Turquoise is a blue-green mineral famed for its beauty throughout the world. It has been known by many names. The Aztecs called it chalchihuitl. The ancient Romans called it callais. Its modern name dates to the 1600s and comes from the French “turques;” the French called it thus because it was imported to Europe from Turkey. As an artistic medium, turquoise it most famously used in jewellery, but it can also found in other kinds of decorative objects. Many famous relics from antiquity employed turquoise; perhaps one of the most famous archaeological objects that employed the mineral is the burial mask of Tutankhamun which is also inlaid with lapis lazuli and carnelian.

Burial mask of Tutenkhamun

Archaeologists date the use of this opaque gemstone to roughly 3000 B.C. when it was used in ancient Egypt to inlay various burial furnishings. It is considered one of the first gems ever mined. From its earliest use it was revered as a kind of talisman with protective qualities. Various cultures have believed in its ability to grant good fortune, for example. Ancient Persians, who wore turquoise around their neck or wrists believed in the power of turquoise to safeguard them from an unnatural death. On the other hand, the mineral’s composition can cause it to change colours depending on changes in light or even changes in the acidity of the wearer’s skin; this change in colour was regarded as an evil omen by the ancients warning of danger or doom.

Persian turquoise workers

Turquoise has been found in many parts of the world. The ancient mines of Persia were especially noted during antiquity, but Iran continues to be an important source of turquoise today—particularly in the region of Neyshabur. The ancient Egyptians, however, obtained their turquoise from the Sinai Peninsula where it continues to be mined today. The American Southwest is well-known for its deposits of turquoise as well. Native Americans have been mining the mineral since pre-Columbian times. According to popular opinion, the best and most valuable turquoise comes from Iran; however, the Sleeping Beauty turquoise mined in Arizona is regarded as the most precious and valuable in the U.S. Other countries where turquoise is mined include China, Afghanistan, Tibet, India, Australia, Turkestan, and Chile.

Probably introduced to Europe through the Silk Road, turquoise is prized for its beauty throughout the world. Often used to decorate ceremonial objects in many cultures, turquoise was additionally fashioned into beads as well as pendants. In the Middle East, turquoise could be seen as a decoration for both turbans and horse saddles. Often it was used with other precious stones to inlay a particular object. Unfortunately, the imitation of turquoise has been occurring since the days of ancient Egypt. Gemologists value the mineral according to hardness and coloration. The most prized shade of turquoise tends to be robin’s egg blue. Experts also recommend that turquoise be kept out of intense sunlight or worn with cosmetics as these elements could change the mineral’s colour. Turquoise that is blemish and vein-free is particularly prized as an artistic medium.


As both an ancient and contemporary art medium, wood has been used to create sculpture, crafts, and functional objects of art. An extensive array of wood types has been used in the creation of artistic objects. Wood finishes have ranged from natural to painted or stained. Due to the organic nature of wood, many of the earliest wood objects have deteriorated due to time; however, wood has been used by people to create artistically rendered objects prior to recorded history. Even today, its artistic uses are extensive.

Deterioration in wood

As the planet contains more than a trillion tons of wood, it remains an easy source material for artists and artisans. Wood has historically been an essential material for humans who used it to build some of the world’s first structures and shelters.

Not surprisingly, wood continues to be a vital element of architecture. It is used to create functional objects as well as ornamental items. Until the end of the nineteenth century, wood was also the structural component of boats and ships.

Wood has been used to create furniture since antiquity and many of the finest pieces from various historic eras are housed and displayed in world museums and galleries.

While extremely useful, wood also poses many challenges for artists and crafters. Wood must be treated or it is subject to dry rot, water rot, and insect damage .

Training is often required in the areas of carpentry and wood-working to create masterful works of wood-based art. Wood carvers also use special techniques and tools to achieve desired outcomes.

Instrument makers employed great technical skill to fashion musical instruments such as violins, cellos, and guitars; the most revered are regarded as priceless works.  Decoratively speaking, wood burning and parquetry also employ wood as the primary feature of compositions.

Golden eagle – woodburning by Brando Jones

Parquetry floor

Both hardwoods and softwoods are used as art mediums. Carpentry, woodworking, woodcuts, parquetry, wood engraving, and woodturning employ wood as their primary medium. Wood is used in the creation of furniture, decorative objects (i.e. frames, jewel boxes, ornaments, etc…), sculpture, and more.

