Word of the Day!

War Projects Act (or WPA)

A scheme of the Federal Arts Project, a program which helped artists from 1935 to 1943 by commissioning works of art across America.

Example: Diego Rivera's Man at the Crossroads was completed for the Federal Arts Project in Rockefeller Center, 1933


A flat piece of wood used to beat damp clay, to remove air pockets and consolidate the mass.

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Pigment which is dispersed into a liquid, called a vehicle, which includes a binder to make it adhere both to itself and to the surface to which it is applied. Types of paint include tempera, watercolor, oil paint, gouache, enamel paint, encaustic, fresco, and secco.

See Also:  ink

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Works of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work.

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A private residence of grand architecture in Italy.

Example: Giulo Romano's Palazzo del Te, Mantua, Italy, 1525-1535

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A slab of wood, metal, marble, ceramic, plastic, glass, or paper, sometimes with a hole for the thumb, which an artist can hold while painting and on which the artist mixes paint. Anything from ice trays to disposable paper or Styrofoam plates might be used as a palette. A pane of glass with a white piece of paper attached to its underside makes a fine palette. It's especially versatile because the color of the paper back can be made to match a painting's ground, making colors easier to choose. Cleanup of dried paints on such a palette can be done easily with a razor knife. The term palette may also refer to the range of colors used in a particular painting or by a particular artist. In Egyptian art, a slate slab, often decorated with sculpture in low relief. The largest ones were commemorative objects.

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Often refers to a wood, copper or other hard surface on which to paint. Sometimes it is referred to as board. Artists of the Gothic and Renaissance periods often painted on panels, at first with tempera, and later with oils, prepared beforehand with a layer of gesso. More recent artists have painted on panels too. Today, it may be a piece of a manufactured material such as Masonite.

See Also:  supportground

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A wide, unbroken view of an entire surrounding area. A picture or series of pictures representing a continuous scene, either displayed all at once, or exhibited one at a time by being unrolled and passed before the audience. Originally, it was a building specially designed to house colossal, circular murals. (pr. pa-no-ra'meh)

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A mass of interlaced cellulose fibers in sheet or roll form, used as a combination ground and support in drawing, watercolor and pastel painting, and the various graphic art techniques. Fine-arts papers are made of pulped linen and cotton rags; while lower quality, impermanent papers, such as newsprint, construction paper, and butcher paper, are made of wood pulp or a combination of wood pulp and cotton rag.

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The basic papermaking process takes advantage of the ability of plant cell fibers (cellulose) to adhere to each other when a watery pulp made from the fibers is spread on a screen called a deckle, and dried. Today, paper is made principally from wood pulp combined with pulps from waste paper or, for fine grades of paper, with fibers from cotton rags. For newsprint, tissues, and other inexpensive papers, the pulp is prepared mechanically, by grinding the wood, sometimes boiling it with various chemicals. The pulp is poured onto a deckle, where the water drains away and the fibers begin to mat. The paper layer then passes through a series of rollers that dry, press, and smooth it, and add various finishes.

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papier mâché

A material, made from paper pulp or shreds of paper mixed with resin, wallpaper paste, or flour and water (2:1 by volume), which can be molded or modeled into various shapes when wet and becomes hard and suitable for painting and varnishing when dry. To slow mold in wallpaper paste or flour and water paste, add 3 T sugar per gallon. Other substitutes (less likely to mold or mildew) are white glue and water, liquid starch and water, and methyl-cellulose paste and water (one 2 oz. package per gallon of water). Papier-mâché's permanence is relative of course, but its light weight, minimal expense and the ease of its making recommend it for many uses. Celluclay is a powdered paper product for making papier-mâché. It's a French word, literally meaning chewed-paper. The equivalent Italian term is carta pesta. It is known to have been used for low reliefs in Italy in the 15th century, and was occasionally popular in Europe for ornamental furniture, etc. (pr. American: paper mah-shay', French: pah"pee-yay' mah-shay') Also see celluclay.

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A type of collage in which paper shapes are combined into one work of art. French, literally "stuck paper." (pr. pah"pee-yay' kahl-lay')

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paraffin (or paraffin wax)

White or colorless flammable oil or wax obtained in the distilling of petroleum. Paraffin is often used as a material for modeling and in such wax-resist techniques as batik, either as a substitute for bee's wax, or as a supplement to it.

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An ancestor to modern papers, parchment is a material on which to write or paint prepared from the skin of a sheep or goat. It replaced the use of papyrus during the ancient Roman period. Monastic scribes of the Middle Ages practically monopolized its use in Europe preceding the introduction there of papermaking techniques utilizing plant fibers in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Parchment may also refer to paper made in imitation of this material.

