Outdoor Watercolors - Glossary

The definitions below apply to this book and are strictly my own.  No dictionary or artist---living or dead --- should be held accountable.

Block - A "watercolor block" or a "block of watercolor paper" refers to a number of sheets of watercolor paper precut to the same size and glued around the edges for convenience. Sold in a variety of sizes. Very convenient for watercolor painting outdoors. When the painting is dry, the sheet is removed easily by slitting around the edge with a knife. Greatest drawback: Large sheets will buckle significantly when wet. A small block, such as the 7" by 10" block I use for outdoor sketching will not buckle enough to disturb the painting.

Brush - The principle tool for watercolor painting. Watercolor brushes are a specific type of brush, and are sold as such. The hair is soft, pliable, capable of holding a significant amount of water, and yet springy enough to nicely control the application of the paint. The best hair is the tail hair of the sable, with the very best being "kolinsky," a Russian variety. These brushes are quite expensive, so many artists use brushes made of synthetic material such as nylon. Some brushes mix sable with nylon for a compromise between the two. Undoubtedly sable is better, but synthetics work quite well---I used synthetic brushes for all of the paintings in this book. There is a larger discussion of brushes under the section on materials.

Composition - The "art" of arranging the elements of a drawing or painting in a manner that pleases the eye. This is a very subjective matter, to be sure. At the same time, artists through the centuries have evolved methods and rules of composition which are time-tested and most helpful. See the section on composition for more information.

Counterchange - I find that this term is seldom used today in art books, but it is one name for a very important technique in drawing and painting. It is the technique of placing light areas next to dark areas of a drawing or painting for artistic effect. Often this is exaggerated. However, the result gives the artwork a greater feeling of reality. I deal with this technique in a number of the illustrations in this book---and as always, one picture is worth a lengthy verbal description.

Drybrush - A technique in which pigment is taken up on a minimally wet brush, and then applied directly to dry paper (as opposed to wet-in-wet technique in which the paper is wet in advance. The brush must always be wet to pick up the pigment---but not too wet. Sometimes the term is applied to a brush which is dragged lightly over the paper so that the texture of the paper is apparent in the sketches of the "masters" are incomparable masterpieces. I use the term here to suggest simplicity and speed of execution---not quality.

Thumbnail Sketch - A very small, simple sketch usually done preliminary to painting for the purpose of working out some of the problems of composition and values prior to executing the larger work.

Value - Not what your painting will bring on the open market! In this book I use the term to describe the light and dark areas of a drawing or painting. A dark value is made with heavy pressure on a soft pencil, or plenty of dark pigment applied to a painting. A light value is the opposite. I always recommend that your sketch or painting contain a wide range of values from the lightest to the darkest. This simply makes the work visually more interesting. You will often hear this important word in the field of two dimensional art.

Wash - The term is used in several ways. In this book I simply mean the technique by which moistened watercolor is applied to an area of watercolor paper. Sometimes it is a large area---sometimes a very small area---but almost always it refers to an area covered by paint. I often use the term "wet-in-wet" to describe a specific kind of wash in which moistened watercolor on a wet brush is applied to a portion of the paper already dampened to receive the wash. Very often the color (or hue) desired will be pre-mixed on the palette before it is applied to the paper. But a wash can be modified by adding other colors of pigment to the wet wash already on the paper.

Watercolor - Very simply, water soluble pigment applied by brush (usually) to a piece of paper. Watercolor is often abbreviated "W/C," not to be confused with water closet. Some would argue convincingly that watercolor painting is the oldest method of painting.


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