Art Notes

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau (French) or Modern Style (English) or Jugendstil (German) is an international philosophy and style of art, architecture and applied art – especially the decorative arts – that was most popular during 1890–1910. English uses the French name Art Nouveau (“new art”), but the style has many different names in other countries. A reaction to academic art of the 19th century, it was inspired by natural forms and structures, not only in flowers and plants, but also in curved lines. Architects tried to harmonize with the natural environment.

Art Nouveau is considered a “total” art style, embracing architecture, graphic art, interior design, and most of the decorative arts including jewellery, furniture, textiles, household silver and other utensils and lighting, as well as the fine arts. According to the philosophy of the style, art should be a way of life. For many well-off Europeans, it was possible to live in an art nouveau-inspired house with art nouveau furniture, silverware, fabrics, ceramics including tableware, jewellery, cigarette cases, etc. Artists desired to combine the fine arts and applied arts, even for utilitarian objects.

Although Art Nouveau was replaced by 20th-century Modernist styles, it is now considered as an important transition between the eclectic historic revival styles of the 19th-century and Modernism.




Cubism is an early-20th-century avant-garde art movement that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture. Cubism has been considered the most influential art movement of the 20th century. The term is broadly used in association with a wide variety of art produced in Paris (Montmartre, Montparnasse and Puteaux) during the 1910s and extending through the 1920s.

The movement was pioneered by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, joined by Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Robert Delaunay, Henri Le Fauconnier, Fernand Léger and Juan Gris. A primary influence that led to Cubism was the representation of three-dimensional form in the late works of Paul Cézanne. A retrospective of Cézanne’s paintings had been held at the Salon d’Automne of 1904, current works were displayed at the 1905 and 1906 Salon d’Automne, followed by two commemorative retrospectives after his death in 1907.

In Cubist artwork, objects are analyzed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form—instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context.

The impact of Cubism was far-reaching and wide-ranging. Cubism spread rapidly across the globe and in doing so evolved to greater or lesser extent. In essence, Cubism was the starting point of an evolutionary processes that produced diversity; it was the antecedent of diverse art movements.

In France, offshoots of Cubism developed, including Orphism, Abstract art and later Purism. In other countries Futurism, Suprematism, Dada, Constructivism and De Stijl developed in response to Cubism. Early Futurist paintings hold in common with Cubism the fusing of the past and the present, the representation of different views of the subject pictured at the same time, also called multiple perspective, simultaneity or multiplicity, while Constructivism was influenced by Picasso’s technique of constructing sculpture from separate elements. Other common threads between these disparate movements include the faceting or simplification of geometric forms, and the association of mechanization and modern life.


















Violin and Candlestick by Georges Braque (1910)


Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso (1907)

















La Femme au Cheval – The Rider by Jean Metzinger (1911-12)


Man on a Balcony (Portrait of Dr. Théo Morinaud) by Albert Gleizes (1912)

Dada or Dadaism

Dada or Dadaism was an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century. Dada in Zurich, Switzerland, began in 1916, spreading to Berlin shortly thereafter, but the height of New York Dada was the year before, in 1915. The term anti-art, a precursor to Dada, was coined by Marcel Duchamp around 1913 when he created his first readymades. Dada, in addition to being anti-war, had political affinities with the radical left and was also anti-bourgeois.

Francis_Picabia,_Dame!_Illustration_for_the_cover_of_the_periodical_Dadaphone_n._7,_Paris,_March_1920Francis Picabia, Dame! Illustration for the cover of the periodical Dadaphone, n. 7, Paris, March 1920

The roots of Dada lay in pre-war avant-garde. Cubism and the development of collage, combined with Wassily Kandinsky’s theoretical writings and abstraction, detached the movement from the constraints of reality and convention. The influence of French poets and the writings of German Expressionists liberated Dada from the tight correlation between words and meaning. Avant-garde circles outside of France knew of pre-war Parisian developments. They had seen (or participated in) Cubist exhibitions held at Galería Dalmau, Barcelona (1912), Galerie Der Sturm in Berlin (1912), the Armory show in New York (1913), SVU Mánes in Prague (1914), several Jack of Diamonds exhibitions in Moscow and at De Moderne Kunstkring, Amsterdam (between 1911 and 1915). Futurism developed in response to the work of various artists. Dada subsequently combined these approaches.

Dada activities included public gatherings, demonstrations, and publication of art/literary journals; passionate coverage of art, politics, and culture were topics often discussed in a variety of media. Key figures in the movement included Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Hans Arp, Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch, Johannes Baader, Tristan Tzara, Francis Picabia, Richard Huelsenbeck, George Grosz, John Heartfield, Marcel Duchamp, Beatrice Wood, Kurt Schwitters, Hans Richter, and Max Ernst, among others. The movement influenced later styles like the avant-garde and downtown music movements, and groups including surrealism, Nouveau Réalisme, pop art and Fluxus.


Not to be confused with Expressivism.

Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas. Expressionist artists sought to express meaning or emotional experience rather than physical reality.

Expressionism was developed as an avant-garde style before the First World War. It remained popular during the Weimar Republic, particularly in Berlin. The style extended to a wide range of the arts, including expressionist architecture, painting, literature, theatre, dance, film and music.

The term is sometimes suggestive of angst. In a general sense, painters such as Matthias Grünewald and El Greco are sometimes termed expressionist, though in practice the term is applied mainly to 20th-century works. The Expressionist emphasis on individual perspective has been characterized as a reaction to positivism and other artistic styles such as Naturalism and Impressionism.

Edvard-Munch1The Scream by Edvard Munch








Egon-SchielePortrait of Eduard Kosmack by Egon Schiele








El-GrecoView of Toledo by El Greco

Fluxus Art

364px-Gmaciunas-manifestoFluxus encouraged a “do-it-yourself” aesthetic, and valued simplicity over complexity. Like Dada before it, Fluxus included a strong current of anti-commercialism and an anti-art sensibility, disparaging the conventional market-driven art world in favor of an artist-centered creative practice. As Fluxus artist Robert Filliou wrote, however, Fluxus differed from Dada in its richer set of aspirations, and the positive social and communitarian aspirations of Fluxus far outweighed the anti-art tendency that also marked the group.

In terms of an artistic approach, Fluxus artists preferred to work with whatever materials were at hand, and either created their own work or collaborated in the creation process with their colleagues. Outsourcing part of the creative process to commercial fabricators was not usually part of Fluxus practice. Maciunas personally hand-assembled many of the Fluxus multiples and editions. While Maciunas assembled many objects by hand, he designed and intended them for mass production. Where many multiple publishers produced signed, numbered objects in limited editions intended for sale at high prices, Maciunas produced open editions at low prices. Several other Fluxus publishers produced different kinds of Fluxus editions. The best known of these was the Something Else Press, established by Dick Higgins, probably the largest and most extensive Fluxus publisher, producing books in editions that ran from 1,500 copies to as many as 5,000 copies, all available at standard bookstore prices. Higgins created the term “intermedia” in a 1966 essay.

The art forms most closely associated with Fluxus are event scores and Fluxus boxes. Fluxus boxes (sometimes called Fluxkits or Fluxboxes) originated with George Maciunas who would gather collections of printed cards, games, and ideas, organizing them in small plastic or wooden boxes. The idea of the event began in Henry Cowell’s philosophy of music. Cowell, a teacher to John Cage and later to Dick Higgins, coined the term that Higgins and others later applied to short, terse descriptions of performable work. The term “score” is used in exactly the sense that one uses the term to describe a music score: a series of notes that allow anyone to perform the work, an idea linked both to what Nam June Paik labeled the “do it yourself” approach and to what Ken Friedman termed “musicality.” While much is made of the do it yourself approach to art, it is vital to recognize that this idea emerges in music, and such important Fluxus artists as Paik, Higgins, or Corner began as composers, bringing to art the idea that each person can create the work by “doing it.” This is what Friedman meant by musicality, extending the idea more radically to conclude that anyone can create work of any kind from a score, acknowledging the composer as the originator of the work while realizing the work freely and even interpreting it in far different ways from those the original composer might have done.

FluxYearBox2Event scores, such as George Brecht’s “Drip Music”, are essentially performance art scripts that are usually only a few lines long and consist of descriptions of actions to be performed rather than dialogue. Fluxus artists differentiate event scores from “happenings”. Whereas happenings were sometimes complicated, lengthy performances meant to blur the lines between performer and audience, performance and reality, Fluxus performances were usually brief and simple. The Event performances sought to elevate the banal, to be mindful of the mundane, and to frustrate the high culture of academic and market-driven music and art. Other creative forms that have been adopted by Fluxus practitioners include collage, sound art, music, video, and poetry—especially visual poetry and concrete poetry.

