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“Learn the Language of Painting for Artistic Success"





If you want to improve your painting skills and become more successful in oils, it can be helpful to learn the language of painting. This means understanding the techniques, styles, and terminology used in painting. By doing so, you can enhance your painting abilities and achieve your artistic goals.

Selected Terminologies


Gesso is a painting ground that comprises a binder, pigment, and chalk. It is also referred to as a ground. A short ground has a higher proportion of chalk than a long ground.


Bole is a gesso that contains a naturally colored earth pigment. Flemish and Venetian refer to yellow and reddish pigments, respectively. An imprimatura is a translucent layer applied over a ground or a bole.


Rheology refers to the mechanical working properties of a paint mix. Tube oil usually has a thick, stiff rheology that requires adjustment to achieve various techniques.


Vehicle is a carrier for paint and is usually a medium of some type. Vehicles modify the rheological properties of paint and may additionally modify other properties such as drying rate or optical properties.


Grisaille, Brunaille, and Verdaccio are traditional underpainting systems that use a monochromatic tonal scheme. Grisaille is grey, brunaille is brown, and verdaccio is green.


Grisaille and Glaze is a traditional system that uses a grisaille underpainting with translucent to turbid to opaque overpainting.


Ebauche is a baroque painting system that is based on working from translucent to opaque and big to small. Ebauche may be refined with glazes to create a very indirect appearance or supplemented by wet-into-wet oils to create a more direct finish. Ebauche to direct is often termed alla prima or 'fa presto' painting. The determining factor from simple direct painting is the initial use and retention of a translucent ebauche base layer.


Camaïeu is a 19th-century underpainting system that employs a restricted palette of translucent to turbid colors and is called the 'true system of oil painting' by Sickert. Camaïeu grew in popularity over truly translucent ebauche in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many contemporary alla prima artists use a Camaïeu system.


Direct painting refers to placing colors wet-into-wet, as opposed to wet over dry. It is a modern method that precludes the possibility of true optical color.


Indirect refers to any painting system that employs successive layers of paint, wet over dry. For this to work, successive layers must exhibit control over opacity.


Optical and Subtractive Color: Color is an interaction of a surface with light. Optical colors are created by allowing light to pass through successive translucent or turbid layers of paint, for example, layers (surfaces) of yellow and blue over a white gesso will create an optical green. Subtractive color relies upon atomic mixing of these surfaces into a composite whole that will return a simple color; mixing blue and yellow to create green, for instance.


Value is a simple measure of light or dark. When it comes to describing colours, painters often use a scale of ten that ranges from black to white. This scale allows them to classify colours based on their degree of brightness or darkness. However, when it comes to actually painting, artists do not need to use all ten shades. In fact, they only need to work with three basic values: darker than, lighter than, and same as. These value decisions are used to create contrast, depth, and dimensionality in an artwork. By skillfully using these three assessments, painters can create a wide range of colours and tones and bring their artwork to life.


Saturation refers to the intensity of colour. Saturation cannot be increased by subtractive mixing but may be increased by optical painting.


Hue is one of the six colour families, eight if one includes the achromatic colours white and black.


Tint, Tone, and Shade are mixes with white, gray, or black, respectively.


Temperature is a measure of how warm or cool a colour is relative to its parent hue, as determined by its place on the scientific or triadic colour wheel.


Triadic Colour Wheel is an arrangement of colours by hue and temperature. It is used for colour mixing (optical and subtractive) and colour planning.


Italianate and Dutch Palettes are descriptive terms for saturation and value choices. A Dutch palette is dark, earthy, tonal, and 'old master' in appearance, often upon a bole. In contrast, an Italianate palette is more chromatic, typically employing a white or pale ground.



In a nutshell


It's important to have the right vocabulary to learn, express your intentions and communicate your thoughts effectively when it comes to oil painting. Our programs provide you with consistent terminology and helpful insights to accelerate your progress as an oil painter, allowing you to become more skilled and knowledgeable in the process.


About The Martin Kinnear Studio


The Martin Kinnear Studio provides meticulously structured, interactive live and online courses in the specialised field of oil painting. The studio is led by award-winning artist Martin Kinnear, who has been the recipient of numerous accolades, including a prestigious medal from the Paris Salon for his unparalleled skill and artistic vision. Through the courses offered by the Martin Kinnear Studio, students can expect to acquire a deep understanding and appreciation for the techniques and philosophies that underpin the art of oil painting, as well as to develop their own unique artistic voice and style. Whether they choose to participate in the live or online classes, students can rest assured that they will receive the highest level of instruction and guidance from a true master in the field.


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