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Now that your are starting to paint, there is terminology that you will be hearing and perhaps not understanding, so let‘s discuss that.

Contrast. Contrast is your lights and darks. Our eyes go to the darkest darks and the lightest lights. Simply put it is the difference between black and white. Let’s look at the image below. When you look at a black and white photo of an image the first thing your eye goes to is the darkest part of the image. In this cased, that is the top portion of the photo the curtain. As you look down on the curtain you see lights and darks, creating the folds in the curtain. Dark colors push back and light color brings forward the image. The play of the darks and lights in the ballerina give you the sense of movement in the tutu, and arm bands; creating folds and pleats. Good contrast allows your eye to travel. The varying shades of dark and light help the eyes translate the image. Contrast is the most important and hardest thing to learn in painting. Take a black and white picture of your image and see the contrast.

Shadows. Every physical object creates a shadow when light is cast upon it. In the image above, the light is coming from the right lower corner. You can see the shown over the floor boards. Knowing the direction of your light source is important as it will tell you the direction of your shadow. It is important to connect your shadow to the image, otherwise the image and shadow will appear to be floating. Most shadows will be in the greyscale, darker closer to the image and lightening as it moves away from the image. Shadows in water as generally the color of the object.

Reflections. Reflections appear in water. They are the color of the object. If it is a colorful tree, then it is reflected in the water. Any sky your paint is also reflected in the water.

Paints. Acrylic paints come in three forms, soft body, heavy body and fluid. Let’s look at each briefly.

Soft body acrylic paints have more water. They do not dry out as quickly so can be easier to blend. They have less color (pigment load) than heavy body acrylic paints. Student grade paints tend to be soft body.

Heavy body acrylic paints have less water than soft body acrylic paints. They dry quicker because they have less water. Most artists use heavy body to paint. They have a heavier pigment load than soft body acrylic paints and do not need as to cover the canvas. Most paints like Golden, Matisse, Liquitex are heavy body.

Fluid acrylic paints have more water and I use them when I need to make fine details in a painting. Good brands like Golden have high pigment loads. The fluid nature allows an even flow and finer lines than soft body or heavy body acrylic paints.

Palette. This is the object where you will put your paint out. I use a glass palette. You can also use palette paper (a wax like paper). You dispose of the paper when you are done painting. A lot of artists use paper plates to mix their paints. I mix directly on my palette. I recommend a grey palette as it allows your colors to look truer.

Canvas. This is the surface you will create your painting on. There are a variety of canvases available. I will address the differing types in my next blog.

Brush Stroke Direction. This is another important term. Brush strokes and the direction you move your brush are important. This provides positioning of your object, movements, and so on.

These are a few of the terms you need to know and how they effect your painting. Until my next blog, happy painting.


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