Wood jewellery

Wood sculpture

Wood has also been used as an important medium in the fine arts as well as folk art. Many early masters painted their great works on wood. Consequently, many artisans who work in art restoration have trained to become proficient in techniques associated with wood and period restorations. Artisans and designers that work with wood rely on their skills to effectively work with a chosen type of wood. Wood may be chosen based on its strength, durability, grain, and colour as well as its specific characteristics as they relate to a given art form.

Colours of wood


Terra cotta, also known as ‘baked earth,’ has been employed as an art medium since ancient times in cultures throughout the world. The natural clay of its composition gives the terra cotta its characteristic orange-brown or reddish-brown colour. Depending on the clay, the colour will vary, but it may also be readily found in yellow, gray, or other shades. Terra cotta is fired upon drying in order to harden for use. Though not inherently waterproof, terra cotta, even during the period of antiquity, could be waterproofed by burnishing its surface before firing and later applying a glaze which allows the item to become completely waterproof.

From Mohenjo-Daro, modern Pakistan, 3rd-2nd millennium BC ‘Timeless’ There are two broad traditions of sculptural representation in Indian terracotta art

As a pottery material, terra cotta has a long history that stretches back to the period of 3000 B.C. to the ancient site of Mohenjo-daro and areas of Mesopotamia. Though the earliest bricks made of clay were left to bake in the sun, objects were eventually fired as a true ceramic for a variety of uses that include functional items like pitchers and pots to funerary statues that were placed in tombs. Though widely used in Mesopotamia and later by Europeans and Pre-Columbian peoples of the Americas, the Chinese used terracotta extensively. In addition, some of the earliest plumbing piping was composed of terra cotta.

Pre-columbian art – Mochica erotic terracotta

While a telltale material for making garden pots today, terra cotta has long been used as a roofing material; the ancients used terra cotta to make roof tiles. Advances in terra cotta production made it appropriate for use in architecture; unglazed terra cotta was a popular architectural material for making facades during the Victorian period for example. Even since the ancient period in many parts of the world terra cotta was used for ornamentation, particularly as relief sculptures. Free-standing sculpture was also widely used among historical artisans.

Bishnupur Terracota art – Bengal, India

There are many well-known art works and artefacts composed of terra cotta. One of the most astounding works of terra cotta is the terra cotta army of Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang; the extensive terra cotta army is made up of more than 8,000 life-size warriors, horses, chariots, and weaponry which were buried along with the emperor around the year 209 B.C.

The tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang contains an estimated 7,000 lifelike clay soldiers, accompanied by weapons such as bronze swords and bows and arrows

The Kantajew Temple terra cotta structure and designs of Bangladesh are also world-famous and date to 1722. Birmingham, England’s Bell Edison Telephone Building is famously designed with architectural terra cotta and red brick. Terra cotta adornment can also be found in China’s Forbidden City.

Kantajew Temple. Kantaji Temple Dinajpur Bangladesh

As an art medium, terra cotta has long been favoured as a sculpting and ceramic material because it is easy to mould and is an easily procured natural material. Though a staple of ancient art design, terra cotta is still widely used around the world as an art medium today.

The Bell Edison Telephone Building (17-19 Newhall Street), Birmingham


Since we discussed beads and beadmaking techniques in art in the last week, it is only a natural progression to talk about bone – which is a related subject. Bones, shaped and worked upon, have been used as beads in various forms. In this article we shall address bones and the techniques used on them to create art.

Beads made of bone

The practice of rendering bone into a work of art dates back to the prehistoric past. Bone carving has been associated with many civilizations around the world that favoured it as an art medium. Art works featuring animal bones were typically associated with ceremony, ritual, and religion.

Bone sword

Artisans sometimes made cuts in the bone or carved intricate designs into it. Bone may have been fashioned into ornaments for the home as well as jewellery worn by men, women, and children. Artisans developed many techniques for working with bone to render it into their desired forms or to employ their patterned designs.

HMS Agamemnon and USNS Niagara Laying Atlantic Cable

Scrimshaw is one of the most widely known types of bone art. Aside from bone, artisans–often sailors or whalers–would use ivory, as well, to carve the natural material or to decorate it with scrollwork or engravings. Scrimshaw material was usually a by-product of marine life.