Among its early associates were Joseph Beuys, Dick Higgins, Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell, La Monte Young, Joseph Byrd, Al Hansen and Yoko Ono who explored media ranging from performance art to poetry to experimental music to film. Taking the stance of opposition to the ideas of tradition and professionalism in the arts of their time, the Fluxus group shifted the emphasis from what an artist makes to the artist’s personality, actions, and opinions. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s (their most active period) they staged “action” events, engaged in politics and public speaking, and produced sculptural works featuring unconventional materials. Their radically untraditional works included, for example, the video art of Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman and the performance art of Joseph Beuys and Wolf Vostell. The often playful style of Fluxus artists led to their being considered by some little more than a group of pranksters in their early years. Fluxus has also been compared to Dada and aspects of Pop Art and is seen as the starting point of mail art and no wave artists. Artists from succeeding generations such as Mark Bloch do not try to characterize themselves as Fluxus but create spinoffs such as Fluxpan or Jung Fluxus as a way of continuing some of the Fluxus ideas in a 21st-century, post-mail art context.


Futurism (Italian: Futurismo) was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. It emphasized speed, technology, youth and violence and objects such as the car, the aeroplane and the industrial city. It was largely an Italian phenomenon, though there were parallel movements in Russia, England and elsewhere. The Futurists practised in every medium of art, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, urban design, theatre, film, fashion, textiles, literature, music, architecture and even gastronomy. Its key figures were the Italians Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Gino Severini, Giacomo Balla, Antonio Sant’Elia, Bruno Munari, Benedetta Cappa and Luigi Russolo, the Russians Natalia Goncharova, Velimir Khlebnikov, Igor Severyanin, David Burliuk, Aleksei Kruchenykh and Vladimir Mayakovsky, and the Portuguese Almada Negreiros. It glorified modernity and aimed to liberate Italy from the weight of its past. Cubism contributed to the formation of Italian Futurism’s artistic style. Important Fututist works included Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism, Boccioni’s sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space and Balla’s painting, Abstract Speed + Sound (pictured). To some extent Futurism influenced the art movements Art Deco, Constructivism, Surrealism, Dada, and to a greater degree Precisionism, Rayonism, and Vorticism.


Dynamic Hieroglyphic of the Bal Tabarin by Gino Severini (1912)


Sketch of The City Rises byUmberto Boccioni (1910)


The Cyclist by Natalia Goncharova (1913)


Brooklyn Bridge by Joseph Stella (1919-20)


The cover of the last edition of BLAST, the literary magazine of the British Vorticist movement, a movement heavily influenced by Futurism


Revolution by David Burliuk (1917)

Dancer in motion by Mikhail Larionov (1915)


Self-portrait by Kazimir Malevich (1912)


Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists. Their independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s, in spite of harsh opposition from the conventional art community in France. The name of the style derives from the title of a Claude Monet work, Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), which provoked the critic Louis Leroy to coin the term in a satirical review published in the Parisian newspaper Le Charivari.

Impressionist painting characteristics include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles. The development of Impressionism in the visual arts was soon followed by analogous styles in other media that became known as impressionist music and impressionist literature.


In the middle of the 19th century—a time of change, as Emperor Napoleon III rebuilt Paris and waged war—the Académie des Beaux-Arts dominated French art. The Académie was the preserver of traditional French painting standards of content and style. Historical subjects, religious themes, and portraits were valued; landscape and still life were not. The Académie preferred carefully finished images that looked realistic when examined closely. Paintings in this style were made up of precise brush strokes carefully blended to hide the artist’s hand in the work. Colour was restrained and often toned down further by the application of a golden varnish.

The Académie had an annual, juried art show, the Salon de Paris, and artists whose work was displayed in the show won prizes, garnered commissions, and enhanced their prestige. The standards of the juries represented the values of the Académie, represented by the works of such artists as Jean-Léon Gérôme and Alexandre Cabanel.

In the early 1860s, four young painters—Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Frédéric Bazille—met while studying under the academic artist Charles Gleyre. They discovered that they shared an interest in painting landscape and contemporary life rather than historical or mythological scenes. Following a practice that had become increasingly popular by mid-century, they often ventured into the countryside together to paint in the open air, but not for the purpose of making sketches to be developed into carefully finished works in the studio, as was the usual custom. By painting in sunlight directly from nature, and making bold use of the vivid synthetic pigments that had become available since the beginning of the century, they began to develop a lighter and brighter manner of painting that extended further the Realism of Gustave Courbet and the Barbizon school. A favourite meeting place for the artists was the Café Guerbois on Avenue de Clichy in Paris, where the discussions were often led by Édouard Manet, whom the younger artists greatly admired. They were soon joined by Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, and Armand Guillaumin.

During the 1860s, the Salon jury routinely rejected about half of the works submitted by Monet and his friends in favour of works by artists faithful to the approved style. In 1863, the Salon jury rejected Manet’s The Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l’herbe) primarily because it depicted a nude woman with two clothed men at a picnic. While the Salon jury routinely accepted nudes in historical and allegorical paintings, they condemned Manet for placing a realistic nude in a contemporary setting. The jury’s severely worded rejection of Manet’s painting appalled his admirers, and the unusually large number of rejected works that year perturbed many French artists.

After Emperor Napoleon III saw the rejected works of 1863, he decreed that the public be allowed to judge the work themselves, and the Salon des Refusés (Salon of the Refused) was organized. While many viewers came only to laugh, the Salon des Refusés drew attention to the existence of a new tendency in art and attracted more visitors than the regular Salon.

Artists’ petitions requesting a new Salon des Refusés in 1867, and again in 1872, were denied. In December 1873, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Cézanne, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas and several other artists founded the Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs (“Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers”) to exhibit their artworks independently. Members of the association were expected to forswear participation in the Salon. The organizers invited a number of other progressive artists to join them in their inaugural exhibition, including the older Eugène Boudin, whose example had first persuaded Monet to adopt plein air painting years before. Another painter who greatly influenced Monet and his friends, Johan Jongkind, declined to participate, as did Édouard Manet. In total, thirty artists participated in their first exhibition, held in April 1874 at the studio of the photographer Nadar.

The critical response was mixed. Monet and Cézanne received the harshest attacks. Critic and humorist Louis Leroy wrote a scathing review in the newspaper Le Charivari in which, making wordplay with the title of Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), he gave the artists the name by which they became known. Derisively titling his article The Exhibition of the Impressionists, Leroy declared that Monet’s painting was at most, a sketch, and could hardly be termed a finished work.

He wrote, in the form of a dialog between viewers,

Impression—I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it … and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than that seascape.
The term impressionists quickly gained favour with the public. It was also accepted by the artists themselves, even though they were a diverse group in style and temperament, unified primarily by their spirit of independence and rebellion. They exhibited together—albeit with shifting membership—eight times between 1874 and 1886. The Impressionists’ style, with its loose, spontaneous brushstrokes, would soon become synonymous with modern life.Monet, Sisley, Morisot, and Pissarro may be considered the “purest” Impressionists, in their consistent pursuit of an art of spontaneity, sunlight, and colour. Degas rejected much of this, as he believed in the primacy of drawing over colour and belittled the practice of painting outdoors. Renoir turned away from Impressionism for a time during the 1880s, and never entirely regained his commitment to its ideas. Édouard Manet, although regarded by the Impressionists as their leader, never abandoned his liberal use of black as a colour, and never participated in the Impressionist exhibitions. He continued to submit his works to the Salon, where his painting Spanish Singer had won a 2nd class medal in 1861, and he urged the others to do likewise, arguing that “the Salon is the real field of battle” where a reputation could be made.

Among the artists of the core group (minus Bazille, who had died in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870), defections occurred as Cézanne, followed later by Renoir, Sisley, and Monet, abstained from the group exhibitions so they could submit their works to the Salon. Disagreements arose from issues such as Guillaumin’s membership in the group, championed by Pissarro and Cézanne against opposition from Monet and Degas, who thought him unworthy. Degas invited Mary Cassatt to display her work in the 1879 exhibition, but also insisted on the inclusion of Jean-François Raffaëlli, Ludovic Lepic, and other realists who did not represent Impressionist practices, causing Monet in 1880 to accuse the Impressionists of “opening doors to first-come daubers”. The group divided over invitations to Paul Signac and Georges Seurat to exhibit with them in 1886. Pissarro was the only artist to show at all eight Impressionist exhibitions.

The individual artists achieved few financial rewards from the Impressionist exhibitions, but their art gradually won a degree of public acceptance and support. Their dealer, Durand-Ruel, played a major role in this as he kept their work before the public and arranged shows for them in London and New York. Although Sisley died in poverty in 1899, Renoir had a great Salon success in 1879. Monet became secure financially during the early 1880s and so did Pissarro by the early 1890s. By this time the methods of Impressionist painting, in a diluted form, had become commonplace in Salon art.

Naïve art

Naïve art is a classification of art that is often characterized by a childlike simplicity in its subject matter and technique. While many naïve artists appear, from their works, to have little or no formal art training, this is often not true. The words “naïve” and “primitive” are regarded as pejoratives and are, therefore, avoided by many.


