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WHAT GENRE IS YOUR BOOK?

Published August 7, 2017 by Gail Daley

The first question asked when a writer sends a manuscript to an agent, a publisher or a self publishing site, is “What genre is it?” Several Years ago, I wrote a blog defining the many Art Genres. This year, I decided to try the same with writing. I searched the internet and pulled up most of these definitions from Wikipedia, and various other internet sources who defined writing genre. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it might help my fellow writers when asked by a publisher to define the genre of the book they have just written. There is an enormous amount of information about book genres, so I will be presenting these blogs genre by genre over the next few weeks. I limited myself to fiction. I may do a similar chart for non-fiction later though. I got the idea for the chart from a Facebook post, but I made some changes and additions to what was there. Please feel free to share or add to it.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY BOOK FITS INTO YOUNG ADULT OR CHILDREN’S FICTION?

Youth Fiction (YA): I made this a separate category because the plots of these novels span all the genres. Young adult fiction or young adult literature (YA) is fiction for readers from 12 to 18. However, authors and readers of “young teen novels” often define it as works written for age 15 to the early 20s. The terms young adult novel, juvenile novel, teenage fiction, young adult book, etc., all refer to the works in this category.  The subject and story lines of young adult literature must be consistent with the age and experience of the main character, but these books span the spectrum of fiction genres. Stories that focus on the specific challenges of youth or teens are sometimes referred to as coming-of-age novels.

Children’s Fiction: is a genre all to itself. These are children’s books written especially for children from 0 to 12 years old. Like YA fiction, they include a broad spectrum of the genres, with certain differences from YA and Adult fiction.

Picture Books: Children’s books that provide a “visual experience” – tell a story with pictures. There may or may not be very simple text with the book. The content of the book can be explained with the illustrated pictures.

Picture Story Books are Children’s books that have pictures or illustrations to complement the story and usually are aimed for a trifle older audience (7-10) depending on their reading ability. These are often done on a collaborative basis with the author employing an illustrator, or vice versa. Both the text and the illustrations are important to the development of the story. The pictures are the “eye-candy” that get children’s attention, but the text is needed to complete the story.

Traditional Literature, includes stories passed down from generation to generation. In many ways, the fact that they do change over time is what makes them so fascinating because of the link they provide to the past. To remain meaningful in different eras, the stories while keeping much of their original flavor and content, must evolve in subtle ways to be acceptable to current mores and culture. These are folktales, fairy tales, fables, legends and myths.

Children’s Historical Fiction are stories that are written to illustrate or convey information about a specific time or historical event. Authors use historical fiction to create drama and interest based on real events in people’s lives.

Children’s Fantasy is probably easier to define by example or by what it isn’t. The stories are contemporary or set in nondescript  time periods. These are imaginative tales requiring readers to accept story lines that clearly cannot be true. They may be based on animals that talk, facets of science fiction, supernatural or horror, or combinations of these elements. “Charlottes Web,” “Winnie the Pooh,” “Alice in Wonderland”, “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and “The Wizard of Oz” are all examples of modern fantasy written for young readers up to 12 years old.

Children’s Realistic Fiction has main characters of roughly the age (or slightly older than) the book’s intended audience. The books offer a “real-world” problem or challenge and show how a young person solves that problem.

WHAT GENRE IS YOUR BOOK?

Published July 24, 2017 by Gail Daley

The first question asked when a writer sends a manuscript to an agent, a publisher or a self publishing site, is “What genre is it?” Several Years ago, I wrote a blog defining the many Art Genres. This year, I decided to try the same with writing. I searched the internet and pulled up most of these definitions from Wikipedia, and various other internet sources who defined writing genre. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it might help my fellow writers when asked by a publisher to define the genre of the book they have just written. There is an enormous amount of information about book genres, so I will be presenting these blogs genre by genre over the next few weeks. I limited myself to fiction. I may do a similar chart for non-fiction later though. I got the idea for the chart from a Facebook post, but I made some changes and additions to what was there. Please feel free to share or add to it.

DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION?

Fantasy is a fiction genre set in an imaginary universe, most often without any locations, events, or people from the real world. Most fantasy uses magic or other supernatural elements as a main plot element, theme, or setting. Magic and magical creatures are common in many of these imaginary worlds. Fantasy is generally distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the expectation that it will steer clear of scientific and macabre themes, though there is a great deal of overlap among the three, all of which are subgenres of speculative fiction.

Urban Fantasy:   is a subgenre of fantasy defined by place; it is a fantastic narrative with an urban setting. Urban fantasy exists on one side of a spectrum opposite high fantasy, which is set in an entirely fictitious world. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times with supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.

Contemporary Fantasy:  is generally distinguished from horror fiction—which also has contemporary settings and fantastic elements—by the overall tone; emphasizing joy or wonder rather than fear or dread. These are stories set in the accepted real world in contemporary times; magic and magical creatures exist but are not commonly seen or understood; either living in the crevices of our world or leaking over from alternate worlds. It has much in common with and sometimes overlaps with secret history. A work of fantasy where the magic does not remain secret, or does not have any known relationship to known history, would not fit into this subgenre.

Traditional Fantasy:

Please see the definition of Fantasy above.

Horror: is a genre of fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle their readers or viewers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon has defined the horror story as “a piece of fiction in prose of variable length… which shocks or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing”. It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. Horror is frequently supernatural though it can be non-supernatural. Often the central menace of a work of horror fiction can be interpreted as a metaphor for the larger fears of a society.

Historical Fantasy: This is a category of fantasy and a sub genre of historical fiction that combines fantastic elements (such as magic) into the story. There is much crossover with other subgenres of fantasy; books classed as Arthurian, Celtic, or Dark Ages could just as easily be placed in Historical Fantasy. Stories fitting this classification generally take place prior to the 20th century.

Weird Fiction: is a subgenre of speculative fiction starting in the late 19th and early 20th century. It can include ghost stories and other tales of the macabre. Weird fiction is distinguished from horror and fantasy in its blending of supernatural, mythical, and even scientific elements. British authors who have embraced this style have published their work in mainstream literary magazines. American weird fiction writers included Edgar Allan Poe, William Hope Hodgson, H. P. Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen M. R. James, and Clark Ashton Smith.

Comic Fantasy:  is a subgenre of fantasy that is primarily humorous in intent and tone. Usually set in imaginary worlds, comic fantasy can spoof and parody other works of fantasy, detective fiction or other genres. It is sometimes known as Low Fantasy in contrast to High Fantasy, which is primarily serious in intent and tone. The term “low fantasy” is used to represent other types of fantasy, however, so while comic fantasies may also correctly be classified as low fantasy, many examples of low fantasy are not comic in nature. Two of the most famous examples in this genre would be the Myth Series which successfully spoofed Fantasy and the Garrett P.I. series which did a parody of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe detective series. Other writers of comic fantasy are emerging; notably Dakota Cassidy with her werewolf/witch spoofs and Amanda M. Lee’s Wicked Witches of the Midwest series.

Slipstream: Slipstream is a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses the traditional genre boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. Slipstream falls between speculative fiction and mainstream fiction. While some slipstream novels employ elements of science fiction or fantasy, not all do. The common unifying factor of these books is some degree of the surreal, the not-entirely real, or the markedly anti-real.

Epic / High Fantasy: High Fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy, and is defined by its setting in a fictional universe or by the epic stature of its characters, themes, and plot. The term “high fantasy” was coined by Lloyd Alexander in a 1971 essay, “High Fantasy and Heroic Romance” (originally given at the New England Round Table of Children’s Librarians in October 1969). Epic Fantasy has been described as containing three elements: it must be a trilogy or longer, its time-span must encompass years or more, and it must contain a large back-story or universe setting in which the story takes place.