Scrimshaw desk display piece on mammoth ivory

The art of scrimshaw was favoured by whalers as a pastime during their long voyages, some of which could last several years while they hunted for whales in the far-off southern seas. The bones of baleen and sperm whales were some favourite types of bone used by scrimshaw artists.

Historians assert that the practice of scrimshaw dates to roughly the mid-1700s aboard voyaging whale ships. The practice continued until whaling became banned. Artisans, known as scrimshanders, often employed common tools to form their designs. Items like sailing needles or small knives were used to make elaborate designs. These designs might reflect the likeness of a fellow sailor or a sweetheart.

Scrimshaw Lighthouse

Some depicted marine scenes such as islands, whales, or ships. Scrimshaw is not widely practiced today and those who do work in the form use alternate material instead of ivory or bone. Many of the best examples of scrimshaw are housed in museums. Scrimshaw artefacts are extremely collectible today.

Ivory Double Dragons Tusk Mammoth Ivory Tusk art Carving 10,000 Years Old Wooley Mammoth Ivory Carving

Ancient artisans during the prehistoric era favoured mammoth bones and tusks for carving or forming into jewellery. Many native cultures the world over employed bone for wearing as jewellery. These roughly-hewn ornaments might have a spiritual component that connected the human who wore it to an animal spirit. Native Americans often wore the bones of animals for reasons of ritual and religion. Moreover, bone could be fashioned into functional items needed by the culture.

Ancient shrine unearthed

Fishing hooks and spear tips, for instance, have been made from bone by various tribes like the Maori of New Zealand. In many parts of the world, native cultures still use bone to make tools and objects of art.

Maori bone fishhooks


A white form of limestone, chalk is a well-known art medium. Artists use it to create works of chalk art, but chalk is also an ingredient in pastels, another prominent art medium favoured by artists. In fashion, chalk has been used for centuries by designers and tailors for making markings on fabric. While it has many other uses outside of the art world, it is quite renowned for its use in schools or as a child’s art medium. Some artists also carve chalk to create unique objects or tools.

Ancient Land Art – One of the oldest chalk carvings in the UK is the bronze-age Uffington White Horse – dating back some 3000 years and it is still very visible

Chalk is an old medium and has been used for drawing for centuries. As a readily available natural material, it was even used by prehistoric peoples to art. Artists can use a variety of techniques to create art with chalk. They can apply it to dry paper, for example, but also smudge and blend it to create various effects.

2012 International Science Festival chalk art by illustrator Eric Maruscak

Historically, white chalk was used in conjunction with other types of drawing media to highlight an element of the work or enhance it in some particular way. Aside from white chalk, many artists also favoured black and red chalk for drawing purposes. Today, chalk is produced in a full range of colours.

Julian Beever -3D optical illusion chalk drawing -Politicians Meeting Their End

While the earliest known works of chalk art date to the Stone Age, the medium was particularly popular during the 15th century and was favoured by such artists as Jean Clouet. He used a combination of black, red, and white chalk to create many drawings.

Jean de la Barre, by Jean Clouet (French, 1480-1541)

Artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, and even Rembrandt also used chalk to sketch and create art. Many artists employed chalk to make preliminary drawings of works.

Michelangelo’s Libyan Sibyl study is a red chalk drawing

Leonardo da Vinci, Head of a Man, c. 1503-1505, red chalk art

Raphael drawing, called Head of a Young Apostle

Rembrandt – Bust of an Old Man, turned to left c.1626. Red chalk with black chalk on paper prepared with pale yellow wash

Rubens famously used red chalk to sketch out his ideas for compositions.

Peter Paul Rubens – black, red and white color chalk

Even later artists like Degas, Matisse, and Picasso employed chalk to sketch ideas or to add effects to their artworks.

Edgar Degas, A Dancer at the Bar, charcoal and white chalk

Matisse – The flowers and line work are done with chalk pastel instead of oil pastel

Picasso – charcoal and white chalk on paper, 25 x 19 inches

As an ingredient, chalk was essential to the production of pastels. The earliest use of pastels dates to the Renaissance. Pastels are formed into coloured sticks made up of a binder and a pure powdered pigment. Today there are various types of pastels, but dry pastels have invariably featured chalk as an ingredient. Da Vinci was one of the earliest artists to have mentioned the use of pastels. Like chalk, the pastel medium is associated with its own techniques. Many artists employ them in conjunction with other art mediums in order to highlight elements of the work. Both chalk and pastels are still immensely popular as art mediums today.