The Repast of the Lion by Henri Rousseau (1907)


A Janitor by Niko Pirosmani (1909)


















Noah’s Ark by Edward Hicks (1846)

Nouveau Réalisme

Nouveau réalisme (New realism) refers to an artistic movement founded in 1960 by the art critic Pierre Restany and the painter Yves Klein during the first collective exposition in the Apollinaire gallery in Milan. Pierre Restany wrote the original manifesto for the group, titled the “Constitutive Declaration of New Realism,” in April 1960, proclaiming, “Nouveau Réalisme—new ways of perceiving the real.” This joint declaration was signed on 27 October 1960, in Yves Klein’s workshop, by nine people: Yves Klein, Arman, Martial Raysse, Pierre Restany, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and the Ultra-Lettrists, Francois Dufrêne, Raymond Hains, Jacques de la Villeglé; in 1961 these were joined by César, Mimmo Rotella, then Niki de Saint Phalle and Gérard Deschamps. The artist Christo showed with the group. It was dissolved in 1970.

Contemporary of American pop art, and often conceived as its transposition in France, new realism was, along with Fluxus and other groups, one of the numerous tendencies of the avant-garde in the 1960s. The group initially chose Nice, on the French Riviera, as its home base since Klein and Arman both originated there; new realism is thus often retrospectively considered by historians to be an early representative of the Ecole de Nice movement.


Travailleurs Communistes by Raymond Hains












The Nouveau Réalisme Manifesto, signed by all of the original members in Yves Klein’s apartment, 27 October 1960
















Avalanch by Talmoryair (1990)

















Le pouce by César Baldaccini (2005)

Photorealism or Hyper-Realism

Photorealism is a genre of art that encompasses painting, drawing and other graphic mediums, in which an artist studies a photograph and then attempts to reproduce the image as realistically as possible in another medium. Although the term can be used to broadly describe artworks in many different mediums, it is also used to refer specifically to a group of paintings and painters of the United States art movement that began in the late 1960s and early 1970s.


Pop Art

I_was_a_Rich_Man's_Plaything_1947Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the mid-1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States. Pop art presented a challenge to traditions of fine art by including imagery from popular culture such as advertising, news, etc. In pop art, material is sometimes visually removed from its known context, isolated, and/or combined with unrelated material. The concept of pop art refers not as much to the art itself as to the attitudes that led to it.

Pop art employs aspects of mass culture, such as advertising, comic books and mundane cultural objects. It is widely interpreted as a reaction to the then-dominant ideas of abstract expressionism, as well as an expansion upon them. And due to its utilization of found objects and images it is similar to Dada. Pop art is aimed to employ images of popular as opposed to elitist culture in art, emphasizing the banal or kitschy elements of any given culture, most often through the use of irony. It is also associated with the artists’ use of mechanical means of reproduction or rendering techniques.

Pop art and minimalism are considered to be art movements that precede postmodern art, or are some of the earliest examples of Post-modern Art themselves.

Pop art often takes as its imagery that which is currently in use in advertising. Product labeling and logos figure prominently in the imagery chosen by pop artists, like in the Campbell’s Soup Cans labels, by Andy Warhol. Even the labeling on the shipping box containing retail items has been used as subject matter in pop art, for example in Warhol’s Campbell’s Tomato Juice Box 1964, (pictured below), or his Brillo Soap Box sculptures.




Post-Impressionism (also spelled Postimpressionism) is a predominantly French art movement that developed roughly between 1886 and 1905; from the last Impressionist exhibition to the birth of Fauvism. Post-Impressionism emerged as a reaction against Impressionists’ concern for the naturalistic depiction of light and colour. Due to its broad emphasis on abstract qualities or symbolic content, Post-Impressionism encompasses Neo-Impressionism, Symbolism, Cloisonnism, Pont-Aven School and Synthetism, along with some later Impressionists work. The movement was led by Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Georges Seurat.


The term Post-Impressionism was coined by the British artist and art critic Roger Fry in 1910 to describe the development of French art since Manet. Fry used the term when he organized the 1910 exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists. Post-Impressionists extended Impressionism while rejecting its limitations: they continued using vivid colours, often thick application of paint, and real-life subject matter, but they were more inclined to emphasize geometric forms, to distort form for expressive effect, and to use unnatural or arbitrary colour.

The Post-Impressionists were dissatisfied with the triviality of subject matter and the loss of structure in Impressionist paintings, though they did not agree on the way forward. Georges Seurat and his followers concerned themselves with Pointillism, the systematic use of tiny dots of colour. Paul Cézanne set out to restore a sense of order and structure to painting, to “make of Impressionism something solid and durable, like the art of the museums”. He achieved this by reducing objects to their basic shapes while retaining the saturated colours of Impressionism. The Impressionist Camille Pissarro experimented with Neo-Impressionist ideas between the mid-1880s and the early 1890s. Discontented with what he referred to as romantic Impressionism, he investigated Pointillism which he called scientific Impressionism before returning to a purer Impressionism in the last decade of his life. Vincent van Gogh used colour and vibrant swirling brush strokes to convey his feelings and his state of mind.

Although they often exhibited together, Post-Impressionist artists were not in agreement concerning a cohesive movement. Yet, the abstract concerns of harmony and structural arrangement, in the work of all these artists, took precedence over naturalism. Artists, such as Seurat, adopted a meticulously scientific approach to colour and composition.

Younger painters during the 1890s and early 20th century worked in geographically disparate regions and in various stylistic categories, such as Fauvism and Cubism.


Realism (or naturalism) in the arts is the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, implausible, exotic and supernatural elements.

Realism has been prevalent in the arts at many periods, and is in large part a matter of technique and training, and the avoidance of stylization. In the visual arts, illusionistic realism is the accurate depiction of lifeforms, perspective, and the details of light and colour. Realist works of art may emphasize the ugly or sordid, such as works of social realism, regionalism, or Kitchen sink realism.

There have been various realism movements in the arts, such as the opera style of verismo, literary realism, theatrical realism and Italian neorealist cinema. The realism art movement in painting began in France in the 1850s, after the 1848 Revolution. The realist painters rejected Romanticism, which had come to dominate French literature and art, with roots in the late 18th century.
El-almuerzo-Diego-VelázquezDiego Velazques
A Lunch


Romanticism (also the Romantic era or the Romantic period) was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, and while for much of the Romantic period it was associated with liberalism and radicalism, its long-term effect on the growth of nationalism was perhaps more significant.

The movement emphasized intense emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as apprehension, horror and terror, and awe—especially that which is experienced in confronting the new aesthetic categories of the sublimity and beauty of nature. It considered folk art and ancient custom to be noble statuses, but also valued spontaneity, as in the musical impromptu. In contrast to the rational and Classicist ideal models, Romanticism revived medievalism. and elements of art and narrative perceived to be authentically medieval in an attempt to escape population growth, urban sprawl, and industrialism.

Although the movement was rooted in the German Sturm und Drang movement, which preferred intuition and emotion to the rationalism of the Enlightenment, the events and ideologies of the French Revolution were also proximate factors. Romanticism assigned a high value to the achievements of ‘heroic’ individualists and artists, whose examples, it maintained, would raise the quality of society. It also promoted the individual imagination as a critical authority allowed of freedom from classical notions of form in art. There was a strong recourse to historical and natural inevitability, a Zeitgeist, in the representation of its ideas. In the second half of the 19th century, Realism was offered as a polar opposite to Romanticism. The decline of Romanticism during this time was associated with multiple processes, including social and political changes and the spread of nationalism.

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fogWanderer above the sea of fog by Caspar David Friedrich (1818)
















Death of Sardanapalus by Eugène Delacroix (1827)















The Morning by Philipp Otto Runge (1808)


Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings. The aim was to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality.” Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision, created strange creatures from everyday objects and developed painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself and/or an idea/concept.

Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur; however, many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artifact. Leader André Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was, above all, a revolutionary movement.

Surrealism developed out of the Dada activities during World War I and the most important center of the movement was Paris. From the 1920s onward, the movement spread around the globe, eventually affecting the visual arts, literature, film, and music of many countries and languages, as well as political thought and practice, philosophy, and social theory.

Apparition-Face-Fruit-Dish-BeachDali Salvador
Apparition of a Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach


Artistic Paint Types

ACRYLIC PAINT (water-based)
Acrylic paint is a fast-drying paint containing pigment suspension in acrylic polymer emulsion. Acrylic paints are water soluble, but become water-resistant when dry. Depending on how much the paint is diluted with water or modified with acrylic gels, media, or pastes, the finished acrylic painting can resemble a watercolor or an oil painting, or have its own unique characteristics not attainable with other media.