WHAT GENRE IS YOUR BOOK?

Published July 17, 2017 by Gail Daley

The first question asked when a writer sends a manuscript to an agent, a publisher or a self publishing site, is “What genre is it?” Several Years ago, I wrote a blog defining the many Art Genres. This year, I decided to try the same with writing. I searched the internet and pulled up most of these definitions from Wikipedia, and various other internet sources who defined writing genre. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it might help my fellow writers when asked by a publisher to define the genre of the book they have just written. There is an enormous amount of information about book genres, so I will be presenting these blogs genre by genre over the next few weeks. I limited myself to fiction. I may do a similar chart for non-fiction later though. I got the idea for the chart from a Facebook post, but I made some changes and additions to what was there. Please feel free to share or add to it.

WHAT IS SCIENCE FICTION?

Science fiction or speculative fiction (often shortened to SF, sci-fi or scifi) is a genre dealing with notions such as futuristic science, technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific innovations, and has been referred a “literature of ideas,” or future casting. It usually avoids the supernatural, and unlike the related genre of fantasy, science fiction stories were intended to have a grounding in science-based facts or theories prevalent at the time the story was created; a description now limited to hard science fiction.

Dystopian / Utopian: utopia and its derivative, dystopia, are genres exploring social and political structures. Utopian fiction shows a setting agreeing with the author’s ideology, and has attributes of different reality to appeal to readers. Dystopian (or dystopic) fiction (sometimes combined with, but distinct from apocalyptic literature) is the opposite. It shows a setting that completely disagrees with the author’s ideology. Many novels combine both, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take, depending on its choices. Both utopias and dystopias are commonly found in science fiction and other speculative fiction genres and arguably are a type of speculative fiction. Apocalyptic Science Fiction is a sub-genre of Dystopian Science Fiction covering the end of civilization, through nuclear war, plague, or some other general disaster. The time frame may be immediately after the catastrophe, focusing on the travails or psychology of survivors, or considerably later, often including the theme that the existence of pre-catastrophe civilization has been forgotten or mythologized. Post apocalyptic stories often take place in an agrarian, non-technological future world, or a world where only scattered elements of technology remain.

Space Opera: is a subgenre of science fiction emphasizing space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, risk-taking, and chivalric romance. Set mainly or entirely in outer space, it frequently involves conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, futuristic weapons, and other sophisticated technology. The term has no relation to music but was coined during the 1930s to indicate clichéd and formulaic stories in several genres. Space operas emerged in the 1930s and they continue to be produced in literature, film, comics, and video games. The most notable was probably produced by E.E. “Doc” Smith.

Cyberpunk: Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction taking place in a future setting. It tends to focus on society as “high tech low life” showcasing advanced technological and scientific accomplishments, such as information technology and cybernetics, creating a breakdown or radical change in the social order. Cyberpunk plots often center on conflict among artificial intelligences, hackers, and megacorporation’s in a near-future Earth. The settings are usually post-industrial dystopias but feature extraordinary cultural turmoil and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its original inventors. Much of the genre’s atmosphere echoes film noir writers and often uses modus operandi from this genre of detective fiction.

Military Science Fiction: is a subgenre of science fiction that uses science fiction technology, mainly weapons, for military purposes. Its principal characters are generally members of a military organization involved in military activity. The action sometimes takes place in outer space or on a different planet or planets. It is found in literature, comics, film, and video games. A detailed description of the conflict, the tactics and weapons used, and the role of a military service and the individual members of that military organization generally forms the basis for a work of military science fiction. The stories often use events of actual past or current Earth conflicts, with countries being replaced by planets or galaxies of similar characteristics, battleships replaced by space battleships and certain events changed so that the author can induce what might have occurred differently.