Almost replacing oil pains because of its advantages – is acrylic paint today. Developed in the late 1940s, acrylic paint has only a brief history compared to other visual arts media, such as watercolour and oil. Polymer-based acrylic entered the market as house paint, but its many benefits brought it to the attention of painters. By the 1950s, artists began using quick-drying acrylic to avoid oil paint’s considerable drying time. These artists found that the synthetic paint was very versatile and possessed much potential. As time passed, manufacturers improved methods by formulating artistic acrylic paints with richer pigments. Although it has proven versatile in artistic endeavours, acrylic as a medium is still in its infancy.

For many contemporary artists, acrylic became the perfect vehicle to drive their crafts. Offering a range of possibilities, acrylic can produce both the soft effects of watercolour paint and sharp effects of layered oil paint. In addition, acrylic can also be used in mixed media works, such as collage, and its versatility lends itself to experimentation and innovation. Acrylic does have some limitations. Its quick-drying plasticity discourages blending and wet-on-wet techniques, therefore creating boundaries for artists. Still, those who embraced acrylic in their work created fresh, new approaches reflecting all that this medium can offer.

Pop artist Andy Warhol explored acrylic’s range of effects. His famous “Campbell Soup Can” demonstrates the sharp, bold clarity possible with acrylic, while the stark and eerie “Little Electric Chair (Orange)” shows the grim subject in a faded and almost gentle light.

Other artists’ works also demonstrate the possibilities of acrylic. In David Hockney’s “Three Chairs with a Section of a Picasso Mural,” acrylics provide the softness of watercolour, while in “Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians,” they create a sharpness similar to oil paints. This is not to imply that acrylic works should be viewed only in terms of other media. Acrylic is its own medium with its own possibilities.

Three chairs with a section of a Picasso mural – David Hockney

David Hockney – Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians

Robert Motherwell used acrylic with pencil and charcoal to achieve striking effects, and contemporary Op artist Bridget Riley also took advantage of its ability to set easily on support mediums, such as wood, canvas, paper and linen.

Robert Motherwell’s -Elegy_to_the_Spanish_Republic_No._110 – using acrylic, pencil and charcoal

Bridget Riley – Nataraja-1993

Mark Rothko’s series of untitled acrylics, on both canvas and paper, demonstrate its ability to enhance formal elements, such as tone, depth, colour and scale. His colourfield paintings allowed audiences to approach the medium on its own terms.

Mark Rothko

Saffron, 1957 – by Mark Rothko

Acrylic’s future as a medium continues to unfold with each new work by the skilled hands of artists. Perhaps its full potential and possibilities have not yet been developed. However, it is clear that acrylic is an important medium, demonstrating the continual power and evolution of visual art.


Although you can apply the terms glaze, scumble and wash to several different media, they’re most often used with oil painting. Glazing is the brushing on of a thin, transparent, darker paint layer over an area of dry paint. It’s a common technique used in a form of academic painting in which artists first establish a finely detailed, monochromatic underpainting (called a grisaille if done in grays and a bistre if done in browns) and then apply a series of coloured glazes. This indirect method of painting achieves a visual depth that a direct method, such as alla prima, cannot.

Within an alla prima piece, I’ve found glazing useful when I want to enhance a sense of atmosphere; a thin glaze of cobalt blue works like magic to make objects look far away.

For glazing to be successful, the layer beneath must be bone dry, and the glazing paint must be thinned with a glazing medium to allow for fluid application. Gamblin Galkyd thinned with Gamblin Gamsol makes a good, quick-drying glazing medium. Also, the paints used for glazing should be transparent in nature. For example, to warm up a painting that’s too cool, you might use a glaze of Hansa yellow, a transparent paint, rather than cadmium yellow, which is opaque. Finally, glazes may be applied to the entire painting or to just portions of it.

Scumbling is the brushing on of an opaque, lighter layer of paint. This technique is used to visually soften or lighten areas. Scumbling, like glazing, must be done over a dry paint layer, and you typically apply the paint unthinned, using a dry-brush technique.