WATERCOLOR (water-based)

Watercolor (American English) or watercolour (Commonwealth and Ireland), also aquarelle from French, is a painting method in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-soluble vehicle. The term “watercolor” refers to both the medium and the resulting artwork. The traditional and most common support (material to which the paint is applied) for watercolor paintings is paper; other supports include papyrus, bark papers, plastics, vellum or leather, fabric, wood, and canvas. Watercolors are usually transparent, and appear luminous because the pigments are laid down in a relatively pure form with few fillers obscuring the pigment colors. Watercolor can also be made opaque by adding Chinese white. In East Asia, watercolor painting with inks is referred to as brush painting or scroll painting. In Chinese, Korean, and Japanese painting it has been the dominant medium, often in monochrome black or browns. India, Ethiopia and other countries also have long traditions. Fingerpainting with watercolor paints originated in China.

TEMPERA (water-based)

Tempera, also known as egg tempera, is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigment mixed with a water-soluble binder medium (usually a glutinous material such as egg yolk or some other size). Tempera also refers to the paintings done in this medium. Tempera paintings are very long lasting, and examples from the 1st centuries AD still exist. Egg tempera was a primary method of painting until after 1500 when it was superseded by the invention of oil painting. A paint consisting of pigment and glue size commonly used in the United States as poster paint is also often referred to as “tempera paint,” although the binders and sizes in this paint are different from traditional tempera paint.

GOUACHE (water-based)
paint is similar to watercolor but modified to make it opaque. A binding agent, usually gum arabic, is present, just as in watercolor. Gouache differs from watercolor in that the particles are larger, the ratio of pigment to water is much higher, and an additional, inert, white pigment such as chalk may also be present. This makes gouache heavier and more opaque, with greater reflective qualities. Gouache generally dries to a different value than it appears when wet (lighter tones generally dry darker, while darker tones tend to dry lighter), which can make it difficult to match colors over multiple painting sessions. Its quick coverage and total hiding power mean that gouache lends itself to more direct painting techniques than watercolor. “En plein air” paintings take advantage of this, as do works of J.M.W. Turner and Victor Lensner. It is used most consistently by commercial artists for works such as posters, illustrations, comics, and for other design work. Most 20th-century animations used it to create an opaque color on a cel with watercolor paint used for backgrounds, and gouache as “poster paint” is desirable for its speed and durability.
As with all types of paint, gouache has been used on some unusual papers or surfaces.

OIL PAINT (oil-based)
Oil paint is a type of slow-drying paint that consists of particles of pigment suspended in a drying oil, commonly linseed oil. The viscosity of the paint may be modified by the addition of a solvent such as turpentine or white spirit, and varnish may be added to increase the glossiness of the dried oil paint film. Oil paints have been used in Europe since the 12th century for simple decoration, but were not widely adopted as an artistic medium until the early 15th century. Common modern applications of oil paint are in finishing and protection of wood in buildings and exposed metal structures such as ships and bridges. Its hard-wearing properties and luminous colors make it desirable for both interior and exterior use on wood and metal. Due to its slow-drying properties, it has recently been used in paint-on-glass animation. Thickness of coat has considerable bearing on time required for drying: thin coats of oil paint dry relatively quickly.

Masking fluid (or frisket)

masking-fluidMasking fluid (or frisket) is a liquid used to block out areas of a watercolor while you paint, thereby retaining the white of the paper or the previous color that was painted. It’s a solution of latex in ammonia and is removed by gently rubbing it off either with your fingers or an eraser, once the painting is dry.

As it’s tricky to get masking fluid out of a brush, it’s advisable to applied it with an old brush or one kept solely for this purpose. Some artists recommend dipping a brush in washing-up liquid before you use masking fluid, as this makes it easier to wash out of a brush.

You can buy ‘erasers’ made from crepe rubber specifically for removing masking fluid; they look like a bit of a plastic from the insider of a shoe sole. (If you’re searching for one on an online art supply store, try using the keywords “crepe rubber cement pickup”.) Using one instead of your fingers to remove masking fluid has the advantage that you don’t accidentally transfer grease or paint from your fingers onto your painting.

Masking fluid that’s got a color is easier to use than one which is white or transparent as you can see where you’ve applied it. Permanent masking fluid is a special type of masking fluid, formulated to be left on the paper permanently.

Turpentine (solvent)

turpentineFast evaporating and highly refined essential oil.

As a solvent, turpentine is used for thinning oil-based paints. English Distilled turpentine has the strongest thinning and brush cleaning power of all artists’ grade solvents.



9 Tips for working with Masking Fluid

Masking fluid is often perceived as a difficult medium. Its usefulness is undermined by the apparent difficulties, sometimes to the extent that artists give up on it. However by following the tips outlined below, the ‘difficulties’ can quite easily be overcome, allowing the artist to add a new range of marks and effects to the already incredibly versatile medium of watercolour.


1. Plan Thoroughly
To get the most out of masking fluid, it should be considered very carefully at the planning stage of a painting. In most cases it is applied before any paint comes into contact with the paper.
The marks made and therefore consequently left by the masking fluid on its removal have to be carefully appraised. It might help to think of it not as masking fluid but as ‘white paint’. Often a painting can be ruined when the artist has obviously considered the placement of paint but has taken a less than considered approach to the application of the masking fluid. A badly planned and poorly applied area of masking fluid can have as damaging effect to a painting as a poorly painted passage and can leave the painting in ruins.

2. Dilute to Taste
Through experience, you learn that sometimes masking fluid can be too thick if used straight from the bottle. Good practice is to water it down to aid the flow of the masking fluid onto the paper, which is useful for creating finer lines or more finely spattered areas in the painting than are possible using thicker fluid.
Test the effectiveness of the masking fluid on some sample scraps of your intended watercolour paper. If the paper used is a soft paper, the masking fluid might pull at the paper when it is removed. It might be advantageous to dilute the masking fluid with water, as this would exert less of a pull on the paper.


3. Handle with Care
Never shake the bottle of masking fluid. This can cause the masking fluid to coagulate, resulting in a ‘stringy’ lump of masking fluid that, if used directly from the jar, can land in a blobby mess right where you don’t want it! With that in mind, uou can also decant the required quantity into an old jar, as you can see any lumps that might have formed exiting the bottle and remove them accordingly.

4.Choose Different Tools
Use a variety of tools to apply the masking fluid to the paper, dependent on the effects that you wish to achieve. It can be applied using a brush, dip pen, a colour shaper, toothbrush, stencil brush or rolled up paper. Allow masking fluid to build up on a ‘grotty brush’ and you will end up with a unique tool that offers the artist a number of exciting application possibilities, useful for adding sky holes to trees or highlights to stones or pebbles on seashores and riverbanks.

tools-masking-fluid5. Soapy water is invaluable
When choosing a brush to apply the masking fluid, go for an old brush that has lost both spring and point; a nylon-haired brush will stay cleaner than one made from natural fibres. You can have a jar of soapy water to hand, into which you dip your brush, removing any excess with kitchen roll before you dip it into the masking fluid. Coating the hairs of the brush with this weak detergent solution helps to prevent the masking fluid from clinging to them, making dispersal much easier. It also helps to prevent the masking fluid drying out too quickly and clogging the brush in mid application. When assessing the application of the masking fluid, don’t keep the brush resting on a saucer or on the table – pop it back into the soapy water solution to prevent it drying out.

6. Vary your Application
Masking fluid can be painted, drawn, spattered, dabbed or flicked on to your painting surface. Spend some time experimenting with some of the effects and marks that you can make with the different tools that you have at your disposal, and consider how they might be used in a painting. For example, a flicked application from a stencil brush can create a wonderfully random effect of light sparkling on water.

using-masking-fluid-027. Don’tWork Wet
Make certain that the paper is thoroughly dry before applying the masking fluid, otherwise you run the risk of the masking fluid penetrating the top layer of the paper. This could result in the paper being torn when the masking fluid is removed.
Always leave the masking fluid to dry fully before over-painting too. To check this, carefully touch the masking fluid with your fingertip. If some comes away, then leave it for a few minutes and re-check.
Only when you touch the masking fluid without it being disturbed is it safe to proceed. Clean your masking fluid brushes in water, but never use the same water to paint with, as the small amount of masking fluid in the water will damage and clog up the brush hairs.

8. Remove it Carefully
Some artists use a soft rubber to remove the masking fluid from the paper. You can even remove it by gently rubbing with your fingertips, but only when you have checked that the paint and paper are both completely dry.

Touch the paper with the back of your fingers; if it is still cold to the touch then the work is too damp to safely remove the masking fluid.

9. Soften the Edges
Masking fluid can leave hard-edged marks on your work. If the wash painted over a masked area is not a staining colour, then once the masking fluid is removed the edges of these marks can, if desired, be softened by gently lifting out with a damp brush.

Basic Colour Mixing Advice

Colour Mixing Tip 1. You Can’t Mix Primary Colours
When combining colours to obtain new hues, there are three basic colours that cannot be made by mixing other colours together. Known as primary colours, these are red, blue, and yellow.

