard

chroma – One of the three colour attributes; the relative intensity or purity of a colour. A colour with low chroma is closer to gray; a colour with high chroma would be seen as luminous or intense. Saturation is a related term. See also hue and value.

chromatic pigments – Pigments which are not black, white or gray. 

cinnabar - A red mineral, mercuric sulphide, used as a pigment in the past. Vermilion is the synthetic version of cinnabar.

circumscribe – In drawing, to enclose or outline and object. 

cissing- In painting, streaks, bare spots, running paint (normally from over-wetting). Usually a mistake, the desired result being uniform coverage, but poor technique causes the streaking and incomplete coverage.

classical – A painting style which is harmonious, elegant and simple, usually realist and often adopting the methods of painters from the 16th to the early 20th century.

clayboard – a hardboard panel coated with a smooth absorbant clay ground. The boards are archival, lightfast and acid free.

coat – In painting, refers to a layer of paint primer or varnish. To coat well or coating usually means applying an opaque layer of paint, fully obscuring the layer or ground beneath. 

coated paper – Paper with an acrylic or gesso coating to prepare a good surface for drawing or painting. 

 coherent – Consistent, ordered. Important in composition, especially where harmony and balance are to be achieved.

cold-pressed paper – Paper with a mildly textured surface produced by pressing the paper through unheated rollers. The subdued texture is excellent for detailed work, and takes washes evenly.

collaboration – Two or more artists working together to produce a work or a series of works.

collage – A work created by gluing materials e.g. paper, cloth, to a backing material, often producing works of great surface texture with three dimensional effects.

color – When light strikes an object and is reflected back into the eyes part of the spectrum of the light is absorbed by the object. The remaining elements of the spectrum which then hit the eye constitute the color of the object. See the Color Theory and Mixing forum

color bias – The leaning of a colour towards an adjacent hue, if any, e.g. Cadmium Scarlet is an orange-biased red, Cerulean Blue is a green-biased blue. Although some pigment and paint names do not follow this convention, only adjacent hues should be referred to; for example a yellow cannot be biased to blue or red, only to green or orange and so on.

color scheme – The palette or colors used in a work.

color shaper – A silicone rubber tipped artist’s tool. The rubber head can have a variety of shapes and it is used for mixing, applying paint or masking fluid, spreading paint or mediums and removing paint. Can be used with watercolors, oils and acrylic paints.

color temperature - A colloquial term used by artists to describe the apparent warmth or coldness of one colour in relation to others. Yellow, orange and red are seen as 'warm'; green, blue and violet as 'cool'.


color theory - any theory used by artists to map the relationship of colours and also paints, with a view to understanding how they can be used together visually and to help predict mixing results.

color wheel - An illustration or diagram of colors arranged in a circle in which the primary, secondary and often intermediate colors are displayed in their relation to one another to aid selection and mixing. Two common wheels are based on the RYB (red, yellow, blue) or the CMY (cyan, magenta, yellow) system of color relationships.

commission – An order, contract or authority given to an artist to produce a work. It may also refer to the fee charged by a gallery or agent when selling works to a third party.

complementary colors – Visually, complements are the colours directly opposite one another on the colour wheel, e.g. magenta and green. In paints, the colour or colors that mix with another to form a neutral gray; these two colours are called a complementary pair

composition – The arrangement of the elements of an artwork. Often one of the most important factors in the success of a work and vital in the planning process for a work. See the Composition and Design Forum.

compressor – An electrical pump, often with a storage cylinder, used as the air supply to power airbrushes and spray guns.

conceptual art – Art which conveys an idea or concept to the viewer. The artwork often is not an accurate portrayal of a subject, but a conceived or contrived view of the object.

cone – the receptors on the retina that perceive color. There are three types, sensitive to red, green and blue light respectively.

consign and consignment – Transferring a work to an agent or retailer who then sells the work on behalf of the artist, taking a previously agreed commission as part of the transaction.

Contι crayon – A variety of fabricated chalk, the crayons originally consisted of a combination of powdered graphite and clay. They are now a very firm type of pastel and are useful in detailed work. Known for their classic earth colors – sanguine, bistre, black, and also their whites and grays.

context – The circumstances in which a work is produced and interpreted. The production circumstances revolve around the artist and the life experiences and values that form the person. The interpretive area involves the setting of the work, its intended use or function, the socio-economic, political or religious conditions contributing to the formation of the work. The interpretive aspect can also include social, artistic or philosophical traditions that may be relevant to the work.

continuous-line – See contour drawing 

contour drawing – A drawing where the height, width and depth of an object is represented by a line drawing.