The paint can actually be quite thick, resulting in broken brushstrokes and a more painterly look. I use scumbling in skies, around the edges of clouds—brushing on a mixture of white and Naples yellow to create a backlit glow.

A wash is a thin layer of paint that’s usually brushed on in a loose manner. Washing differs from glazing and scumbling in that you apply a wash in the very earliest stages of painting in order to develop an initial, overall tone or colour. Thinner, such as turpentine or a turpentine substitute like Gamsol, is used freely to create a wash.


An example of a blended pastel area where two pastels were fused, and an example of scumbling and glazing techniques

For many painters the word “scumble” indicates a thin, brushy application of paint applied with a dry brush––and that is an accurate use of the word. Scumble, however, can also refer to a thin layer of opaque or semi-opaque paint applied over other colors, and it’s the second definition that applies to glazing.

The effect of scumbling with white is threefold:

  1. It lightens values.
  2. It lowers chroma, thereby making the underlying colour less intense.
  3. It slightly cools the temperature of the underlying colour.

A scumble also inserts a degree of opacity, creating an excellent base for subsequent layers of transparent, glazed colour.

In other words, in oil painting, scumbling is a painting technique of adding a layer of broken, speckled, scratchy colour over other colours. Bits of the lower layer(s) of colour show through the scumbling. The result gives a sense of depth and colour variation to an area.

Rembrandt’s Self Portait at an Early Age – an example of scumbling

Scumbling can be done with opaque or transparent colours, but the effect is greater with an opaque colour and with a light colour over a dark. When you look at it from a distance the colours mix optically.

Up close you’ll see the brushwork and texture in the scumbled layer.

You can scumble with a brush or a crumpled-up cloth (if you’ve ever done decorating paint effects, you’ll recognize it’s a bit like sponge-painting a wall, on a small scale). The key is to use a dry brush (or cloth) and very little paint. It’s far better to have to go over an area again than start with too much paint.

Dip your dry brush into a bit of paint, then dab it on a cloth to remove most of the paint. It helps if the paint is stiff rather than fluid, because it doesn’t spread as easily when you put brush to canvas. Try to keep the brush hairs relatively dry, rather than soaking up moisture from fluid paint. If your brush is very moist, hold a cloth around the hairs at the ferrule end rather than at the toe. This will help pull moisture out of the brush without removing the pigment.

Dry brush scumbling

Think of the technique as rubbing the last little bits of paint from the brush onto the painting, leaving behind fragments of colour. (Or, if you like being vigorous, think of it as scrubbing at a painting with a not-quite-clean brush.) You’re working on the very top surface of the painting, the top ridges of the paint or the tops of the canvas fibres.

You’re not trying to fill in every little piece.

Don’t use your best brushes for scumbling as you’ll most likely push hard on it and flatted the hairs at some stage. Either buy a cheap, stiff-hair brush that you sacrifice for scumbling, or use an old, worn-out one.

Some partial scumbling of reflective pigment to re-establish depth

Here is a video showing the scumbling technique we talked about earlier. This is a technique used in oil paintings.





Origami from ori meaning “folding”, and kami meaning “paper” (kami changes to gami due to rendaku) is the art of paper folding, which is often associated with Japanese culture. In modern usage, the word “origami” is used as an inclusive term for all folding practices, regardless of their culture of origin. The goal is to transform a flat sheet square of paper into a finished sculpture through folding and sculpting techniques. Modern origami practitioners generally discourage the use of cuts, glue, or markings on the paper. Origami folders often use the Japanese word kirigami to refer to designs which use cuts, although cutting is more characteristic of Chinese papercrafts.

The small number of basic origami folds can be combined in a variety of ways to make intricate designs. The best-known origami model is the Japanese paper crane. In general, these designs begin with a square sheet of paper whose sides may be of different colors, prints, or patterns. Traditional Japanese origami, which has been practiced since the Edo period (1603–1867), has often been less strict about these conventions, sometimes cutting the paper or using nonsquare shapes to start with. The principles of origami are also used in stents, packaging and other engineering applications.

Basic folds of Origami

How Origami started

Distinct paperfolding traditions arose in Europe, China, and Japan which have been well-documented by historians. These seem to have been mostly separate traditions, until the 20th century.