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parting agent (or parting compound)

See release agent.

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Refers to a certain area of a painting or other work of art; a detail. It is often used to direct discussion to a transition from one color or tone to another, or to the use of a noteworthy technique in a section of a picture, or to an area overpainted by someone who was not the original painter.

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A mat or other border used to frame or mount a picture. Sometimes an adhesive tape or a gummed paper used to accomplish this.

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See adhesives.

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Pigments mixed with gum and pressed into a stick form for use as crayons. Works of art done with such pigments are referred to as pastels. Chalk is similar to pastel, but more tightly bound. (pr. pass-tell')

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A work of art made in admitted imitation of several styles of other works. A composition of incongruous parts; a hodgepodge or pasticcio. Often a pastiche is made in order to ridicule the style of the artist it imitates. (pr. pass-teesh')

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Low relief effects produced by the brushing or controlled dripping of gesso onto a rigid surface. Traditionally, this was either painted or water gilded. Medieval, Renaissance, and later painters and craftsmen used this technique on moldings and other decorations, as well as within painted pictures. (pr. pahs-tee'lee-ah)

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Thickly painted.

See Also:  impasto

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A sheen or coloration on any surface, either unintended and produced by age or intended and produced by stimulation or simulation, which signifies the object's age; also called aerugo, aes ustum, and verdigris. Typically a thin layer of greens (sometimes reds or blues), usually basic copper sulfate, that forms on copper or copper alloys, such as bronze, as a result of oxidation and corrosion. Metal objects have naturally acquired patinas when long buried in soil or immersed in water. Such naturally formed patinas have come to be greatly prized. There are many formulae for the pickles and chemical treatments of metals which may be employed to encourage the formation of patinas. (pr. pah-tee'nah)

See Also:  allegory

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An element of Classical architecture. The pediment is gable, or triangular-shaped and rests at the top of the building betweens the slops of the roof and above the colonnade.

Example: Temple of Fortuna Virilus, Rome, Italy, late second to early first century, B.C.

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A thin skin or film, such as that which forms on oil paint as it dries.

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An implement for drawing or writing, consisting of a thin rod of graphite, colored wax, chalk, charcoal, or another such substance which can be sharpened to a fine point, either encased in wood or held in a mechanical holder. Most common today are pencils which contain "leads" which are actually made of graphite, because actual lead is such a poisonous substance. Until this form was manufactured in the 19th century, the term pencil referred to small, pointed brushes, and penciling referred to a painter's draftsmanship.

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A ghost image in a painting or print that the artist did not intend. In the case of oil paintings, the top layers of color may become semi-transparent as they age, revealing an image beneath that the artist assumed was covered up. In printmaking, this may happen if a previous image is not completely eradicated from the plate.

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performance art

A successor of Happenings, performance art centers on the performance of a single artist's gestures, speech, or costumes to relay a message.

Example: Joseph Bueys' Iphigenia/Titus Andronicus, 1969

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permanent pigment

Any pigment which can be expected to last or remain without essential change and is not likely to deteriorate under certain atmospheric conditions, in normal light or in proximity to other colors.

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A system or formula for depicting three-dimensions on a flat surface. Giotto and Donatello were some of the first artists to employ perspective in their work.

Example: Giotto's Fresco Cycle at Santa Croce, Florence, Italy,, c. 1320

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Any of various alloys with tin as the main component; bright modern pewter contains 6-7% antimony and 1-2% copper; the dull metal of the past contained up to 25% copper, antimony, or lead. Sometimes sculptures described as made of lead have actually been made of such an alloy as this. Caution: contact with lead can contaminate food with poison.

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A photographic print made by placing an assemblage of objects on photosensitive paper exposed to light to yield an image of ghostly silhouettes floating in a void of darkened space. The first photogram was probably made around 1802.

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The art and science of producing permanent images of objects on light-sensitive surfaces. Louis Daguerre (French, 1787-1851) developed the first permanent photographic images in 1839, having continued the pioneering work of Joseph Niepce. Daguerre's process is called the Daguerreotype

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A photomechanical printmaking process invented in 1879. A photographic image is transferred to a copper plate which is chemically etched. The plate is hand-inked for each print.

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A technique employing photographic processes to create stencil screens from graphic images, which them become part of complex printing or painting processes.

See Also:  silkscreen

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A public square in Italy, often of grand proportions and in front of a church.

