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ArtInside

for the uninitiated

A SHORT GUIDE FOR THE UNINITIATED

If you have never been really interested in art, or if you want to know more about it, you have come to the right place. We have prepared a simple glossary that explains the most frequent terms associated with art. We hope that it will help you make the best choice by providing you with as much information as possible on what you are buying. The paintings that we offer in our gallery use various techniques which in turn represent a number of basic branches of art.

DRAWING is a branch of visual art that comprises those techniques whose essence lies in the composition of lines on a surface using such tools as pencil, ink, charcoal, pen, and many others. Drawings are often only preparatory stages in the creative process resulting in a painting or graphic work, but they can also function as fully independent works of art.

PAINTING is a branch of visual art whose essence lies in the use lines and colours, sometimes just patches of colour, on a surface. The image is created on canvas, paper, or cardboard, sometimes on a plank of wood or a wall. A painting is generally two-dimensional, even though it may sometimes contain three-dimensional elements. The characteristic features of a painting are closely connected with the technique used; and there are a huge number of techniques, the most popular being watercolour, oil, acrylic, pastel and gouache. Below, you can read more on how they differ from each other.

PRINTMAKING

The characteristic feature of printing techniques is making prints on paper or fabric from a previously prepared matrix which can be a block of wood, a metal or stone plate, or some other material. Fine art printing is a branch of art in which the graphic artist is present throughout the entire creative process, from the initial concept to the preparation of the matrix, to the making of the actual print. Until recently, this feature served to differentiate between fine art printmaking and commercial printing. However, modern digital printing technologies do not require the author to be present during the final stage – the printing process itself. The effects of the work of a printmaking artist – the prints, also known as impressions – are considered original works of art, and the number of impressions made depends on the technique selected. Print techniques are divided into three basic groups.

Intaglio involves the carving or etching of the design on a matrix, filling the etched portions with ink and making an impression of the matrix on paper. Sometimes the prints are made manually, but a printing press may also be used. This group includes such techniques as etching, aquatint, mezzotint, copperplate engraving, soft-ground etching, and drypoint.

Relief print uses the protruding parts of the matrix as the printing elements on which the ink is placed. The recessed areas form the background. Examples of this method include woodcut and linocut.

In flat printing, the surface of the matrix is prepared chemically so as to enable only selected areas to be covered by ink, even though there are no protruding or recessed areas where the ink could collect. This group includes lithography, monotype, screen printing, offset printing and digital printing.

FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY, also known – poetically – as painting with light, involves making a permanent record of a real-life moment using light and a camera. Traditional photography uses light-sensitive materials for this purpose, while digital photography, so ubiquitous today, uses electronic methods. In the former case, a print on bromide paper is the effect of the artist’s work, developed using photochemical processes. In the latter case, prints are made using special plotters in a digital printing process.

Let us now have a look at the individual techniques that specific works can use.

ACRYLIC PAINT

Acrylic painting techniques are young, originating in the 20th century. The paintings are characterised by deep, intensive colours and a slightly glossy surface, and they do not require special storage conditions. Acrylics are used in ways similar to both watercolours (they are water-soluble) and oil paints (they are opaque, and can be applied in layers and retouched). Did you know that graffiti may also use acrylic paints?


WATERCOLOUR

If you see a painting with light, slightly blurry, pastel colours, with the paint forming a thin, transparent layer, and the colour of the ground showing through, it may be a watercolour. The technique, which was already known in the ancient times, involves the application of pigments suspended in water on a porous, quickly absorbent paper. The supports used also include vellum, sometimes silk, or even ivory. The technique requires considerable precision, as making corrections is nearly impossible.

ETCHING

Have you ever had a closer look at any of Rembrandt’s works? Many of them use this technique, which is a variation of intaglio. (You can find out what that is in the entry PRINTMAKING.) Wax or varnish is applied to a copper plate, and the drawing is made using a steel needle. At the places where the tool is applied, the metal is exposed, and once the plate is submerged in an acid, the lines are etched. The plate may be etched a number of times, with varnish applied successively to those fragments that have been sufficiently well defined. The final stage is distributing ink in the etched lines and impressing the design onto wet paper using a printing press.

AQUATINT

This technique is similar to etching, the difference being that instead of etching lines, entire areas are etched. As a result of repeating the acid bath several times, and covering progressively smaller areas of the image, the depths of the etched areas can be varied, resulting in a range of half-tones. The effect somewhat resembles watercolour or a drawing in ink or sepia.

COLLAGE

Images using this technique are very distinctive. They are composed of fragments of various materials (paper, fabric, wallpaper, newspaper, photographs and anything that will fit the author’s concept) glued to a surface, and sometimes mixed with other techniques, thus creating unusual compositions. Works of this type can function on their own but sometimes relate to other works, forming a commentary of sorts.

WOODCUT

This is the oldest printing technique, one of the relief printing techniques. The artist needs a block of wood and sharp chisels, burins or knives. The design is drawn on the polished surface of the block, and the tools are used to remove the ground which will remain white after the print is made. Ink is applied to the protruding parts, and the design is ready to be impressed on paper.