In China, traditional funerals often include the burning of folded paper, most often representations of gold nuggets (yuanbao). The practice of burning paper representations instead of full-scale wood or clay replicas dates from the Sung Dynasty (905–1125 CE), though it’s not clear how much folding was involved.Traditional Chinese funeral practices were banned during the Cultural Revolution, so most of what we know about Chinese paperfolding comes from the modern-day continuation of these practices in Taiwan.

In Japan, the earliest unambiguous reference to a paper model is in a short poem by Ihara Saikaku in 1680 which mentions a traditional butterfly design used during Shinto weddings.Folding filled some ceremonial functions in Edo period Japanese culture; noshi were attached to gifts, much like greeting cards are used today. This developed into a form of entertainment; the first two instructional books published in Japan are clearly recreational.

In Europe, there was a well-developed genre of napkin-folding, which flourished during the 17th and 18th centuries. After this period, this genre declined and was mostly forgotten; historian Joan Sallas attributes this to the introduction of porcelain, which replaced complex napkin folds as a dinner-table status symbol among nobility. However, some of the techniques and bases associated with this tradition continued to be a part of European culture; folding was a significant part of Friedrich Froebel’s “Kindergarten” method, and the designs published in connection with his curriculum are stylistically similar to the napkin fold repertoire.

When Japan opened its borders in the 1860s, as part of a modernization strategy, they imported Froebel’s Kindergarten system—and with it, German ideas about paperfolding. This included the ban on cuts, and the starting shape of a bicoloured square. These ideas, and some of the European folding repertoire, were integrated into the Japanese tradition. Before this, traditional Japanese sources use a variety of starting shapes, often had cuts; and if they had colour or markings, these were added after the model was folded.

In the early 1900s, Akira Yoshizawa, Kosho Uchiyama, and others began creating and recording original origami works. Akira Yoshizawa in particular was responsible for a number of innovations, such as wet-folding and the Yoshizawa–Randlett diagramming system, and his work inspired a renaissance of the art form. During the 1980s a number of folders started systematically studying the mathematical properties of folded forms, which led to a rapid increase in the complexity of origami models.

Types of Origami

Action Origami

Origami not only covers still-life, there are also moving objects; Origami can move in clever ways. Action origami includes origami that flies, requires inflation to complete, or, when complete, uses the kinetic energy of a person’s hands, applied at a certain region on the model, to move another flap or limb. Some argue that, strictly speaking, only the latter is really “recognized” as action origami. Action origami, first appearing with the traditional Japanese flapping bird, is quite common. One example is Robert Lang’s instrumentalists; when the figures’ heads are pulled away from their bodies, their hands will move, resembling the playing of music.

Two examples of modular Origami

Modular Origami

Modular origami consists of putting a number of identical pieces together to form a complete model. Normally the individual pieces are simple but the final assembly may be tricky. Many of the modular origami models are decorative balls like kusudama, the technique differs though in that kusudama allows the pieces to be put together using thread or glue.

Chinese paper folding includes a style called Golden Venture Folding where large numbers of pieces are put together to make elaborate models. It is most commonly known as “3D origami”, however, that name did not appear until Joie Staff published a series of books titled “3D Origami”, “More 3D Origami”, and “More and More 3D Origami”. Sometimes paper money is used for the modules. This style originated from some Chinese refugees while they were detained in America and is also called Golden Venture folding from the ship they came on.


Wet folding

Wet-folding is an origami technique for producing models with gentle curves rather than geometric straight folds and flat surfaces. The paper is dampened so it can be moulded easily, the final model keeps its shape when it dries. It can be used, for instance, to produce very natural looking animal models. Size, an adhesive that is crisp and hard when dry, but dissolves in water when wet and becoming soft and flexible, is often applied to the paper either at the pulp stage while the paper is being formed, or on the surface of a ready sheet of paper. The latter method is called external sizing and most commonly uses Methylcellulose, or MC, paste, or various plant starches.


Pureland origami

Pureland origami adds the restrictions that only simple mountain/valley folds may be used, and all folds must have straightforward locations. It was developed by John Smith in the 1970s to help inexperienced folders or those with limited motor skills. Some designers also like the challenge of creating within the very strict constraints.