Colour Mixing Tip 2. What Happens If You Mix Primary colours?
If you combine two primary colours, you create something called a secondary colour. For example, mixing red and blue produces purple; yellow and red makes orange; blue and yellow combined make green; red and blue make purple. The exact tint or shade of the secondary colour you create depends on which red, blue, or yellow you use (light or dark), and the proportions used. If you mix three primary colours, you get black.

Colour Mixing Tip 3. Which Specific Primary Hues Should I Mix?
It depends what secondary colour you want and what tint or shade of that colour you’re aiming to create. Mixing a deep cadmium yellow with red ochre produces a slightly different orange from that created with a titanium yellow. Basically, each differing pair of primary colours will produce a differing secondary.

Colour Mixing Tip 4. Judging How Much of Each Primary colour To Use
The exact proportion of (say) red-to-yellow you mix when creating orange will determine the exact type of orange you get. For instance, if you mix more red than yellow, you get a reddish orange; if you add more yellow than red, you get a yellowish orange. Play around with the colours you have and try out different combinations and proportions. Just remember to keep a record of your experiments!

Colour Mixing Tip 5. Can I Buy Pre-mixed Reds, Blues and Yellows?
Yes. Nowadays you can buy a very wide range of primary reds, blues, and yellows, like: cobalt blue, caribbean blue, cerulean blue, Prussian blue, and Sevres blue, among others. Types of red include alizarin crimson, cadmium red, cadmium scarlet, carmine, and Venetian red, to name but a few; while yellows include cadmium yellow, Naples Yellow, lemon yellow and yellow ochre.

Colour Mixing Tip 6: For The Brightest Colours Use Single Pigments
For the most intense, luminous results, use the minimum number of pigments. Ideally, make sure that the two colour paints you are mixing are each made from one pigment only. If in doubt, check the label: most “Artist Quality” paints itemise the pigment(s) used.

Colour Mixing Tip 7. How to Get Tertiary Colours?
Mixing a primary and a secondary colour (like red + green) or two secondary colours (such as orange + green) produces something called a tertiary colour. The latter, in particular, results in muddy colours – browns, greys and blacks. Tertiary colours like Blue-Purple, Yellow-Green, Green-Blue, Orange-Yellow, Red-Orange and Purple-Red are all created by combining a primary with a secondary colour.

Colour Mixing Tip 8: Always Add Dark to Light
When combining colours, remember that it requires only a small amount of a dark colour to change a light colour, but it needs a lot more of a light colour to change a dark one. So, always add dark (eg. blue) to light (eg. white), not vice versa.

Optical Colour Mixing Tips

Colour Mixing Tip 26: For Brightest Intensity Use Optical Colour Mixing
Optical color mixing is regulated by our “perception” of colour, rather than the mixture of colours on a palette. In other words, instead of mixing two colours then applying the mixture to the canvas, place the two un-mixed single colours next to each other on the canvas and allow the viewer’s “eye” to do the mixing. The effect will be similar, except that when the eye mixes the colours the result is usually brighter. This technique of optical colour-mixing (Divisionism) was exemplified in the Pointillism style of the Neo-Impressionist painters Georges Seurat (1859-91) and Paul Signac (1863-1935). See also: Italian Divisionism (c.1890-1907). A modern practitioner is the Irish Impressionist artist Arthur Maderson.

Colour Mixing Tip 27: Juxtaposing Certain Colours Increases Intensity
In order to make bright colours stand out more, place them next to neutral colours on the canvas. For example, a regular red will appear richer and more intense when placed alongside a grey hue. Similarly, a dark tone (eg. dark blue) will intensify if surrounded on the canvas by a light one (eg. lemon yellow).

Colour Mixing Tip 28: Using Glazes For Optical Colour Mixing
Glazing is another method of producing optical colour mixes. For instance, by applying a blue glaze over a yellow ground, the green produced is much livelier than one produced by mixing yellow and blue pigments. This is because light enters the transparent film and is refracted from below, producing a rich, glowing effect.

Colour Mixing Tip 29: Using the Counterchange Technique
Counterchange is the method of placing light shapes against dark, and vice versa. This optical colour mixing technique not only makes the lighter shapes stand out, it creates extra “movement” by leading the viewer’s eye from light to dark and back again. One of the greatest exponents of counterchange was the Dutch Realist artist Jan Vermeer.

Colour Mixing Tip 30: How To Create Depth and Space
Another optical colour mixing technique is the juxtapositioning of warm and cool colours. The point is, the eye perceives cool colours as being further away than warm ones. Thus, for example, placing warm earthy colours in the foreground of a landscape painting, and progressively cooler colours towards the horizon, causes the viewer’s eye to perceive greater depth in the canvas.

Choosing a surface for Acrylic painting

Choosing-a-surface-for-Acrylic-paintingIf you enjoy working with acrylics then you have a wide range of surfaces to choose from including canvas, paper, wood, degreased leather, brickwork, or anything which is neither greasy nor too glossy.

Acrylic painters using an oil technique favour canvas, whilst paper is used by those working in a water colour style. Apart from the choice of Winsor & Newton canvases, Galeria Acrylic Pads are also popular for sketching or outdoor work.

Stretched cotton canvas is the surface used most often by professional artists. The weave of the cloth combined with the spring of the stretched material make the cotton canvas a popular choice together with its affordability. Linen canvas, popular with oil painters for its smooth, stiff surface, can also be used for acrylic painting but is not as commonly used for acrylics. Take a look at our Tip & Technique on ‘Understanding the difference between Canvas and Linen’.

When you use acrylics you can paint straight onto the surface, this is because acrylics will not sink like oils into the material. Acrylics will produce strong, bright colours on raw cotton canvas and this means that, if you choose, there is no need to size or prime the canvas before you start working.

Canvas Board
Although canvas boards were first introduced to help artists work outdoors, some artists prefer them to work with anywhere because they take up less room and are less easily damaged than a stretched canvas. Winsor & Newton boards are made with a substantial backing board and high quality cloth, making them superior in quality to coated sketching boards. If you are looking to frame your finished work then a canvas board can be easier to frame than a traditional canvas.

Acrylic painters enjoy using paper because of its texture and drag, and it is also very affordable. Once again, as with a cotton canvas, you can apply acrylics straight onto the surface of the paper – no need to worry about the sinking issues of oils.

Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylic Colour Paper comes in a variety of sizes, sheets or pads, and is lightly embossed with a canvas texture.
Good quality heavy water colour paper can be used if you prefer a traditional surface. Paper can also be primed, using the brushwork for extra texture.

Medium Density Fibre Board (MDF)
MDF is created from wooden fibres which have been compressed with adhesive under high pressure. It is affordable and readily available in most DIY stores. Remember to prime the MDF before painting.

Primers control the texture, absorbency and colour of your surface and using a good quality primer will make the colours in your work stand out and help your painting last a long time.

There are 4 Acrylic primers:

Acrylic Clear Gesso
Clear Gesso is a unique product which provides tooth but no colour, so by using acrylic colours you can make your own coloured gesso.

Acrylic White Gesso
Artists’ Acrylic White Gesso is made from the highest quality acrylic resin and has the highest covering power making it the best primer if you are only going to apply a single coat.

White Gesso Primer
Galeria Gesso Primer provides a good quality gesso at an affordable price.

Galeria Black Gesso Primer
This black primer provides a base with maximum contrast. A dark priming brings the elements of the painting together and also saves time when painting.

Unusual surfaces
There may be occasions when you just want to push your own creative boundaries that little bit further and one way of doing that is choosing a completely different type of surface. Let your imagination go and try using acrylic on plaster, brick, terracotta and degreased leather.

Color Theory: The Three Primaries and Secondary Colors

THREE PRIMARY COLORSthree-primary-colors

In color mixing for painting, the fundamental rule is that there are three colors that cannot be made by mixing other colors together. These three, red, blue, and yellow, are known as the primary colors.

What Happens When You Mix Primary Colors?
If you mix two primaries together, you create what is called a secondary color. Mixing blue and red creates purple; red and yellow make orange; yellow and blue make green. The exact hue of the secondary color you’ve mixed depends on which red, blue, or yellow you use and the proportions in which you mix them. If you mix three primary colors together, you get a tertiary color.

What About Black and White?
Black and white can also not be made by mixing together other colors, but as they aren’t used in color mixing to create colors, they get excluded from color mixing theory. If you add white to a color you lighten it and if you add black you darken it (though some painters don’t use black at all, see Color Mixing Lesson: Black and White).

Aren’t There Different Blues, Reds, and Yellows?
Yes, you can buy various different blues, reds, and yellows. For example, blues include cobalt blue, cerulean blue, ultramarine, monestial blue, and Prussian blue. Reds include alizarin crimson or cadmium red, and yellows cadmium yellow medium, cadmium yellow light, or lemon yellow. These are all primary colors, just different versions.