Hard/Soft Science Fiction: is a category of science fiction marked by an emphasis on scientific accuracy. The terms were first used in print in 1957 by P. Schuyler Miller in a review of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s “Islands of Space” in Astounding Science Fiction. The complementary term Soft Science Fiction, formed by comparison to hard science fiction, first appeared in the late 1970s. It was created to emphasize the distinction between the “hard” (natural) and “soft” (social) sciences. Science fiction critic Gary Westfahl thinks that both terms are ways of describing stories that reviewers and commentators have found useful.

Alternate History: or alternative history (British English), sometimes abbreviated as AH, is a genre of stories in which one or more historical events occur differently than as history recorded them. These stories are set in a world in which history has deviated from history as it is generally known; more simply put, alternate history asks the question, “What if history had developed differently?” Most works in this genre are set in real historical contexts, yet feature social, geopolitical or industrial settings that developed differently or at a different pace from our own. This subgenre comprises fiction in which a change or point of divergence happens that causes history to diverge from our own.

Steampunk:  is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that refers to works set in an era where steam power is still widely used;19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West, where steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that employs steam power in the same way. Although its literary origins are sometimes identified with the cyberpunk genre, it has marked differences. Inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne are often included. Steampunk encompasses alternate history-style elements of past technology like dirigibles or mechanical computers combined with futuristic technology like multi-function goggles, giant robots and ray guns. Steampunk may be described as neo-Victorian. It most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era’s perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art.

Romantic Science Fiction: This genre seems to be written almost exclusively for and by women. In most cases, it is simply a love story set in the future or a distant planet, although it can be set in the past or an alternate world as well. It centers more on relationships than on science, and any futuristic or fantasy elements take second place to the relationships. Usually there is no attempt to explain why the technology works; only its actions are described. A flying car or spaceship is simply said to go places, time travel simply happens without any attempt to describe the scientific method by which this might work. Probably the two most recognizable writers of romantic science fiction are Jayne Castle’s (AKA Krenz) books on Harmony and Diana Gabaldon’s Highlander series (now a TV series). Romantic Sci-Fi includes the sub-genre of Romantic Fantasy (virtually the same except magic is used rather than technology). A fuller description of this sub genre can be found in the Romance category.

WHAT GENRE IS YOUR BOOK?

Published July 10, 2017 by Gail Daley

The first question asked when a writer sends a manuscript to an agent, a publisher or a self publishing site, is “What genre is it?” Several Years ago, I wrote a blog defining the many Art Genres. This year, I decided to try the same with writing. I searched the internet and pulled up most of these definitions from Wikipedia, and various other internet sources who defined writing genre. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it might help my fellow writers when asked by a publisher to define the genre of the book they have just written. There is an enormous amount of information about book genres, so I will be presenting these blogs genre by genre over the next few weeks. I limited myself to fiction. I may do a similar chart for non-fiction later though. I got the idea for the chart from a Facebook post, but I made some changes and additions to what was there. Please feel free to share or add to it.

WHAT CLASSIFIES A BOOK AS A THRILLER?

Thriller is a broad genre having numerous subgenres. Thrillers are characterized and defined by the mood of fear and suspense they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of excitement, surprise and anxiety. A thriller generally has a more villain driven plot than adventure. This list is my no means all inclusive.

Eco Thriller: Eco thrillers are normally set around a threat (natural or man-made) to the environment, and combine action, adventure with maybe a touch of mystery. They are fast-paced and usually laced with science. The lead character must find a way to negate the threat.

Supernatural Thriller: Supernatural fiction or supernaturalist fiction involves plot devices or themes that contradict Ideas and assumptions commonplace in the natural world. It is very closely aligned with Horror though usually in a more inhibited fashion. This genre brings in an otherworldly element, Often the hero and/or villain has (or at least claims) some psychic ability.

Historical Thriller: This genre differs from other thrillers in that is set in the past, usually prior to 1960. It may also contain elements of espionage, military or other genres but should not be confused with political/conspiracy thrillers which occur in a more contemporary setting.