Origami tessellations

Origami tessellation is a branch that has grown in popularity after 2000. A tessellation is a collection of figures filling a plane with no gaps or overlaps. In origami tessellations, pleats are used to connect molecules such as twist folds together in a repeating fashion. During the 1960s, Shuzo Fujimoto was the first to explore twist fold tessellations in any systematic way, coming up with dozens of patterns and establishing the genre in the origami mainstream. Around the same time period, Ron Resch patented some tessellation patterns as part of his explorations into kinetic sculpture and developable surfaces, although his work was not known by the origami community until the 1980s. Chris Palmer is an artist who has extensively explored tessellations after seeing the Zilij patterns in the Alhambra, and has found ways to create detailed origami tessellations out of silk. Robert Lang and Alex Bateman are two designers who use computer programs to create origami tessellations. The first international convention devoted to origami tessellations was hosted in Brasília (Brazil) in 2006, and the first instruction book on tessellation folding patterns was published by Eric Gjerde in 2008. Since then, the field has grown very quickly. Tessellation artists include Polly Verity (Scotland); Joel Cooper, Christine Edison, Ray Schamp and Goran Konjevod from the USA; Roberto Gretter (Italy); Christiane Bettens (Switzerland); Carlos Natan López (Mexico); and Jorge C. Lucero (Brazil).



Kirigami is a Japanese term for paper cutting. Cutting was often used in traditional Japanese origami, but modern innovations in technique have made the use of cuts unnecessary. Most origami designers no longer consider models with cuts to be origami, instead using the term Kirigami to describe them. This change in attitude occurred during the 1960s and 70s, so early origami books often use cuts, but for the most part they have disappeared from the modern origami repertoire; most modern books don’t even mention cutting.

Dollar bill elephant, an example of moneygami


Tempera – Duccio_The-Madonna-and-Child

One word that often crops up in art is tempera or tempera painting. The mode is also called egg tempera. Tempera is an ancient medium used in most of the world’s cultures until it was superseded by oil painting. That happened during the Renaissance in Europe.

Tempera is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of coloured pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium (usually a glutinous material such as egg yolk). Tempera also refers to the paintings done in this medium. Tempera paintings are very long lasting, and examples from the 1st centuries AD still exist. A paint consisting of pigment and glue size commonly used in the United States as poster paint is also often referred to as “tempera paint,” although the binders and sizes in this paint are different from traditional tempera paint.

Tempera on Papyrus – Egypt_The Book Of The Dead

Tempera was the original mural medium in the ancient dynasties of Egypt, Babylonia, Mycenaean Greece, and China and was used to decorate the early Christian catacombs. It was employed on a variety of supports, from the stone stelae (or commemorative pillars), mummy cases, and papyrus rolls of ancient Egypt to the wood panels of Byzantine icons and altarpieces and the vellum leaves of medieval illuminated manuscripts.

The Virgin of Vladimir – Byzantine, 11th century – Tempera on wood

True tempera is made by mixture with the yolk of fresh eggs, although manuscript illuminators often used egg white and some easel painters added the whole egg. Other emulsions—such as casein glue with linseed oil, egg yolk with gum and linseed oil, and egg white with linseed or poppy oil—have also been used. Individual painters have experimented with other recipes, but few of those have proved successful; all but William Blake’s later tempera paintings on copper sheets, for instance, have darkened and decayed, and it is thought that he mixed his pigment with carpenter’s glue.

Distemper tempura painting

Distemper is a crude form of tempera made by mixing dry pigment into a paste with water, which is thinned with heated glue in working or by adding pigment to whiting (a mixture of fine-ground chalk and size). It is used for stage scenery and full-size preparatory cartoons for murals and tapestries. When dry, its colours have the pale, matte, powdery quality of pastels, with a similar tendency to smudge. Indeed, damaged cartoons have been retouched with pastel chalks.

Egg tempera is the most-durable form of the medium, being generally unaffected by humidity and temperature. It dries quickly to form a tough film that acts as a protective skin to the support. In handling, in its diversity of transparent and opaque effects, and in the satin sheen of its finish, it resembles the modern acrylic resin emulsion paints.

