Dictionary of Art . . . G - L
G - L
- From the Italian for gypsum or plaster. This is used in the making of
grounds for painting. The traditional gesso is made from a combination of
hide glue and whiting, sometimes with pigment added. It makes a smooth, hard
non-yellowing surface that is very absorbent. This ground is only for rigid
supports because it is brittle. There are other gesso grounds made of half
chalk and half oil. These can be used on flexible surfaces. The most common
use of the term "gesso" today, is in the acrylic gessoes. They are not as
absorbent as the traditional ones, but are very strong and flexible. They
can be used on any clean surface. They come ready made in various sized
- Egg whites beaten until they are frothy, and mixed with a little water,
and then let to stand until the froth disappears. This has been used for
centuries as the adhesive for gilding and as the binder for paints used in
- The technique of putting one transparent color over another, already dry
color. Used in almost all mediums. Most talked about in oil and acrylics.
- Opaque watercolor paint. Most commonly used for commercial illustration.
Can be mixed with transparent watercolors to make less opaque. These paints
are made by adding chalk to the pigments to make them opaque. The use of
gouache goes back to medieval manuscript illumination and was used in 16th -
18th century minature painting. Many painters combine gouache, pastel
watercolors and India ink in the same painting.
- Graffiti Art
- An art form most popular during the 1970's and 1980's, but still alive
today. The word Graffiti is the plural word for scratch in Italian. The
actual practice of graffiti goes back to the Egyptians, but it was not
thought of as an art form until the 1970's when the art world saw the work
of street teens in the New York subways. There were some shows and artists
acknowledged, but as soon as the raw street art came into the galleries of
New York, the interest faded.
- Affixing thin metal leaf to a surface to give the effect of solid or
inlaid metal. It is a very old technique that goes back to the Egyptians and
the Chinese. It reached its highest point at the end of the 19th century and
the beginning of the 20th century with Victorian fashion and in the gilding
of gold picture frames.
- Panels of shredded wood that is glued together with its own natural
adhesive called lignin. It is excellent as a painting surface. It resists
warping and swelling. It is made in two types, tempered and untempered. The
tempered is impregnated with oil to aid in resisting moisture. It is harder
and has a smoother surface. The surface of the tempered should be sanded to
roughen it before priming. Both surfaces are good for painting.
- Hard-Edge Painting
- A term first used in 1958 by the critic Jules Langsner to describe the
work of West Coast painters rejecting the brushy look of Abstract
Expressionism. It later became used for all American work that treated the
picture surface as a single flat surface. These paintings took on a
geometrical look and usually had a limited palette. The style was popular
through the 1950's and was practiced by such painters as Kenneth Noland,
Ellsworth Kelly, and Karl Benjamin.
- Hide Glue
- Most commonly known as rabbitskin glue. A glue made from skins and bones
of animals. Can be bought in sheets, powdered granules, or in powder. When
mixed with hot water in various proportions it makes a very strong binder
and good sealer. It is used in preparing grounds.
- A painting technique where the paint is thick enough to have actual
form. The strokes themselves create some of the effect. Rembrandt was one
who employed this technique to great success.
- Term used in oil painting. It is a thin, transparent glaze of color.
This glaze is applied to the surface over a drawing. It goes directly on the
white surface. It is sometimes called a veil.
movement in art concerned with conveying the effect of natural light on
music, writing or visual arts to convey esp. fleeting feelings or
- India Ink
- India ink originated in China, but was named so by the fact that the
pigment used in making it came from India. The pigment is lampblack, bone
black, or carbon black. Traditionally, it is mixed with a hot hide glue in
the proportions of 1 part pigment to 2 or 3 parts glue and dried into
sticks. These are rubbed on stone and the particles mixed with water. When
it is manufactured in liquid form and sold in bottles, the pigment is mixed
with a little shellac which makes it water-resistant. This ink is considered
quite lightfast. It is not to be confused with the inks made for many
technical pens, many of which are not water-resistant and not lightfast.
India ink can be used with pens or brushes.
- This term is used in art to mean any work that is designed to be set up
for viewing by the public. It is often designed for a specific site. They
were first used in art in the 1970's and are still being done today. They
are not as common today perhaps because of their unsalability. Most are only
installed for a short time and then either moved or dismantaled. They can
include any number or type of objects and activities imaginable. Some of the
artists involved are Joseph Beuys, Daniel Buren, and Donald Lipski.