Medical/Psychological Thrillers: I have lumped these to together because they draw from similar backgrounds. In Medical Thrillers, a doctor’s life is often threatened (because they helped a certain patient), or a mysterious (usually artificial) disease has broken out. Robin Cook and Tess Gerritsen are leaders in this subgenre. Sandra Wilkenson’s novel Death On Call is an early example. (sometimes the authors are doctors themselves.) Psychological subgenre tales build up slowly, with ever-increasing doubt and tension, until some explicit action/violence takes place, usually at the finale.

Political/Conspiracy Thriller: This genre is very similar in some ways to the Environmental Thriller. Usually the hero or heroine confronts a large, well organized company, government dept., or group. The threat posed by this group is only perceived by the protagonist. A great deal of the plot revolves around a single individual defeating the above groups while encountering disbelief from everyone around him/her. Perplexing forces pull strings in the life of the lead character — if not throughout the world. Usually the hero becomes a threat to the conspirators, and must escape their wrath. Often these stories depict the aberrations caused by secrecy, and the corrupting influence of power.

Espionage or Spy Thriller: As a genre, spy fiction is thematically related to the adventure novel and involves espionage as an important background or plot device. It emerged in the early twentieth century, inspired by rivalries and intrigues between the major powers, and the establishment of modern intelligence agencies. The genre was given new impetus by the increase of fascism and communism in the lead-up to World War II. It continued to develop during the Cold War, and received a fresh impetus from the emergence of rogue states like ISIS, international criminal organizations, global terrorist networks, maritime piracy and technological sabotage as convincing threats to Western societies.

Techno Thriller: A techno-thriller is a hybrid genre drawing plot elements from science fiction, thrillers, spy fiction, action, and war novels. They include a lopsided amount of technical details on their subject matter; only hard science fiction tends towards a comparable level of supporting detail on the technical side. The inner workings of technology and the mechanics of various practices (espionage, martial arts, politics) are thoroughly explored, and the plot often turns on the of that exploration.

Military Thriller: the focus of this genre is on the development of the crisis, and the detailing of the military action. an aggressive move by the Bad Guys forces the Good to wage large-scale combat to stop them. This can also be found on a smaller scale with many novels set in WWII or prior. However, these are cross genre novels coinciding with Historical thrillers.

Legal Thriller: the plot usually is centered around courtroom action, with a lawyer as the protagonist. This is not to be confused with a Courtroom Drama. In a courtroom drama, the reader often doesn’t know who the villain is until the climax of the story. In a legal thriller, the reader generally knows who the bad guy is from the beginning and the action focuses on whether justice is served.

WHAT GENRE IS YOUR BOOK?

Published June 26, 2017 by Gail Daley

The first question asked when a writer sends a manuscript to an agent, a publisher or a self publishing site, is “What genre is it?” Several Years ago, I wrote a blog defining the many Art Genres. This year, I decided to try the same with writing. I searched the internet and pulled up most of these definitions from Wikipedia, and various other internet sources who defined writing genre. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it might help my fellow writers when asked by a publisher to define the genre of the book they have just written. There is an enormous amount of information about book genres, so I will be presenting these blogs genre by genre over the next few weeks. I limited myself to fiction. I may do a similar chart for non-fiction later though. I got the idea for the chart from a Facebook post, but I made some changes and additions to what was there. Please feel free to share or add to it.

WHAT IS A MYSTERY?

Mystery fiction is a genre usually involving a mysterious death or a crime to be solved. In a closed circle of suspects, each suspect must have a credible motive and a reasonable opportunity for committing the crime. Early pulp magazines carried conventional hard-boiled crime fiction. The first use of “mystery” in this sense was by Dime Mystery, which started out as an ordinary crime fiction magazine but switched to “weird menace” during the latter part of 1933. Mystery stories published before 1950 sometimes involved a supernatural mystery where the solution did not have to be logical, and even no crime was involved. This was common in the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, where titles such as Dime Mystery, Thrilling Mystery and Spicy Mystery offered what were described as “weird menace” stories—supernatural horror in the vein of Grand Guignol. Most of this type of fiction has now shifted over into the subgenres of “Paranormal Mystery and Supernatural Thriller”.