Fragmentary Shroud with a Bearded Young Man Egypt 120-150 CE Tempera on linen

Traditional tempera painting is a lengthy process. Its supports are smooth surfaces, such as planed wood, fine set plaster, stone, paper, vellum, canvas, and modern composition boards of compressed wood or paper. Linen is generally glued to the surface of panel supports, additional strips masking the seams between braced wood planks. Gesso, a mixture of plaster of paris (or gypsum) with size, is the traditional ground. The first layer is of gesso grosso, a mixture of coarse unslaked plaster and size. That provides a rough absorbent surface for 10 or more thin coats of gesso sottile, a smooth mixture of size and fine plaster previously slaked in water to retard drying. This laborious preparation results in an opaque, brilliant white, light-reflecting surface similar in texture to hard flat icing sugar.

The design for a large tempera painting was traditionally executed in distemper on a thick paper cartoon. The outlines were pricked with a perforating wheel so that when the cartoon was laid on the surface of the support, the linear pattern was transferred by dabbing, or “pouncing,” the perforations with a muslin bag of powdered charcoal. The dotted contours traced through were then fixed in paint. Medieval tempera painters of panels and manuscripts made lavish use of gold leaf on backgrounds and for symbolic features, such as haloes and beams of heavenly light. Areas of the pounced design intended for gilding were first built up into low relief with gesso duro, the harder, less-absorbent gesso compound also used for elaborate frame mouldings. Background fields were often textured by impressing the gesso duro, before it set, with small, carved, intaglio wood blocks to create raised, pimpled, and quilted repeat patterns that glittered when gilded. Leaves of finely beaten gold were pressed onto a tacky mordant (adhesive compound) or over wet bole (reddish brown earth pigment) that gave greater warmth and depth when the gilded areas were burnished.

Colours were applied with sable brushes in successive broad sweeps or washes of semitransparent tempera. Those dried quickly, preventing the subtle tonal gradations possible with watercolour washes or oil paint; effects of shaded modelling therefore had to be obtained by a crosshatching technique of fine brush strokes.

According to the Italian painter Cennino Cennini, the early Renaissance tempera painters laid the colour washes across a fully modelled monochrome underpainting in terre vert (olive-green pigment), a method later developed into the mixed mediums technique of tempera underpainting followed by transparent oil glazes.

The luminous gesso base of a tempera painting, combined with the cumulative effect of overlaid colour washes, produces a unique depth and intensity of colour. Tempera paints dry lighter in value, but their original tonality can be restored by subsequent waxing or varnishing. Other characteristic qualities of a tempera painting, resulting from its fast-drying property and disciplined technique, are its steely lines and crisp edges, its meticulous detail and rich linear textures, and its overall emphasis upon a decorative flat pattern of bold colour masses.

The Virgin and Child with Saints and Allegorical Figures – about 1315–20 – Giotto di Bondone – about 1267–1337 – Tempera and gold leaf

The great Byzantine tradition of tempera painting was developed in Italy in the 13th and 14th centuries by Duccio di Buoninsegna and Giotto. Their flattened picture space, generously enriched by fields and textures of gold leaf, was extended by the Renaissance depth perspectives in the paintings of Giovanni Bellini, Piero della Francesca, Carlo Crivelli, Sandro Botticelli, and Vittore Carpaccio. By that time, oil painting was already challenging the primacy of tempera, Botticelli and some of his contemporaries apparently adding oil to the tempera emulsion or overglazing it in oil colour.

Ben Shahn – Church Goers

Following the supremacy of the oil medium during succeeding periods of Western painting, the 20th century saw a revival of tempera techniques by such U.S. artists as Ben Shahn, Andrew Wyeth, and Jacob Lawrence and by the British painters Edward Wadsworth and Lucian Freud. It would probably also have been the medium of the later hard-edge abstract painters, had the new acrylic resin paints not proved more easily and quickly handled.

Andrew Wyeth – Maga’s Daughter – 1966 – tempera painting

Lucian Freud – Self-Portrait With a Black Eye

Closer home, in the early part of the 20th century, a large number of Indian artists, notably of the Bengal School, took up tempera as one of their primary media of expression. Artists such as Gaganendranath Tagore, Asit Kumar Haldar, Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Kalipada Ghoshal and Sughra Rababi were foremost. After the 1950s, artists such as Jamini Roy and Ganesh Pyne established tempera as a medium for the new age artists of India.

Gaganendranath Tagore – untitled

Asit Kumar Haldar – Mother – tempura

A_Tagore -The_Journeys_End – Wash and Tempera

Nandalal Bose – tempera on paper – 1937