- Any print or printing process that uses the idea of the ink being in
recessed grooves in the plate. The plates are inked and then wiped. The
print is made by pressing a damp print paper in the plate and the ink is
drawn up out of the grooves and onto the paper. Some of the processes
included in this category are etching, engraving, drypoint, and
- Japan Dryer
- An alkyd resin-based liquid dryer for oils.
- Junk Sculpture
- Mostly known in the 1950's. Really started by Kurt Schwitters, the
German Dada artist, who made assemblages from things found in the streets
after World War I. As an art form it seemed to gain speed during the period
after World War II with the manufacture of so much throwaway merchandise by
the United States. These products were glued and welded together to make
artwork which made varying statements on our culture. Artists include Cesar,
Lee Bontecou, Robert Raushenberg, and Jean Tinguely.
- Kinetic Sculpture
- Any sculpture that contains moving parts. It started with the Dada
artist, Marcel Duchamp, with his spinning bicycle wheel on a stool in 1913.
The root of this style is connected by the interest in modern technology.
This art form was most popular during the 1950's and 1960's. Today, it is
still being carried on by some and is including work with lasers, computers
and other high-tech methods. Two of the founders were Jean Tinguely and
- This term refers to the "low-art" artifacts of everyday life. Paintings
of Elvis on velvet, lamps from the statue of David, and clocks in statues of
Budda. The term comes from the German verkitschen meaning "to make
cheap." It has been made popular in the years since the beginning of pop
art. These objects are now revered by collectors as "camp" making low art
into high art.
- Lay Figure
- Mannequin. Used to study and draw from when a model is not possible.
There are lay figures of people and of some animals, such as horses.
- The ability of a substance, usually paint, to withstand exposure to
daylight with out fading. This is a term found on tubes of paint. Remember,
the term "lightfast" on a tube of artist's paint is a guarantee of
permanence under normal conditions. The same term on a can of industrial
paint or when referring to inks, only means the product is lightfast for the
purpose it was intended. Not for artwork.
- Limited Edition
- This is when the artist promises to not make more than a specified
amount of prints. In the old days of printing the artist would destroy the
plate or stone that the print was made from so no more could be made. This
is still true today of the traditional printing methods, but most prints are
made by offset photolithography, called lithographs, and since they are
produced by the means of photographing an original, the buyer only has the
word of the artist. An edition can be of any length. For the most part,
really fine art prints are limited to 200 to 300 prints. Most of the offset
prints are more in the area of 1000 copies. Some are far larger than that.
There is no limit to the number of prints that could be made on a modern
press. In the old days, the number of prints was very limited and the higher
the number the poorer the print. However, today, with photo offset the last
one is just the same as the first.
- A painting medium manufactured by Winsor & Newton. It is excellent when
used with oils or alkyds. It speeds up the drying of oils, makes them more
brushable, and gives gloss. Also adds transparency. Very good for glazing.
It also resists yellowing.
- This is a printing process based on the fact that oil and water don't
mix. It originated in Solnhofen, Germany where in 1798, Alois Senefelder
discovered that when a greasy crayon was used to draw on a smooth limestone
surface and then the surface was covered with water and then with ink, the
ink would only stick to the stone where the greasy crayon had drawn marks.
Paper could then be pressed on this surface and a print made of the drawing
The process was soon refined and rapidly became a favorite printing method
of and for artists. It was used by such greats as Goya, Daumier, Géricault,
Delacroix, Degas, Munch, Toulouse-Lautrec. In the twentieth century it has
been used by such artists as Picasso and Miro.
- Lithography is sometimes confused with the photomechanical printing
method of Offset Lithography. This is a very big mistake. The process of
traditional lithography is a very time consuming and delicate work. The
photomechanical process is the one used for almost all printing today from
magazines to newspapers to the fine art prints sold in most galleries. The
only difference between the fine art printing and the newspaper is the
quality of the paper and the care given to the printing process.
- The depiction of light in a painting. Any school of painting where the
central theme is the depiction of lighting effects, such as pointillism and
Copyright © 2001- Rex Alexander/The Alexander Gallery. All rights reserved.