An artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression are predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person.

Plein Air

A French expression meaning “open air,” used to describe the act of painting outdoors, directly from the landscape or urban environment, which can lead to paintings imbued with a sense of immediacy and natural light.


A transparent, hard, protective finish or film primarily used in wood finishing but also for other materials. In the context of oil paintings, varnish is applied to finished artworks to protect the surface from dust and dirt and to add a sheen that enhances the appearance of the pigments.


A technique in oil painting involving applying a transparent layer of paint over another, fully dried layer of opaque paint, which gives the surface a glossy finish that can enrich colors.


An initial layer of paint applied to a ground, which serves as a base for subsequent layers of paint. Underpaintings are often monochromatic and help define color values for later painting.


An Italian term that literally means “light-dark”. In paintings, it refers to strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition. This is a technique often used to give an illusion of depth and volume in paintings.


A durable and sturdy fabric used as a surface for painting. It is typically stretched across a wooden frame called a stretcher and may be coated with gesso before it is used to prevent oil paint from coming into direct contact with the canvas fibers.


A technique used in painting, where paint is laid on an area of the surface in very thick layers, usually thick enough that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible.

Palette Knife

A tool used by artists to mix colors on the palette or apply thick layers of paint directly to the canvas, creating a variety of textures and dynamic strokes.

Oil Painting

A type of slow-drying paint that consists of particles of pigment suspended in a drying oil, commonly linseed oil. The viscosity of the oil paint can be modified with additional solvents such as turpentine or white spirit.