General Mystery: Mystery fiction is a genre of fiction commonly involving a mysterious death or a crime to be solved. The central character may be police or an amateur detective who eventually solves the mystery by logical deduction from facts fairly presented to the reader. Sometimes mystery books are nonfictional. “Mystery fiction” can be detective stories in which the emphasis is on the puzzle or suspense element and its logical solution such as a whodunit. Mystery fiction can be contrasted with hard-boiled detective stories, which focus on action and gritty realism.

Non-Fiction Mystery: Non-Fiction mystery recounts real-life mysteries or historical crimes committed. Usually the crime remains unsolved and the reader is presented with the clues available and given the opportunity to try to figure out the solution or the author presents his/her own solution. The Black Dalia, and the disappearance of the England’s Crown Princes in the reign of Richard III are famous examples of this type of mystery.

Detective Fiction: Surprisingly, this one was very difficult to find a definition for (either that or Google was feeling off that day). In any case Detective fiction is a mystery with a dectective as a protagonist; either an amatuer, a private eye or a police officer who must solve a mystery. This is a very broad definiation, however there are differences in how the mystery and the characters are handled, as can be seen by the narrower definitions below. The mystery can be a death, a missing person, a robbery or almost any type of mysterious event. The MC must have a compelling reason to solve the crime.

Noir/Hard Boiled: Noir fiction is a literary genre closely related to the hard-boiled detective genre except that the lead character is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Other common characteristics include the self-destructive qualities of the lead character. A typical protagonist of noir fiction is dealing with the legal, political or other system that is no less corrupt than the perpetrator by whom the protagonist is either victimized and/or must victimize others daily, leading to lose-lose situation.

Cozy Mystery: Cozy mysteries, also referred to as “cozies”, are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are played down or treated with humor and the crime and detection takes place in a small, socially intimate community. The term was first coined in the late 20th century when various writers attempted to re-create the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

Police Procedural: The police procedural, or police crime drama, is a subgenre of detective fiction that attempts to depict the activities of a police force as they investigate crimes.  Traditional detective novels usually concentrate on a single crime.  Police procedurals frequently describe investigations into several unrelated crimes in a single story. Traditional mysteries usually adhere to the convention of having the criminal’s identity concealed until the climax (the so-called whodunit); in police procedurals, the perpetrator’s identity is often known to the audience from the outset (this is referred to as the inverted detective story). Police procedurals describe several police-related topics such as forensics, autopsies, the gathering of evidence, the use of search warrants, and interrogation.

Hobby Mystery: See Cozy Mystery. This is merely a specialized sub genre of Cozy mysteries. The story usually centers around the main character’s hobby, such as quilting or animals.

Historical Mystery: The historical mystery or historical whodunit is a subgenre of two other genres, historical fiction and mystery fiction. These works are set in a time usually before 1960 and the central plot involves the solving of a mystery or crime (usually murder). Though works combining these genres have existed since at least the early 20th century, many credit Ellis Peters’s Cadfael Chronicles (1977-1994) for making popular what would become known as the historical mystery. The increasing prevalence of this kind of fiction in succeeding decades spawned a distinct subgenre.

Paranormal Mystery:  Sometimes the things in a mystery just can’t be explained. That’s where the paranormal mystery comes into play. These books have an element of supernatural in them, that can include magic, witches, skeletons or ghosts, and it can include werewolves, vampires, and other creatures. The difference between paranormal and fantasy is Paranormal concerns events or experiences not subject to scientific explanation or outside the ability of science to measure or explain. ESP, ghosts and other phenomenon fit this definition. Fantasy is a genre using magic or other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of the plot or setting. (Think Barbara Michaels ” or Harry Dresdin).

What is Oil Painting?