Which Specific Primary Colors Should You Use?
It’s not a question of there being a right or wrong primary to use, but rather that each blue, red, and yellow is different, and produces a different result when mixed. Each pair of primaries will produce something different, sometimes only subtly different.

secondary-colorsSECONDARY COLORS

Secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors together: red and yellow to get orange, yellow and blue to get green, or red and blue to get purple. The secondary color you get depends on the proportions in which you mix the two primaries. If you mix three primary colors together, you get a tertiary color. Secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors together. Red and yellow make orange; red and blue make purple; yellow and blue make green.

How Do I Know What Colors My Primaries Will Produce?
Red and yellow always make some kind of orange, yellow and blue a green, and blue and red a purple. The actual color you get depends on which primary you’re using (for example whether it’s Prussian blue or ultramarine you’re mixing with cadmium red) and the proportions in which you mix the two primaries. Paint a color chart where you record which two colors you mixed and the (approximate) proportions of each. This will provide you with a ready reference until you get to the stage when you instinctively know what you’ll get.

How Much of Each Primary Color Do I Use?
The proportions in which you mix the two primaries is important. If you add more of one than the other, the secondary color will reflect this. For example, if you add more red than yellow, you end up with a strong, reddish orange; if you add more yellow than red, you produce a yellowish orange. Experiment with all the colors you have – and keep a record of what you’ve done.

Impressionist techniques

French painters who prepared the way for Impressionism include the Romantic colourist Eugène Delacroix, the leader of the realists Gustave Courbet, and painters of the Barbizon school such as Théodore Rousseau. The Impressionists learned much from the work of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Eugène Boudin, who painted from nature in a style that was similar to Impressionism, and who befriended and advised the younger artists.

A number of identifiable techniques and working habits contributed to the innovative style of the Impressionists. Although these methods had been used by previous artists—and are often conspicuous in the work of artists such as Frans Hals, Diego Velázquez, Peter Paul Rubens, John Constable, and J. M. W. Turner—the Impressionists were the first to use them all together, and with such consistency. These techniques include:

  • Short, thick strokes of paint quickly capture the essence of the subject, rather than its details. The paint is often applied impasto.
  • Colours are applied side-by-side with as little mixing as possible, a technique that exploits the principle of simultaneous contrast to make the colour appear more vivid to the viewer.
  • Grays and dark tones are produced by mixing complementary colours. Pure impressionism avoids the use of black paint.
  • Wet paint is placed into wet paint without waiting for successive applications to dry, producing softer edges and intermingling of colour.
  • Impressionist paintings do not exploit the transparency of thin paint films (glazes), which earlier artists manipulated carefully to produce effects. The impressionist painting surface is typically opaque.
  • The paint is applied to a white or light-coloured ground. Previously, painters often used dark grey or strongly coloured grounds.
  • The play of natural light is emphasized. Close attention is paid to the reflection of colours from object to object. Painters often worked in the evening to produce effets de soir—the shadowy effects of evening or twilight.
  • In paintings made en plein air (outdoors), shadows are boldly painted with the blue of the sky as it is reflected onto surfaces, giving a sense of freshness previously not represented in painting. (Blue shadows on snow inspired the technique.)

New technology played a role in the development of the style. Impressionists took advantage of the mid-century introduction of premixed paints in tin tubes (resembling modern toothpaste tubes), which allowed artists to work more spontaneously, both outdoors and indoors. Previously, painters made their own paints individually, by grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with linseed oil, which were then stored in animal bladders.

Many vivid synthetic pigments became commercially available to artists for the first time during the 19th century. These included cobalt blue, viridian, cadmium yellow, and synthetic ultramarine blue, all of which were in use by the 1840s, before Impressionism. The Impressionists’ manner of painting made bold use of these pigments, as well as even newer colours such as cerulean blue, which became commercially available to artists in the 1860s.

The Impressionists’ progress toward a brighter style of painting was gradual. During the 1860s, Monet and Renoir sometimes painted on canvases prepared with the traditional red-brown or grey ground. By the 1870s, Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro usually chose to paint on grounds of a lighter grey or beige colour, which functioned as a middle tone in the finished painting. By the 1880s, some of the Impressionists had come to prefer white or slightly off-white grounds, and no longer allowed the ground colour a significant role in the finished painting.

Professional Water Colour Techniques: Three Contributors to Granulation

granulatingthumbnailMany artists lean towards water colour for its ability to convey a granulated aesthetic when applied consciously. As a natural property of certain water colours, granulation causes the pigment within the paint to settle outside of the binder, clinging on to the valleys of textured water colour paper. If you’re painting a foggy or cloudy scene, or portraying the haze of beach waves, this can be a particularly useful technique to employ.
In order to control the level of granulation in your water colour scene, there are three main contributors to be aware of:

011) Medium

The more water you use when mixing your water colours together, the more intense the granulation effect. Granulation Medium will enhance the granulation effect, as shown in the test at left.

Using Sepia, an opaque, non-granulating colour on cold pressed paper, she shows the difference between using plain water and Granulation Medium. The example reflects the contrast between:
A. Plain water
B. Granulation Medium

2) Paper

Rough surfaced papers leave much stronger granulated effects, as the pigment clings on to the texture of a granulation-friendly surface, like our Cotman Water Colour Paper Pads.

Ran a test of Professional Water Colour Cobalt Violet (see: example at right), a naturally granulating pigment. Applying the paint to rough, not/cold pressed and hot pressed smooth paper, she shows that although certain pigments are likely to give a granulated effect on any paper, the roughness will exaggerate the granulation.

023) Colours

If you’re not sure where a certain colour lies on the granulation spectrum, wet your paper and add some colour on top. Gently rock the paper back and forth until the pigment settles, and you’ll have your answer.

Some colours achieve a more intensely granulated texture on professional paper, such as those pictured above. (Click on the colours above individually to explore them within the Professional Water Colour range.)

The aforementioned colours may granulate on their own, but to take it one step further, or to test granulating effects in otherwise smooth pigments like Winsor Blue (Green Shade), try Granulation Medium.

Proportions of the human body

While no-one’s built exactly the same, there are certain standard proportions that are helpfull for figure drawing.

body-proportionsPeople come in all sizes and shapes, but there are a few underlying rules which are invaluable for getting proportions accurate in figure painting. Once you’re familiar with these, it’s also easier to observe the natural variations that occur in people.

Height: If the head (from the end of the chin to the crown) is taken as a unit of measurement, the body is about eight heads tall. There are three head lengths from the end of the spine to the base of the skull. Midpoint is at the genitals.

Feet and Hands: Feet and hands are surprisingly big. Feet are about a head long and hands are easily the same length as from the chin to the forehead.

Arms and Legs: If the arms are hanging freely, the wrists are around mid-point and the fingertips mid-thigh. In women, the elbows are slightly above the waist.

Shoulders: In a man, the shoulders are about two heads wide.

Buttocks are about a head tall.


Brush Pen for Calligraphy

Tip Types

There are three main types of brush tips: natural hair, which is made from animal hair, usually weasel; synthetic hair, generally made from nylon; and felt. Felt tips are good for those just starting out, because their firmer tips are more marker-like, and offer more control, while synthetic and natural hair brushes require more practice to get used to.


Brush tips range from very soft to very firm, depending on the type of bristle, how densely they’re packed, and size. The harder the tip, the more predictable the results. However, softer tips are able to achieve more effects and respond better to the movements of your hand. It takes more control to use a softer tip.


Brush tips vary in thickness, to be used for different purposes. For bold strokes, the thicker the brush tip, the better. For detailed work, a fine tip is ideal.


When a brush is elastic, it’s flexible enough that you can apply pressure to it to get the desired effect, but still be able to bounce back to its original shape. It should have a certain spring to it that demonstrates its elasticity. A brush tip that’s not elastic stays deformed when the pressure if relieved, whereas the an elastic brush tip will retain its shape even after multiple strokes.

Ink Flow

It’s paramount to find a brush pen that dispenses ink smoothly and evenly to prevent the much dreaded effect of streaking, unless that’s the look you’re going for. On the other hand, it can’t be too juicy, or you’ll have a huge blotchy mess on your hands.


If the color is supposed to be black, we don’t want to see a dark gray. That’s what gray brush pens are for after all.
Brushes Shapes


The most common shapes brushes come in are: Flats, Filberts, Brights and Rounds.
Numbers on brushes vary widely between brands. Look at the size of the brush instead of its number.


An easel is an upright support used for displaying and/or fixing something resting upon it, at an angle of about 20° to the vertical. In particular easels are traditionally used by painters to support a painting while they work on it, normally standing up, and are also sometimes used to display finished paintings. Artists’ easels are still typically made of wood to functional designs that have changed little for centuries, if not millennia, though new materials and designs are now available.

