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Oberon Art | Glossary

Glossary of Terms

Acid: acid attacks cellulose fibres by shortening them, causing paper to discolour, become brittle and eventually turn to dust. Exposure to light and damp accelerate this process. Acid is generated by the lignin (tree sap) in paper. It can also be introduced by chemicals used in paper manufacture, framing materials and atmospheric pollution.

Canvas: An open-mesh material which is generally the substrate for oil paintings and needlepoint, and is increasingly used for giclée prints. Canvas is produced in a variety of sizes and of varying fibres: cotton, acrylic, linen and plastic. Works on canvas must be stretched, or supported, over bars or board. Canvas slackens over time, so the artwork will eventually need to be re-stretched. (For the first 40 or so years oil paint is malleable and will yield as the canvas gradually slackens. Once the paint has dried, it may crack and flake as the canvas stretches).

Collograph: A print made by glueing and varnishing different textures and shapes onto a base to create a printing block: usually fabrics, string and tissue paper combinations are stuck to cardboard, and varnished for strength. This is then inked up, and pressed onto paper to create a print. Only a small number of prints are usually possible from the same block, with the inking varying from print to print.

Deckle edged: Paper with uneven, feathered edges, such as handmade paper. Deckle-edged paper is generally float-mounted with the edges showing.

Egg tempera: Water-based paint made from watercolour pigments that are ground with egg yolk. Used by the ancient Greeks and Romans but later supplanted by oil.

Engraving: The general term for incising lines directly into a metal plate or, in the case of wood engraving, an end grain block of hard wood, in intaglio, engraving differs from etching in that the plate is not grounded, and it is the pressure of the tool, not the use of an acid bath, that creates the lines in the metal.

Etching: An acid-resistant ground (coating) is applied to a metal plate. The image is drawn using a round steel point, called an etching needle, to cut through the ground, so that acid bites into the plate when placed in an acid bath. Ink is then rubbed into the etched grooves but cleaned off the flat surfaces. Wet paper is pressed with the inked plate to pick up the ink from the grooves to create the print, also causing a defined embossed plate edge.

Aquatint: An etching plate treated with porous ground of rosin, then heated, cooled, and etched. Leaving a distribution of tone where the acid has bitten between the grains of rosin. The aquatint process can be used to produce a range of tones.)

Fabric art: A generic term incorporating all art made mainly from fabric, including batik, cross stitch, embroidery, tapestry and woven materials.

Facsimile: Literally, an exact likeness, a copy replicating an original work. See also 'reproduction', the term used more generally in relation to contemporary fine art printing.

Gesso: Mixture of chalk and glue that forms the base of gilding. Gesso can also be carved, and can be used to decorate mounts and frames. Gesso can also be painted onto canvas or board as a base for paintings.

Giclée prints: Inkjet prints printed from a computer where the image has been stored as a digital file, and is then outputted onto paper or canvas with a high-resolution wide-format printer. The image may have been created on-screen or may have been scanned in to the computer. Giclee prints may be produced on a wide choice of substrate including artist paper and allow the artist/printer great control over the resulting image.

Handmade paper: Paper made by hand using a mould, which is covered by a flat frame called a deckle, which in turn catches the run-off of wet pulp. The mould is dipped into a vat of wet pulp, shaken to distribute the fibres evenly and drained of excess water. The wet mat of fibres is then dried against blankets and may be hot pressed, cold pressed or air dried.

Hardwood: Wood from deciduous trees with broad leaves. Most hardwood is physically very hard, but not always.

Image size: The measurements of artwork that are to be visible within the frame and mount, including borders, if these are to show. Image size is not always obvious and can be a matter of taste, eg a customer may want a tiny image framed surrounded by a large expanse of paper. Sometimes referred to as window size, since it is the size to which the window aperture is to be cut.

Impasto: The textural 3D quality of paint. Paint applied thickly with a palette knife has a deep impasto. Impasto can be flattened by inexpert restoration.

Japanese paper: Used when framing to museum standards, particularly for making hand-torn hinges with which to support artwork. It is made from certain Far Eastern trees (eg Mulberry) and has long, strong fibres.

Linocut (Or linoleum cut): Easier to cut than wood, this is a relief print method where tools are used to cut the linoleum. The ink is applied to the remaining surface and pressed onto paper.

Lithography: A printmaking process in which a drawing is made on stone or metal with greasy materials, like waxy crayons. The surface is prepared so that the image takes ink while the non-image areas repel it. Hand-drawn lithographs differ hugely from off-set lithos, which are commercially mass-produced with a lithographic press.

Masking tape: Cheap self-adhesive tape designed for temporary use. Not only is it acidic and therefore harmful, it will leave a residue which is impossible to remove. It is likely to fail more quickly than other tapes as it is not designed to stand the test of time. NOT suitable at any framing level.

Monotype print: No two identical prints are possible. A plate is inked up with a roller or brush. Paper is placed ontop and the mirror-image drawn. The paper is peeled away, leaving an inky print on the reverse side of the paper.

Needle art: Another term for embroidery, describing the decoration of fabric by needle and thread. There are hundreds of different stitches and types of embroidery and any type of fabric can be embroidered.

Needlepoint: Needlepoint describes any embroidery on canvas where the whole of the canvas is covered by stitching. The term includes gross point, quick point and petit point. Needlepoint often needs squaring before stretching because the diagonal stitch can distort the shape if over tensioned. The term 'tapestry' is often erroneously used to describe needlepoint; tapestries are in fact woven, not sewn.

Oak: Hardwood used by framers wanting to hand-finish frames leaving the grain visible. The Victorians liked to finish oak in gold.

Obeche: A fine grained hardwood commonly used to make picture frame mouldings. Obeche is soft, has little character and is relatively cheap. It is ideal for painted finishes, though basecoats are needed as the surface is highly absorbent.

Samplers: Originally this term referred to a test piece of embroidery. However, by the 17th century, these practice pieces had taken a definite form and were known as samplers. Antique samplers are highly collectible and the value depends very much on the condition.

Screenprint: A print from a series of stencils, one for each color. Each stencil is applied to a stretched silk or metal mesh so that all areas except those to be printed are blocked out. Originally, the process was called silkscreen printing. During the 1930's when it was first used as a fine art medium, the designation "serigraph" was coined to distinguish screen prints made by an artist in limited editions from screen prints produced under commercial conditions. Now, when so many prints are the result of artist-printer collaboration, the distinction has become academic.

Ultra-violet (UV) light: The invisible light at the violet end of the spectrum that causes paper to deteriorate and discolour, as well as fading some colour pigments. UV light is a major threat to the longevity of works on paper.

Woodblock: see linocut, but using wood instead of linoleum.

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