Published March 13, 2017 by Gail Daley

From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Oil painting is the process of painting with pigments with a medium of drying oil as the binder. Commonly used drying oils include linseed oil, poppy seed oil, walnut oil, and safflower oil. The choice of oil imparts a range of properties to the oil paint, such as the amount of yellowing or drying time. Certain differences, depending on the oil, are also visible in the sheen of the paints. An artist might use several different oils in the same painting depending on specific pigments and effects desired. The paints themselves also develop a particular consistency depending on the medium. The oil may be boiled with a resin, such as pine resin or frankincense, to create a varnish prized for its body and gloss.

Although oil paint was first used for Buddhist paintings by Indian and Chinese painters in western Afghanistan sometime between the fifth and tenth centuries,[1] it did not gain popularity until the 15th century. Its practice may have migrated westward during the Middle Ages. Oil paint eventually became the principal medium used for creating artworks as its advantages became widely known. The transition began with Early Netherlandish painting in Northern Europe, and by the height of the Renaissance oil painting techniques had almost completely replaced the use of tempera paints in the majority of Europe.

In recent years, water miscible oil paint has come to prominence and, to some extent, replaced traditional oil paint. Water-soluble paints contain an emulsifier that allows them to be thinned with water rather than paint thinner, and allows very fast drying times (1–3 days) when compared with traditional oils (1–3 weeks)

Traditional oil painting techniques often begin with the artist sketching the subject onto the canvas with charcoal or thinned paint. Oil paint is usually mixed with linseed oil, artist grade mineral spirits, or other solvents to make the paint thinner, faster or slower-drying. (Because these solvents thin the oil in the paint, they can also be used to clean paint brushes.) A basic rule of oil paint application is ‘fat over lean‘. This means that each additional layer of paint should contain more oil than the layer below to allow proper drying. If each additional layer contains less oil, the final painting will crack and peel. This rule does not ensure permanence; it is the quality and type of oil that leads to a strong and stable paint film. There are many other media that can be used with the oil, including cold wax, resins, and varnishes. These additional media can aid the painter in adjusting the translucency of the paint, the sheen of the paint, the density or ‘body’ of the paint, and the ability of the paint to hold or conceal the brushstroke. These aspects of the paint are closely related to the expressive capacity of oil paint.

Traditionally, paint was transferred to the painting surface using paintbrushes, but there are other methods, including using palette knives and rags. Oil paint remains wet longer than many other types of artists’ materials, enabling the artist to change the color, texture or form of the figure. At times, the painter might even remove an entire layer of paint and begin anew. This can be done with a rag and some turpentine for a time while the paint is wet, but after a while the hardened layer must be scraped. Oil paint dries by oxidation, not evaporation, and is usually dry to the touch within a span of two weeks (some colors dry within days). It is generally dry enough to be varnished in six months to a year. Art conservators do not consider an oil painting completely dry until it is 60 to 80 years old.[citation needed]

History

lthough the history of tempera (pigment mixed with either egg whites or egg yolks, then painted on a plastered section) and related media in Europe indicates that oil painting was discovered there independently, there is evidence that oil painting was used earlier in Afghanistan.[2][3][4][5] Outdoor surfaces and surfaces like shields—both those used in tournaments and those hung as decorations—were more durable when painted in oil-based media than when painted in the traditional tempera paints.

Most Renaissance sources, in particular Vasari, credited northern European painters of the 15th century, and Jan van Eyck in particular, with the “invention” of painting with oil media on wood panel supports (“support” is the technical term for the underlying backing of a painting). However, Theophilus (Roger of Helmarshausen?) clearly gives instructions for oil-based painting in his treatise, On Various Arts, written in 1125. At this period, it was probably used for painting sculptures, carvings and wood fittings, perhaps especially for outdoor use. However, early Netherlandish painting in the 15th century was the first to make oil the usual painting medium, and explore the use of layers and glazes, followed by the rest of Northern Europe, and only then Italy.

