The Wet Canvas Art Glossary: P - R

Article No. 128
Created: 08:35 AM 10.01.04
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palette - Any surface upon which paint is mixed, in oil painting traditionally made of wood. Today plastic, glass and glazed ceramics are often used. Palette also refers to the selection of colors used by the artist; See split-primary palette and secondary palette.


pan - Rotating a camera around the vertical axis.


panel - Traditionally a wooden support used for tempera and subsequently for oil painting, usually made from hardwoods such as oak, lime, poplar or beech. In the modern era, various manufactured boards have been employed such as hardboard (often known by the brand name Masonite), MDF and plywood. Metal supports, usually copper, have also been employed for panel painting.


parafoveal vision - Sight outside the zone of sharp focus in the eye (foveal vision).


passage - A certain part or area in a work of art.


pastel - Pigment bound together using gum to make a drawing stick; also the art produced using this medium. In color terminology, pastel refers to tints of color or pale colors.


pastiche - A work of art imitating the style of another artist or in two or more incongruous styles, often with a satirical purpose.


pastose - Painted thickly.


patina - A colored film on a surface, usually used in reference to bronze and other metals; can be of natural origin or formed deliberately.


pellicle - Another term for the thin skin that forms on drying paints such as oils.


pen - A drawing or writing implement used to apply ink to a surface. In the past made of quills (feather shafts), reed and bamboo, now available in various forms, from felt-tip to metal nibs to Biro or ballpoints.


pencil - A thin rod (the lead) of graphite, coloured wax or charcoal encased in wood used as a drawing or writing implement. Mechanical pencils, grip the lead in a pen-like holder. The graphite in pencils is a mixture of graphite and clay: the more clay the harder the pencil and the lighter the mark it makes (a 6H for example); the less clay the softer the lead and the blacker the mark (an 8B for example).


penumbra - The zone of partial shadow between bright illumination and complete shadow. See also umbra.


permanence - The quality of lasting or remaining without change. In paints, referring to the ability of the paint film to withstand exposure to light and other factors without alteration. See also lightfastness.


perspective - The technique of representing three-dimensional objects on a flat surface, to produce the illusion of relative size and distance, plus give an impression of depth. See also atmospheric perspective.


persistance of vision - The retention within the brain for a moment of what they eye has just seen, allowing us to view a series of projected still images, such as in television and movies, as continuous motion.


pentimento - The showing through of drawing and/or underpainting that occurs over time, often due to the increased transparency of oil paints as they age.


peripheral vision - Sight at or near the edges of the retina. See also parafoveal vision.


pestle - The tool used to grind materials into a mortar.


photographic - Of or relating to photography. Sometimes used to describe art that gives the illusion of being a photograph.


photorealism - A painting movement beginning in the late 1960s that sought to reproduce photographs as accurately as possible, often at a very large scale. Subject matter was often commonplace and even mundane. Leading exponents include Don Eddy, Richard Estes, John Salt and Chuck Close.


Photoshop - Leading digital image editing software from Adobe Systems intended for photographic manipulation and other digital art.


picture plane - The flat plane occupied by the surface of a painting, often referred to in discussions of perspective.


piece mold - A mold made in several pieces to allow easy removal of a casting and minimise damage to the mould itself.


pigment - The powdered colored matter within paint and pastels. Pigments can be organic or inorganic, manmade and natural. Some inert powders are also classed as pigments unless used in excess. See also filler, lightfastness and fugitive.


pigment load - The proportion of pigment in relation to the binder in paint. Some pigments naturally allow for a high pigment load, such as Lead White when bound in linseed oil.


pixel - An abbreviation of picture element, the smallest component part of a digital image.


plagiarism - An idea or creative work copied from another source and passed off as one's own.


plane - A flat surface, often horizontal.


plaster of Paris - A form of powdered gypsum that when mixed with water hardens into a solid. Often used in traditional sculpting techniques for casting and moldmaking.


Plasticine® - An oil-based clay.


plein air - Also en plein air; painting outdoors directly from life. From the French for "in the open air".


plinth - A block of stone or wood used to support a sculpture for display.


pochade - A small color sketch, usually quickly executed.