There are three common designs for easels:

  • Tripod designs are based on three legs. Variations include crossbars to make the easel more stable and an independent mechanism to allow for the vertical adjustment of the working plane without sacrificing the stability of the three legs of the easel.
  • H-Frame designs are based on right angles. All posts are generally parallel to each other with the base of the easel being rectangular. The main portion of the easel consists of two vertical posts with a horizontal crossbar support, thus giving the design the general shape of an “H.” Variations include additions that allow the easel’s angle with respect to the ground to be adjusted.*
  • Multiple Purpose design incorporates improved tripod and H frame features with extra multiple adjustment capabilities that include finite rotational, horizontal and vertical adjustment of the working plane. Four extendible armatures securely lock a canvas or drawing board to the easel, thus allowing any part of a painting to be instantly repositioned at any height or angle whilst painting. This includes bringing the working area directly underneath the brush or pen hand. The front and all four sides of a canvas are untouched by the easel. The easel folds down instantly to a compact size. While painting, it can be moved without the canvas falling off. This ergonomic design removes the physical pain and discomforts experienced when using traditional A or H frame easels and with improved brush control. Consequently, an artist can work faster with no loss of quality and can experiment with different mediums and techniques while achieving noticeable improvement in their paintings. This easel design allows for it to be used in a studio, outdoors or for display.
Natural Brush Hairs

Sable Hair

A notable example of a world-class sable hair brush is the iconic Winsor & Newton Series 7.
The highest quality brushes are made using sable hairs. Under a microscope, you can see that each individual hair is conical, springy, and covered in tiny scales. The combination of the three factors increases the brush’s surface area and allows it to soak up a lot of colour. Crucially, you’re still in control of colour release. It’s what makes sable hair brushes so popular among professional artists.

Squirrel Hair

Squirrel hairs are perfect mop brushes due to their natural colour-carrying capacity. The individual hairs are cylindrical and soft – as with our Professional Water Colour Squirrel Brushes – in contrast to sable-haired brushes, which are defined by a point and spring. They are also useful for gouache and silk painting, and are best matched with Professional Water Colour or Designers’ Gouache.

Goat Hair

Similar to squirrel hair brushes, goat hair brushes are a more economical, but coarser choice for mopping colour onto a surface. A fine example is the Mop & Wash Brush – Series 140. With wavy hairs, they have no point, so they are most frequently used for background washes using Cotman Water Colours.

Hog Hair

Known for its stiff texture, hog hair is stout enough to pick up oil or acrylic colour straight from the tube. Each hair naturally ends in a ‘flagged’ tip or split end, which enables the brush to scoop up a lot of Artists’ Oil Colour.Hog hair has a natural curve, so when our expert brush makers craft the brushes, each hair is turned inwards. Having this shape gives you control when pressing on canvas, as the brush tip only widens to the size of the ferrule.
The highest quality hog brushes, Artists’ Hog Brushes, demonstrate the stiffest, strongest hairs with plenty of flag; mid-range hog brushes display a softer hair. A solid entry-level brush is the Azanta Black.
Eventually, all hog brushes wear down to a smaller size, but due to the meticulous handicraft of our brush makers, the ones in the Winsor & Newton ranges still maintain their shape.

paletteA palette, in the original sense of the word, is a rigid, flat surface on which a painter arranges and mixes paints. A palette is usually made of wood, plastic, ceramic, or other hard, inert, nonporous material, and can vary greatly in size and shape. The most commonly known type of painter’s palette is made of a thin wood board designed to be held in the artist’s hand and rest on the artist’s arm. Watercolor palettes are generally made of plastic or porcelain with rectangular or wheel format with built in wells and mixing areas for colors.

From the original, literal sense above came a figurative sense by extension, referring to a selection of colors, as used in a specific art object or in a group of works comprising a visual style. This second, figurative sense is the one extended in the digital era to the computing senses of “palette”.

Palette Knife

A palette knife is a blunt tool used for mixing or applying paint, with a flexible steel blade. It is primarily used for mixing paint colors, paste, etc., or for marbling, decorative endpapers, etc. The “palette” in the name is a reference to an artist’s palette which is used for mixing oil paint and acrylic paints.

Art knives come primarily in two types:

  • palette knife resembling a putty knife with a rounded tip, suited for mixing paints on the palette;
  • painting knife with a pointed tip, lowered or “cranked” like a trowel, suited for painting on canvas.

While palette knives are manufactured without sharpened cutting edges, with prolonged use they may become “sharpened” by the action of abrasive pigments such as earth colors.



Art movement

An art movement is a tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by a group of artists during a restricted period of time, (usually a few months, years or decades) or, at least, with the heyday of the movement defined within a number of years. Art movements were especially important in modern art, when each consecutive movement was considered as a new avant-garde.


According to theories associated with modernism and the concept of postmodernism, art movements are especially important during the period of time corresponding to modern art. The period of time called “modern art” is posited to have changed approximately half-way through the 20th century and art made afterward is generally called contemporary art. Postmodernism in visual art begins and functions as a parallel to late modernism and refers to that period after the “modern” period called contemporary art. The postmodern period began during late modernism (which is a contemporary continuation of modernism), and according to some theorists postmodernism ended in the 21st century. During the period of time corresponding to “modern art” each consecutive movement was often considered a new avant-garde.

Also during the period of time referred to as “modern art” each movement was seen corresponding to a somewhat grandiose rethinking of all that came before it, concerning the visual arts. Generally there was a commonality of visual style linking the works and artists included in an art movement. Verbal expression and explanation of movements has come from the artists themselves, sometimes in the form of an art manifesto, and sometimes from art critics and others who may explain their understanding of the meaning of the new art then being produced.

In the visual arts, many artists, theorists, art critics, art collectors, art dealers and others mindful of the unbroken continuation of modernism and the continuation of modern art even into the contemporary era, ascribe to and welcome new philosophies of art as they appear. Postmodernist theorists posit that the idea of art movements are no longer as applicable, or no longer as discernible, as the notion of art movements had been before the postmodern era. There are many theorists however who doubt as to whether or not such an era was actually a fact; or just a passing fad.

The term refers to tendencies in visual art, novel ideas and architecture, and sometimes literature. In music it is more common to speak about genres and styles instead. See also cultural movement, a term with a broader connotation.

Artistic Color Names



Calligraphy is a visual art related to writing. It is the design and execution of lettering with a broad tip instrument, dip pen, or brush , among other writing instruments. A contemporary calligraphic practice can be defined as, “the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious, and skillful manner”.

Modern calligraphy ranges from functional inscriptions and designs to fine-art pieces where the letters may or may not be legible. Classical calligraphy differs from typography and non-classical hand-lettering, though a calligrapher may practice both.

Calligraphy continues to flourish in the forms of wedding and event invitations, font design and typography, original hand-lettered logo design, religious art, announcements, graphic design and commissioned calligraphic art, cut stone inscriptions, and memorial documents. It is also used for props and moving images for film and television, testimonials, birth and death certificates, maps, and other written works.

Calligraphy Types:


The visual appearance of a city or urban area; a city landscape.

Easel Painting

easel-paintingEasel painting is a term in art history for the type of mid-size painting that would have been painted on an easel, as opposed to a fresco wall-painting or miniature that would have been created sitting at a desk, though perhaps also on an angled support. It does not refer to the method of display after creation; in fact most easel paintings are intended to be displayed framed and hanging on a wall.

Ex-libris or Bookplate

exlibrisA bookplate, also known as ex-librīs [Latin, “from the books of…”], is usually a small print or decorative label pasted into a book, often on the inside front cover, to indicate its owner. Simple typographical bookplates are termed “booklabels”.

Bookplates typically bear a name, motto, device, coat-of-arms, crest, badge, or any motif that relates to the owner of the book, or is requested by him from the artist or designer. The name of the owner usually follows an inscription such as “from the books of…” or “from the library of…”, or in Latin, ex libris…. Bookplates are important evidence for the provenance of books.

In the United States, bookplates replaced book rhymes after the 19th century.


Fresco (plural frescos or frescoes) is a technique of mural painting executed upon freshly-laid, or wet lime plaster. Water is used as the vehicle for the pigment to merge with the plaster, and with the setting of the plaster, the painting becomes an integral part of the wall. The word fresco (Italian: affresco) is derived from the Italian adjective fresco meaning “fresh”, and may thus be contrasted with fresco-secco or secco mural painting techniques, which are applied to dried plaster, to supplement painting in fresco. The fresco technique has been employed since antiquity and is closely associated with Italian Renaissance painting.


Impasto technique

Impasto is a technique used in painting, where paint is laid on an area of the surface (or the entire canvas) very thickly, usually thickly enough that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible. Paint can also be mixed right on the canvas. When dry, impasto provides texture, the paint appears to be coming out of the canvas.

The word impasto is Italian in origin; in that language it means “dough” or “mixture”; the verb “impastare” translates variously as “to knead”, or “to paste”. Italian usage of “impasto” includes both a painting and a potting technique. According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, the root noun of impasto is pasta, whose primary meaning in Italian is paste.

Oil paint is most suitable to the impasto painting technique, due to its thickness and slow drying time. Acrylic paint can also be impastoed. Impasto is generally not possible in watercolour or tempera without the addition of thickening agent due to the inherent thinness of these media. An artist working in pastels can produce a limited impasto effect by pressing a soft pastel firmly against the paper.

