The Wet Canvas Art Glossary: E - G

Article No. 125
Created: 08:14 AM 10.01.04
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earth colors –  pigments obtained from mining such as ochres and umbers.

easel -  A support for an artist’s canvas or panel. Usually made of wood or metal, they range in size from large studio structures complete with electric motors to small, lightweight supports for plein air work.

edge – The boundary line or margin of an area or surface. Edges are important in distance perspective where edges in the foreground are hard while soft in more distant areas. Also important in composition where the use of lost and found edges can enhance the interest of a work.

edition – A set of numbered, signed prints of a work.

egg tempera – See Tempera.

elements of design - The basic components of a work – color, value, line, shape, form texture and space. See the Composition and Design Forum.

ellipse – A regular oval shape – a stretched or flattened circle.

emphasis – A technique of combining different elements to emphasize a focal point or focal area by stressing the differences in the elements. See the Composition and Design Forum.

emulsifier – A catalyst which aids in the formation of an emulsion – a suspension of oil in a watery medium.

encaustic –    Paint made using wax as the binder. Very ancient in origin, the term comes from the Greek to burn in, referring to the heating process used to fuse the paint after application.

engraving – In printmaking, cutting a design into a surface and then adding ink to the incised lines.

en plein air -  French for “in the open air”. Painting outdoors. See the Plein Air Forum.

extender – Material used to increase the bulk of a medium, to lessen the amount of pigment used while maintaining body, to reduce cost in student-quality paints for example. See also filler.




fantasy art – Highly fanciful art, created from imagination, often with supernatural or legendary elements. See the Fantasy/Sci Fi Forum.

fat – A term used in oil painting to describe a paint or mixture or paint and medium with a high oil content. See also lean.


fat over lean – A rule of thumb for oil painting stating that subsequent layers of paint should have proportionally more oil than the layers below so that they are more flexible. Helps to avoid cracking in the finished work as the lower oil content in initial layers dry faster. See the Oil Painting Forum.

feathering – Softening or fading an edge by blending the lines or overlapping values and/or colors.

ferrule – The section of a paintbrush at the end of the bristles, usually metal or plastic, which anchors the bristles and keeps them aligned correctly.

figurative – Artwork which represents the human form, an animal or object in a non-abstract way.

filbert – A type of flat brush with rounded ends.   

filler – An inert powder added to pigment (applies to pastels and CP too) by manufacturers, usually in place of coloured pigment to reduce cost, but sometimes to modify the coloring characteristics of pigments with a high tinting strength.


finish – In painting, the last coat, often varnish, which can be matt, satin or gloss. Also the natural surface gloss of a painting or sculpture.


fixative – A thin solution, often made from shellac and alcohol, sprayed onto dry media works to fix them in place and prevent smudging.


fluorescent colors – called Day-Glo colors, these are especially brilliant because the pigments used convert some UV light into visible wavelengths. All fluorescent colors are fugitive

foam core or foam board – A light, stiff board made of styrofoam with paper laminated onto both sides.

focal point – The area of a work which is the center of interest. See the Composition and Design forum.

foreground – The area of a work which appears closet to the viewer, usually at the bottom of the work.

foreshortening – the representation of overlapping forms when seen from certain viewpoints. Used to promote depth in a work.

form – The totality of the structure a work. The structural elements include such things as color, value, texture, shape as well as design elements such as contrast, harmony, balance and unity. Collectively, they constitute the form of a work. See the Composition and Design Forum.

formal analysis - The study of a work with reference to its form, rather than to its content or context.

formalism – A theory of art where the structural qualities (the elements of art and design principles), of a work are paramount

found material, or found object – An object or material selected by an artist and exhibited as an art work, singly or associated with another work. The found object may or may nor be related to a work e.g. a rock or a branch may be exhibited with a landscape work or they may be exhibited as stand alone pieces.

foxing – A brown patchy discoloration of paper caused by mold, usually occurring in high humidity situations.

fresco – Painting on wet or dry plaster.

fugitive colors – a term used to describe pigments or paints with poor lightfastness, such as Alizarin Crimson.






gallery   - A building or area where artworks are displayed and sold.

genre – A category of artistic composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content.

geometric – Designs made from straight lines, relying on mathematical and geometric shapes such as triangles, circles, rectangles, pyramids etc.

gesso – A traditional ground painting on panel. Usually made from a white pigment and an inert filler (e.g. gypsum, champagne chalk, powdered marble) bound together with animal hide glue. Pronounced jesso. See also acrylic 'gesso' and ground.

gesture drawing – Drawing using the whole arm with loose movements. Often used to block in the initial shapes in a work. Considered a valuable tool in improving the coordination of eye and hand.

giclιe – A print made from a photo of a painting. Made using high-end inkjet printers, high-quality permanent prints can be made with pigment or ink, on paper or canvas. Giclιes make it possible to market multiple, high quality copies of a work, whilst the artist can retain the original.

GIF -- Graphic Image File format. A widely supported digital image format.  See also Bitmap.

gilding – Thinly applying gold leaf to a work. A gilt is the surface on which the gold has been applied.

glair – A varnish made from egg whites, used for tempera paints. Used in the past for tempera paintings and on manuscript illustrations

glassine - A glossy-surfaced paper resistant to the passage of air and dirt, often used as a protective wrapping material.

glaze – Usually a thin transparent or semi-transparent application of paint used to add or modify the colour of the paint underneath.

gloss, glossy – Shiny, smooth. Varnishes are described as being gloss, satin or matt in their finish. Gloss varnishes or glazes are lustrous and can enhance the depth and colour of work.

gold leaf – Extremely thin gold foil. Copper alloys may be used or copper may be alloyed in the gold.

golden mean – The mathematical ratio of the larger side of a rectangle as it relates to the shorter side. The ratio is 1:1.618. The number 1.618 is known as phi and is found repeatedly in nature and in many instances of art and architecture. Use of the golden mean is thought to produce pleasing effects and harmony in a work. See the Composition and Design Forum.

gouache – Opaque watercolor. Noted for its matt finish.

graded wash – Normally in watercolors, a wash that is thin in one area and thickens or becomes darker in another area. See the Watercolor Forum.

gradation – A smooth or gradual change. Can apply to changes in value, texture, shape or color.

granulation – Generally used only in relation to watercolors; the tendency of a color to clump together when applied as a wash, producing a slightly granular appearance on the paper

graphic – In drawing, an image that is essentially based on an outline or contour. See the Drawing and Sketching or Illustration forums.

graphic design – Commercial art or design e.g. signs, logos, advertisements

graphics tablet - A device by which artwork is entered into a computer in a manner similar to drawing, using a stylus. See the Digital Arts forum.

graphite – A form of carbon, used in pencils, stick, or powder form. Graphite can be measured in different variations of hardness, such as 9B to 9H.  See the Drawing and Sketching forum.

gray scale – A stepped sequence of shades of gray between white and black, useful in determining the values in a work. See also value scale.  

grid -- A framework or pattern of horizontal and vertical lines, sometimes with additional diagonals. Artists often use a grid to transfer and/or enlarge artwork onto a surface; e.g., from a photograph to canvas.

grisaille – French term for a monochromatic or gray underpainting, often highly modeled and very detailed. Also referred to as dead color. Colour is added subsequently, principally by glazing. See also verdaccio.

ground – The prepared surface on a support upon which the paint is applied, such as gesso, lead/oil primer or acrylic 'gesso'; essentially a primer.


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