GOUACHE

This technique uses water-based paints with an admixture of chalk or another white pigment, making them opaque, as opposed to watercolour. The works are executed on white or coloured paper, or sometimes on vellum or ivory. In the simplest terms, gouache paints are today’s poster paints, as sold in tubes or little jars.

LINOCUT

This is one of the cheapest relief printing techniques, as linoleum, which is used for the matrix, is cheap and widely available. The drawing is cut into the linoleum using a knife, chisel or needle, ink is applied to the protruding parts, and prints are made.

LITHOGRAPHY

Leon Wyczółkowski was the Polish master of this technique which involves the artist making a drawing on a polished limestone surface using a lithographic pencil, greasy ink or lithographic ink. Next, the stone is wetted with water, and ink is applied, sticking only to those areas that are covered by the drawing, and being repelled from the remaining, wet areas. Now, the prints can be made using a printing press or a lithographic machine.

MEZZOTINT

Even though this is a printing technique, the effects are very much painting-like. Where does this come from?
The artist first marks the contours of the image on a copper plate, and then uses various tools to scrape, groove, and excavate the surface, and to smooth and polish some fragments. After the ink is applied to the plate, it adheres to the rough, scratched areas, but does not cover the smooth fragments – or covers them to a lesser extent. As a result, the print is rich, with a whole range of shades of grey, all the way to full black, also including an effect of light.


COPPERPLATE ENGRAVING

When one looks at a work made using this technique, one could have the impression that it is a pen drawing. To achieve this effect, the artist cuts the image using steel burins directly into a polished copper plate. Then, the artist polishes the surface with charcoal, heats it, rubs ink onto it, and makes impressions on wet paper using a press. Interestingly, one such plate can be used to make several hundred impressions, all of them with good quality!

SOFT-GROUND ETCHING

To enjoy the final effects of this technique, the artist must follow a journey composed of many stages. The first stage is polishing and degreasing a plate of copper or zinc. The next stage is to cover it with a mixture of varnish and mutton suet. Paper is applied to this surface, and the drawing is made on that paper in pencil. Where the pencil presses against the paper, the varnish adheres to the paper. After it is removed, the plate under the drawing is free from varnish. The plate is placed in an acidic solution, thus producing the matrix. The impressions somewhat resemble drawings in pencil.

MONOTYPING

This is quite a special method for a printing technique, because the artist only produces one print as a result! What does it involve? The author uses printing inks or oil paints to make a drawing directly on a metal or glass plate, and then manually makes an impression on paper (less frequently, a printing press may be used). Some think monotype to be a technique based on chance, but some insist that the artist plans the creative process and has conscious control over it. In any event, using this technique requires considerable experience.


OIL PAINTING

Oil painting must be the most widespread painting technique that owes its popularity to the wide creative possibilities that it offers. It ensures a wide colour palette, easy selection of hues and intensities, and simple creation of varied textures, while also offering three-dimensional forms through the use of a thick layer of paint. Another important feature is the possibility of retouching and making changes to the finished canvas. Canvas is usually the medium of oil painting, but a plank of wood, a sheet of metal or other materials can also serve this purpose. One advantage of oil paintings is their resistance to the aging effects of time (on the condition that they are technically well prepared).

PASTEL

Works using this technique are easy to recognise. Light, subtle, often interpenetrating colours, luminosity, lightness all make it difficult to determine whether we are dealing with a drawing or painting. The paints, which take the form of thin, soft sticks (consisting of pigment, chalk, gypsum and binder) are applied to – or, more properly, rubbed into – a medium with a rough texture, e.g. cardboard, paper or canvas. They do not penetrate deeper but remain on the surface. One look at Wyspiański’s “Motherhood” and it all becomes clear!

SCREEN PRINTING

Screen printing, also known as silkscreen or serigraphy, originates from the Far East, but it has become a widespread printing technique in the United States, and one of the tools of pop-art. Are you familiar the images of Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley made by the controversial Andy Warhol? This is exactly screen printing. It involves making a design on a (cotton, synthetic or metal) mesh stretched on a frame. The design is applied manually, using stencils, ink or lithographic pencils, or –probably the most frequent method today – by a photographic method using photosensitive emulsion. Ink is pushed through the mesh using a rubber squeegee. For colour works, a separate screen has to be prepared for each colour.

DRYPOINT

The design is cut into a polished plate, usually made of copper, using a steel needle. Without etching, the lines are filled with ink and impressions are made. During the cutting of the design, the steel needle, held upright, does not remove bits of metal but cuts into it and pushes it sideways, leaving small shavings at the edges of the lines; these are responsible for the characteristic black tones and blurred-line effects that are created on the prints. During the printing, the shavings are gradually worn away, so the first impressions are the most valuable.

CHARCOAL

Charcoal is used for works that do not require much detail. Using charcoal allows the artist to work in a free and flowing manner, often using smudging. Charcoal can be used to achieve both thin and wide lines, as well as broad areas, while the depth of the black depends on the type of charcoal and force of pressure.

realizacja: insys