Sunday, May 26, 2013


                                                         "DANCER"  by Parker Kaufman

Think about your last visit to an art museum.  Remember wondering as to how the artist achieved a particular look or feeling in a paining?  Here is a small assemblage of techniques artists employ in their masterpieces.

Sfumato:  From the Italian word for "smoke", a technique of painting in thin glazes to achieve a hazy, cloudy atmosphere, often to represent objects or landscape meant to be perceived as distant from the picture plane.

Frottage:  A technique of reproducing a texture or relief design by laying paper over it and rubbing it with some drawing medium, such as pencil or crayon.  Some artists incorporated these rubbings into their paintings by means of collage.

Gouache:  The technique of applying opaque watercolor to paper.  The ususal gouache painting displays a light-reflecting brilliance quite different from the luminosity of transparent watercolors.

Impasto:   Paint is applied in outstanding heavy layers or strokes, creating a thickness or roughness of paint, as opposed to a flat, smooth surface.

Repoussoir:  From the French verb meaning to push back.  A means of achieving perspective or spatial contrasts by the use of illunsionistic devices such as the placement of a large figure or object in the immediate foreground of a painting to increase the liiusion of depth in the rest of the picture.

Chiaroscuro:  In drawing, painting, and the graphic arts, this technique concerns the rendering of forms through a balanced contrast between light and dark areas.  It is effective in creating the illusion of depth and space around the principal figures in a composition.  Leonardo da Vinci was a painter who excelled in this technique.

Aquatint:   A painting technique for producing unlimited tonal gradations to re-create the broad flat tints of ink wash or watercolor drawings.  This is achieved by etching microscopic cracks and pits into the image on a master plate, typically made of copper or zinc.  Spanish artist Goya employed this technique.

Foreshortening:  This means to diminish certain dimensions of an object or figure in order to depict it in correct spatial relationship.  For example, a figure's arm outstretched toward the observer must be foreshorened- the dimensions of lines, contuours, and angles adjusted- in order that it not appear hugely out of proportion to the rest of the figure.  Foreshortening is applied to the depiction of a single object or figure, whereas the term persepctive applies to the depiction of an entire scene.

Now armed with some new terminology, your next museum visit will bring you another perspective to what you see.


  1. Very informative. Thank you.

    1. Many thanks for you comment Annonymous. I hope to bring more fresh and informative posts for you readers.