Impastoed paint serves several purposes. First, it makes the light reflect in a particular way, giving the artist additional control over the play of light on the painting. Second, it can add expressiveness to the painting, the viewer being able to notice the strength and speed applied by the artist. Third, impasto can push a painting into a three-dimensional sculptural rendering. The first objective was originally sought by masters such as Rembrandt, Titian, and Vermeer, to represent folds in clothes or jewels: it was then juxtaposed with more delicate painting. Much later, the French Impressionists created entire canvases of rich impasto textures. Vincent van Gogh used it frequently for aesthetics and expression. Abstract expressionists such as Hans Hofmann and Willem de Kooning also made extensive use of it, motivated in part by a desire to create paintings which dramatically record the “action” of painting itself. Still more recently, Frank Auerbach has used such heavy impasto that some of his paintings become almost three-dimensional.

Because impasto gives texture to the painting, it can be opposed to flat, smooth, or blending techniques.

Japanese and Chinese Calligraphy

The commonly-known word “calligraphy” has Greek etymology, and it derives from κάλλος kallos “beauty” + γραφή graphẽ “writing”. However, in a way, this is a very unfortunate translation in regards to calligraphy based on the Chinese writing system (on this site, also referred to as kanji, 漢字 – i.e characters from China’s Han dynasty). The difference between the Western and Eastern arts of writing is as significant as that between the Earth and the Sun, and yet the historical and theoretical information available, be it in books or on various websites, is somewhat misleading or mistaken. For this reason Chinese or Japanese calligraphy is misunderstood and its fascinating secrets remain hidden for those who have no access to texts written in kanji.

calligraphy-01Far Eastern calligraphy is an art within art, a way of life, and a path to immortality. Just like love fills the heart, calligraphy fills our souls, nourishing a new sense of life born out of selflessness, absence of pride in the fertile soil of a pure mind. We believe that through this website we can not only share our passion, but also intrigue you by stimulating the deepest layers of sensitivity accessible to a human being.

Calligraphy in Japanese is read: shodo (書道i.e. a way of writing), when in Chinese it is shufa (書法, i.e. method of writing). The word shodo, or “sho” consists of two characters; 書 (to write) and 道 (a path), thus it would suggest that calligraphy is a way of being through writing, a path that one chooses not as an art or endeavour, but a sense of being. Sho matures with us, becoming fuller and richer. Life experience adds a lot of flavour to one’s work. In this capacity, sho cannot be learned, and it ought to be experienced, it cannot be rushed, but it must be earned.

calligraphy-02Calligraphy is based in a logographic writing system (i.e. kanji, which are also referred to as sinographs), and in the case of Japanese calligraphy also on syllabaries (currently there are two: hiragana and katakana, although historically there were more). There is also one exceptional syllabary in the Chinese language called nushu (女書, lit. “women’s writing”), although it is not applied in classical calligraphy. However, due to its unique character, nushu is discussed in the calligraphy styles menu.

Unlike its western counterparts, a single character (kanji) can depict a word, phrase, scene, mood, and also be a poem and a painting all in one. This cannot possibly be achieved through the Latin alphabet or even painting. For instance, a Japanese phrase “matsukaze” (松風), composed of only two characters “pine” (松) and “wind” (風), yet it will translate into: “the sound of the wind roaming through pine tree tops”. Watching the maze of spiritually enchanted black lines, you suddenly feel the fresh breeze, and hear the hum of the air rubbing against the green needle leaves. Admiring expressive work full of vigour and passion is a truly hypnotizing experience.

The western art of visual writing (known as “calligraphy”, i.e. the art of beautiful writing) is more of a craft, where sho is often referred to as “heart imagery” or “soul painting”. It conveys emotions, passion, and the vision of the creator. Executed in single strokes that cannot be retouched, thought out, or planned, it offers a journey into the depth of soul of another human being. The sensation aroused by a passionate shodo can be compared to looking deep into someone’s eyes. We like to think of it as an enchanted storytelling that charms time and space.

calligraphy-03Shodo entraps cosmic energy flow within lines, preserving a state of mind forever. Hosting such work in your home, you seed harmony and let it emanate a positive aura of simplicity. Both admiring and writing calligraphy are commonly considered forms of meditation, proven to be the most effective way of promoting longevity, surpassing any other Oriental discipline. The majority of the calligraphy masters enjoy a long and healthy life.

Being deeply spiritual, magical and truly magnificent, black ink traces soaked deep into the simple abyss of white sheet will embrace your soul in its translucent arms of purity, giving you new insight into the surrounding word, and perhaps yourself, too. For me, personally, standing in front of inspirational sho from a skilled calligrapher is beyond exciting. It is a privilege.

Sho is a unique phenomenon of the artistic world. It’s a true wonder and it is treated with great respect here in the Far East. In China and Japan there are special shrines (惜字炉, sekijiro) for burning paper covered in characters. No one dares to throw works in the bin or ever tread on them. In Japan, calligraphers used to bury brushes in Buddhist or Shinto shrines, as if they were dear friends who had expired. Shodo is considered to be a sacred vessel of ancient knowledge, a form of ever-lasting energy able to outlast its creator – the human mind.

If you take a deep bow before it, detach yourself from the modern rush and materialistic madness, it will whisper to you, heart to heart, touching your soul with eternal beauty and epic poetry of simple black lines.

“Calligraphy, even though it requires immersing oneself in lifelong study, is not based on skill per se. It is not craftsmanship either, as it is delivered when felt, and not when asked for. Evolving through millennia of historical unrest and uncertainty, shodo has proven to be truly immortal and ethereal art.

There is no such thing as complete or absolute knowledge of calligraphy, nor is there a common way to master it. It cannot be simply defined, or generalized, nor can it be fully experienced or appreciated without elevating one’s own self above the realm of the here and now. It’s free and boundless, roaming the skies of deepest emotions of the Universe, just like an elusive mythical dragon, meandering though dreamy clouds of the cosmos. You do not catch it or touch it. You simply bounce off the petty ground of reality, and soar along, side by side. “

On pages of our website you will find an abundance of detailed information on the evolution of calligraphy which was purposely divided into Chinese and Japanese history, and it is being discussed chronologically based on the appearance of the styles and the events that assisted that appearance. We believe that it is the best way to tell the story of this most fascinating art.


Painting or drawing of all the visible features of an area of countryside or land, considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal.



minitureThe word miniature, derived from the Latin minium, red lead, is a picture in an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript; the simple decoration of the early codices having been miniated or delineated with that pigment. The generally small scale of the medieval pictures has led secondly to an etymological confusion of the term with minuteness and to its application to small paintings especially portrait miniatures, which did however grow from the same tradition and at least initially use similar techniques.

Apart from the Western and Byzantine traditions, there is another group of Asian traditions, which is generally more illustrative in nature, and from origins in manuscript book decoration also developed into single-sheet small paintings to be kept in albums, which are also called miniatures, as the Western equivalents in watercolor and other mediums are not. These include Persian miniatures, and their Mughal, Ottoman and other Indian offshoots.

Narrative Art (Narrative subject matter)

Narrative art is art that tells a story, either as a moment in an ongoing story or as a sequence of events unfolding over time. Some of the earliest evidence of human art suggests that people told stories with pictures. However, without some knowledge of the story being told it is very hard to read ancient pictures because they are not organized in a systematic way like words on a page, but rather can unfold in many different directions at once.

narrative-artStatic images in any artistic medium do not naturally lend themselves to telling stories as stories are told over time (diachronic) and pictures are seen all at once (synchronic). Although there are some common features to all narrative art, different cultures have developed idiosyncratic ways to discern narrative action from pictures. Prior to the advent of literacy most narrative art was done in a simultaneous narrative style with very little overarching organization. Once literacy developed in different parts of the world pictures began to be organized along register lines, like lines on a page, that helped define the direction of the narrative. This method of linking scenes together led to other ways of telling stories in the 20th century, namely the newspaper, comic strips and comic books.

In painting in traditional Western art since the Renaissance, the concept of history painting covers most narrative scenes. Narrative is generally easier to represent in painting and relief in sculpture than in sculpture in the round, where depicting several figures becomes complicated, though the Roman Sperlonga sculptures are a lavish exception.


A view of an expanse of sea; a sea landscape.


Still Life

It is a painting or drawing of an arrangement of objects, typically including fruit and flowers and objects contrasting with these in texture, such as bowls and glassware.


Subject Matter

A definition for ‘subject matter’ from the art point of view is the topic dealing with what is represented in a work of art, such as still life, landscape, seascape, cityscape, portrait.

‘Subject matter’, from an artistic point of view, refers to what is being represented within a work of art. The subject matter of a painting determines how it is categorized.

Common subject matters include:

  • landscape and natural form
  • portrait and figurative
  • close up
  • mechanical form
  • still life
  • narrative