Example: St. Peter's Piazza, Rome, Italy, begun 1506

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A tool consisting of a curved iron bar with a point at one end and a chisel edge at the other, fitted to a long handle, and used to quarry, mine and break stones, and also to shape them in the most basic way.

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An acid solution in which to soak metals either to clean them or to achieve an artificial patina. Many metals, including bronze and silver, when newly cast are covered with oxides which are easily removed by pickling.

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picture plane

In perspective, the plane (a flat level) occupied by the surface of the picture-- its frontal boundary. When there is any illusion of depth in the picture, the picture plane is similar to a plate of glass behind which pictorial elements are arranged in depth. Artists indicate the supposed distance of subjects beyond the picture plane through the use of changes in the sizes of things, the ways they overlap each other, and (when subjects are placed on the depicted ground, as opposed to flying above it) by positioning them on the area taken up by the depicted floor, ground, or a body of water. Abstract Expressionists worked directly on the plane itself, unconcerned with recession in depth.

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piece mold

A mold made in interlocking sections which can be used in making several casts since the mold is easily removed each time without being damaged. Piece molds are most often made of plaster, but might also be made of clay.

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pied de biche

A claw chisel with two long points. This is the French name (literally "deer's foot") for what in Italy is called a calcagnolo. (pr. pee-ay' deh beesh)

See Also:  bush hammer

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The representation of the dead Christ's body lying in the lap of the Virgin Mary. The first pieta was done in Germany in the 14th century.

Example: Michelangelo's Pieta, 1498-1599

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Finely powdered color material which produces the color of any medium. made either from natural substances or synthetically, pigment becomes paint, ink, or dye when mixed with oil, water or another fluid (also called vehicle). When pressed into wax it becomes a crayon, pencil or chalk.

See Also:  binderfugitive colorspermanent pigment

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A pottery technique, fundamental to manipulating clay. Making a pinch-pot is pressing the thumb into a ball of clay, and drawing the clay out into a pot by repeatedly squeezing the clay between the thumb and fingers. Among their first adventures with clay, K-2 students should have ample opportunities to make pinch-pots, the initial goals of which are: thin walls (from center of bottom to the lip), a smooth inner surface, and identity marked on the underside.

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A unit of liquid measurement (in the US) equal to 16 ounces (fluid), or half a quart. To convert pints into liters, multiply them by 0.4731176; into tablespoons, x 32. Abbreviated pt.

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Any of a variety of thick, dark, resinous substances obtained from the distillation residue of coal tar, wood tar, or petroleum. One type is burgundy pitch. Pitch is used as the material of a model on which to hammer (raising) sheet metals. It is commonly used for waterproofing, roofing, caulking, and paving.

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pitcher (or pitching hammer; pitching tool)

A broad, heavy stone carving chisel, used to strike off pieces of stone in roughing out a carving.

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plaster trap

A receptacle fitted under a sink to provide a filter in the draining system. Waste plaster is strained off when tools, etc., are being cleaned. Using plaster without such a trap risks expensive repairs to drainage pipes.

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That which is modeled, or which can be modeled; also said to have plasticity or plastic quality. (Distinguished from glyptic.) Or, having the qualities of sculpture; being well formed. Also, any of various organic compounds produced by polymerization, capable of being molded, extruded, or cast into various shapes. It can be made highly transparent, translucent, or opaque.

See Also:  acrylic plasticscellcellocutcellophanefiberglassPlasticinepolyester resinspolymerpolystyrenepolyvinyl acetatepolyvinyl alcoholpolyvinyl chlorideresin

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A brand name ("a trade mark owned by the Bluebird Toys group of companies") for a modeling clay (oil-based as opposed to ceramic water-based clays) is available in many colors. It cannot be fired or glazed. It softens as it is modeled by the hands (because of their warmth), pieces being joined to each other by pressing them together and blending with fingertips.

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The three-dimensional quality of sculptured or constructed forms. Plasticity can also refer to the quality of a material which can be easily manipulated-- modeled, molded or pressed into a desired shape; malleable and yet holding its shape. Clay is an example of a material which can be extremely plastic. Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) enjoyed the plasticity of wire; Claes Oldenburg (Swedish-American, 1929) has enjoyed using vinyl, plaster and several other materials for their plasticity.

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A smooth, flat, relatively thin, rigid object of uniform thickness. May refer to any of the following: a sheet of metal, electroplate, a sheet of any material prepared to be inked in order to make prints, a print (especially when produced for a book), a light-sensitive sheet of glass or metal used in a photographic process, or a very shallow vessel

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A heavy, precious, non-corroding, ductile, malleable metal, usually grayish-white, used mainly in jewelry in the form of alloys.