contrast – The difference between two objects or areas in a work e.g. light values and dark values, high chroma and low chroma, hard edges and soft edges. 

contrived – Lacking spontaneity and inspiration. The work can be technically correct but can seem artificial, lacking life.   

cool colors – Cool colors suggest cool temperatures and are usually blues, greens and violets. The blues especially are associated with distance or recession in a painting. The cool colors are often used in water, skies and foliage, and in cool shadow areas. See color temperature.

copal – Any of a number of hard natural resins, originally semi-fossilized, used to make varnishes and painting mediums for many centuries. No longer used in picture varnishes because it darkens badly and can tend to form cracks, still in use by some oil painters in mediums. There are synthetic resin varnishes sold under the name copal.

copyright – A legal term, it is the right granted to a creator to exclusive publication, production, sale or distribution of a work. If an artist is living or has died within seventy years the copyright resides with the artist or the artist’s estate. Often the subject of enquiry and debate, see The Art Business Forum.

counterpoint – In design, a parallel, contrasting element or theme. See Composition and Design 

cover - The capacity of a pigment to obscure an underlying support.

 C.P. - Chemically pure. This designation is sometimes applied to pigments which are entirely free of extenders or any added inert pigments.

crackle – In ceramics, and furniture finishing, where the surface is broken or crazed by many fine, irregular lines or cracks.  In painting the same effect is known as cracklure.

crayon – A drawing medium or material in stick form, including pastels, charcoal and chalk.

crazing – Related to crackle, a network of cracks which sometimes forms in ceramics.

critique – A structured, critical review of a work. A good critique should be considered constructive and neutral to encouraging in tone, intended to assist in advancing the work of the artist. See The Critique Center.

crop - To trim one or more of a picture's edges, or to place one or more of the edges of an image so that only part of a subject can be seen within the image. Often used to improve or redefine the composition or focal point of a work.

Cubism – A style of painting where the subject is broken up and then portrayed in an abstract form. Its most famous exponent was Pablo Picasso.

curator – A person responsible for building, researching and exhibiting collections. Often working from galleries and museums they can have educational roles or interact with communities to assist in expressing the current social artistic interests and needs.

cyan – the colour exactly midway between blue and green. One of the primary colours of pigments and a secondary colour of lights (green plus blue). See also primary.






dammar or damar– A soft resin used to make varnishes and painting mediums since the mid-19th century. Still in use as a picture varnish, despite yellowing and becoming brittle with age, due to the shine and 'depth' it gives to oil paintings. No longer generally used as a painting medium

deckle –  The natural irregular edge of mould-made papers.

Decorative arts – A collective term encompassing such media and activities as murals, fresco, tole, mosaics, china and pottery painting. The artworks are usually found in an interior-decorating context. 

deep– In color, deep is when a color has low lightness but strong saturation.

depth – The perceived distance or space in a work. Some techniques for achieving depth include shifting colors towards blue, softening edges, decreasing object’s size and lightening values. Also used to describe a large tonal range in paintings with a gloss finish.

derivative – Where a work is deemed to owe much of its content or style to another artist’s work.  

design -  The plan, composition or arrangement of a work. See The Composition and Design Forum.

diagonal – A straight line which is not horizontal or vertical. The use of strong diagonal elements in composition is common. See Composition and Design Forum.

diluent –  A liquid used to dilute paints; in oils, turpentine or mineral spirits, in acrylics and watercolors, water.

diptych – A work consisting of two individual panels or canvases. 

direct painting –  Usually applied to oil painting, a technique where paint is applied and as much as possible left unchanged, without modification by further layers or excess blending. Often a painting will be completed in a single sitting when painting directly.

dominant – The area of a work which has greatest visual impact, achieved through color, size, shape or texture. See the Composition and Design Forum. 

double loading – In painting, loading a brush with two colors.

DPI (dots per inch) – In digital images, the number of pixels per inch of image. The higher the number of pixels per inch the greater the clarity of the image.

dragging – Lightly moving a brush loaded with paint over a surface, leaving areas of broken color as the paint adheres only to the high spots of the surface..

drawing -  Portraying objects, forms or scenes through the use of lines, color, or shading. A discipline of art which can be taken to great heights in its own right, it is often the foundation of many paintings. See the Drawing and Sketching Forum. 

drier – An additive that accelerates the drying of oil paints by promoting oxidation. Also called a siccative. Some pigments have a natural drying property when bound in drying oils, such as those containing lead and manganese.

dry brush – Similar to dragging, relatively dry paints or inks are applied lightly to a surface, leaving areas of broken color.

drying oil –  Any of a number of natural oils that dry by oxidation when exposed to air, e.g. linseed oil, walnut oil and poppy-seed oil.




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