Pointillism - A branch of Impressionism using small dots of paint, based upon new ideas on colour theory, principally those of Michel-Eugène Chevreul. The dots of color blend in the viewer's eye to create the illusion of colour and light when viewed at an appropriate distance. The most famous exponent was George Seurat. See also optical mixing and stippling


polarising filter - In photography, a filter that blocks out polarised light from a given angle. Can be used to reduce or eliminate reflections when photographing paintings.


polychrome - Having many colors; usually used when describing sculpture that has been colored in some way.


polymer clay - A clay-like synthetic sculpting material made from polymer particles bound together that set into a solid when heated at low temperatures. Brand names include Sculpey and FIMO.


polyptych - A painting made up of more than three panels. See also triptych and diptych.


Pop Art - An art movement popular in the 1960s that used familiar products and images from popular culture and used them in iconic ways. Two of the best-know exponents were Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.


portfolio - A case used for the transport of works of art such as drawings; the collected art carried in such a case. Also refers to a representative collection of an artist's work in another format, such as an online gallery or photographic slides.


portrait - A painted or sculpted representation of a person or group of people. Portrait is also used to describe a rectangular picture format when the long dimension is vertical. See also landscape.


positive space - The part of a work of art taken up by the subject matter. See also negative space.


Post-Impressionism - A French art movement following on from Impressionism with a greater concern for form and characterised by a more expressive use of color. Important Post-Impressionists include Paul Gaugin, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne.


premier coup - French term for direct painting.


Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood - An art movement formed by like-minded artists in 19th-century Britain that sought to recapture the beauty of the mediaeval world that they saw as having been lost after the time of Raphael. Founders included Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt.


primary color - The three colors from which all other colors can theoretically be mixed. In paint , the subtractive primaries (paints, inks etc.) are cyan, magenta and yellow; in light, the additive primaries (colored light) are red, green and blue. More loosely defined as the three colors an artist chooses as the basis for a palette, e.g. a red, a yellow and a blue. See also secondary and tertiary color.


proof - In graphic arts, any of a number of preliminary prints used to assess the quality of reproduction before final printing begins.


proportion - In anatomy, the correct relative sizes of various parts of the body; also the comparative size of various elements in a composition.


provenance - A record of the source and history of a work of art.


PVA - An emulsion of polyvinyl acetate in water used as an adhesive and to size or seal a surface. A milky viscous liquid, it dries to a clear, flexible plastic film.






 quill - A pen made from the central shaft of a feather, often the primary flight feathers of geese.








rabbit skin glue - Sometimes known simply as RSG, any of various types of hide glue used as size.


rasp - Usually a metal tool with coarse teeth used for rough shaping of wood, plaster and other materials before moving on to smoother abrasive tools.


ratio - The relative size of two things, for example a drawing done at 1:2 is half the size of the original subject.


realism - The naturalistic representation of subjects in painting and sculpture, seeking to capture color, form and other attributes accurately. See also Photorealism and Naturalism.


recto - The front of a print or other work on paper. See also verso.


release agent - Any of various substances used to lubricate a mould to prevent the casting material from sticking to it.


relief printing - Printing method, often using a wooden block or a piece of linoleum, where unwanted areas are cut away using knives and gouges leaving the uncarved areas to receive ink.


render - To represent an object or scene in drawing or painting. In digital imaging, the software's creation of the finished image.


resin - A secretion of various plants that hardens upon exposure to air, used in varnishes and lacquers. See copal, dammar and mastic. Also synthetic polymers such as polyester, urethane and epoxy used in casting and industrial coatings.


resist - A substance applied to a surface to prevent ink or paint from taking to it.


resolution - The number and size of pixels that form a digital image or print. Resolution is expressed commonly in pixels per inch, ppi, and is independent of its physical dimensions, so a 2"x5" image can be both high resolution (300ppi) and low resolution (72ppi). When referring to the resolution of a printout or printer (such as common inkjets) resolution is expressed in dots per inch, dpi.


retouch - To make corrections to artwork.


retouch varnish – a thin varnish (often made from dammar) used as a temporary protective finish on oil paintings that are not fully dried.



retrospective - An exhibition of an artist's work that shows a number of pieces, usually covering a span of years, to give the viewer the opportunity to study changes and developments in style.


RGB - The additive primaries of light - red, green and blue. These primaries can be combined to give a convincing impression of all colours, such as on a computer monitor or television.


rheology - Technical term for the flow characteristics of paint.


rod - The low-light receptors on the retina, used principally at night. Rods only see variations in brightness, not color.


rottenstone - Powdered decomposed limestone used as a mild abrasive and polish.

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