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plein air

French for 'open air'. French painters of the Impressionist style favored painting outdoors, en plein air.

Example: Claude Monet's Rouen Cathedral: The Portal (in Sun), 1894

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An insertion, generally cylindrical in shape. When applied to metal sculpture, it refers to an insert of the same or similar material as the sculpture. Such an insert is best threaded, screwed into a drilled hole (for example where there has been a flaw), and then sawn off and filed down.

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A print made from stencils. Some notable examples are the twenty pictures produced by Henri Matisse for his book Jazz

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While it usually refers to a specific location, to a sculptor, a point is a simple metal tool with a pointed end used to rough out (dress) the basic shape of a stone carving. Hammered vertically and with force at the stone face, it not only punctures the stone's surface but causes a rough circle of stone to burst off around this puncture. Handled softly it can gradually reduce the surface, giving it an overall crumbly or pulverized appearance. A fine punch can also be driven into the stone as a defining hole. In addition, the point can be used obliquely to score the stone in long jagged lines. In typography, it is the smallest unit of measurement: although actually .01384 inch, for practical purposes, it is 1/12 of an inch, and twelve points equal one pica.

See Also:  calcagnoloclaw chiseldotpied de biche

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polyester resins

Synthetic plastic resins in liquid form are made to solidify by the addition of a catalyst. Resin, reinforced with glass fiber, is commonly used as casting material, but may also be modeled when thickened with an inert filler such as powdered chalk. It can be cut and abraded when hard.

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A chemical compound made by grouping molecules to form natural or synthetic resins. Acrylic resins are polymers in a thermoplastic or thermosetting form of either acrylic acid, methacrylic acid, esters of these acids, or acrylonitrile, and are used to produce paints, lightweight plastics, and synthetic rubbers

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A painting of multiple panels that fastened, or hinged together.

Example: Jan van Eyck, The Ghent Altarpiece, 1432

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A plastic which is available in two forms: Toughened polystyrene is a rigid plastic in sheet form, while expanded polystyrene is a light-weight, granular mass, usually worked in sheets or blocks, but also available in loose granules. (pr. pah'lee-sti:"reen) Styrofoam is a trademark used for expanded polystyrene plastic, often mentioned in print as [lower-case s] styrofoam.

See Also:  foam board

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polyvinyl acetate

A synthetic resin used as a medium or a varnish.

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polyvinyl alcohol

Abbreviated PVA, polyvinyl alcohol is a thick white liquid which dries to a tough clear plastic skin. It is an adhesive and may also be used diluted with water as a release agent or sealant.

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polyvinyl chloride

Abbreviated PVC, polyvinyl chloride is a flexible sheet plastic which can be sewn, glued, or welded. Shapes made from PVC may be stuffed, inflated or filled with water. Inexpensive plastic pipes, and their related fittings, commonly used by plumbers, are usually made of PVC.

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A hollow iron rod used to gather molten glass for blowing; also called a punty.

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A hard, white, translucent, impervious, resonant ceramic body, also known as china, invented in China between AD 600 and 900. This clay is primarily made of kaolin, a fine white clay. Also, an object made of porcelain; and sometimes any pottery that is translucent, whether or not it is made of kaolin. Porcelain is regarded as the most refined of all ceramic wares.

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post and lintel

A beamed construction originating in prehistoric structures in which two posts support a beam, or lintel.

Example: Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, England

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potsherd (or potshard)

A fragment of broken pottery discarded by an earlier civilization, likely to have settled into firmly stratified mounds over time and provide archaeological chronologies.

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potter's wheel

A revolving horizontal disk, sometimes called a head, on which clay is shaped manually into pottery vessels. The simplest form of wheel is the kickwheel. To operate it, the potter kicks or propels some form of disk, crank, or treadle in order to keep the turntable spinning. Also commonly used today are power-driven wheels whose speed can be regulated by the potter as he or she works.

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Objects, and especially vessels-- pots, which are made from fired clay, including earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. Ceramics.

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The doctrine employed by 18th-century French painters. These artists preferred a stress of line over color, in reference to Nicolas Poussin.

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A long, slim panel of a hinged altarpiece, usually placed horizontally at the bottom, or vertically at the edge of the composition.

Example: Jan van Eyck, The Ghent Altarpiece, 1432

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A winged or wingless naked male angel or cupid in painting or sculpture

Example: Michelangelo's Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, 1508-1512, contains many putti.

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