Early works were still panel paintings on wood, but around the end of the 15th century canvas became more popular as the support, as it was cheaper, easier to transport, allowed larger works, and did not require complicated preliminary layers of gesso (a fine type of plaster). (This style was known as a fresco painting: applying gesso, then painting over with tempera paint) Venice, where sail-canvas was easily available, was a leader in the move to canvas. Small cabinet paintings were also made on metal, especially copper plates. These supports were more expensive but very firm, allowing intricately fine detail. Often printing plates from printmaking were reused for this purpose. The popularity of oil spread through Italy from the North, starting in Venice in the late 15th century. By 1540, the previous method for painting on panel (tempera) had become all but extinct, although Italians continued to use fresco for wall paintings, which was less successful and durable in damper northern climates.

Brands of oil paint include: Winsor and Newton, Gamblin, Rembrandt, Lukas 1862, Lukas Studio, Old Holland, Michael Harding and Charvin. It is important that artists understand that not all oil colors are created equal. Many “student” brands on the market are really “hobby colors”. Water-soluble oil colors include: Winsor and Newton Artisan, Lukas Berlin and Woil water mixable oil colors.

Process

A traditional wood palette used to hold and mix small amounts of paint while working.

Oil paint is made by mixing pigments of colors with an oil medium. Different colors are made, or purchased premixed, before painting begins, but further shades of color are usually obtained by mixing small quantities together as the painting process is underway. An artist’s palette, traditionally a thin wood board held in the hand, is used for holding and mixing paints of different colors. Pigments may be any number of natural or synthetic substances with color, such as sulphur for yellow or cobalt for blue. Traditional pigments were based on minerals or plants, but many have proven unstable over long periods of time; the appearance of many old paintings today is very different from the original. Modern pigments often use synthetic chemicals. The pigment is mixed with oil, usually linseed, but other oils may be used. The various oils dry differently, which creates assorted effects.

Traditionally, artists mixed their own paints from raw pigments that they often ground themselves and medium. This made portability difficult and kept most painting activities confined to the studio. This changed in the 1800s, when tubes of oil paint became widely available following the American portrait painter John Goffe Rand‘s invention of the squeezable or collapsible metal tube in 1841 (the year of Claude Monet‘s birth). Artists could mix colors quickly and easily, which enabled, for the first time, relatively convenient plein air painting (a common approach in French Impressionism).

A brush is most commonly employed by the artist to apply the paint, often over a sketched outline of their subject (which could be in another medium). Brushes are made from a variety of fibers to create different effects. For example, brushes made with hog bristle might be used for bolder strokes and impasto textures. Fitch hair and mongoose hair brushes are fine and smooth, and thus answer well for portraits and detail work. Even more expensive are red sable brushes (weasel hair). The finest quality brushes are called “kolinsky sable“; these brush fibers are taken from the tail of the Siberian weasel. This hair keeps a superfine point, has smooth handling, and good memory (it returns to its original point when lifted off the canvas), known to artists as a brush’s “snap.” Floppy fibers with no snap, such as squirrel hair, are generally not used by oil painters.

In the past few decades, many synthetic brushes have been marketed. These are very durable and can be quite good, as well as cost efficient. Brushes come in many sizes and are used for different purposes. The type of brush also makes a difference. For example, a “round” is a pointed brush used for detail work. “Flat” brushes are used to apply broad swaths of color. “Bright” is a flat brush with shorter brush hairs. “Filbert” is a flat brush with rounded corners. “Egbert” is a very long, and rare, filbert brush. The artist might also apply paint with a palette knife, which is a flat metal blade. A palette knife may also be used to remove paint from the canvas when necessary. A variety of unconventional tools, such as rags, sponges, and cotton swabs, may be used to apply or remove paint. Some artists even paint with their fingers.

Most oil painters paint in layers known as “glazes”, a method also simply called “indirect painting”. This method was first perfected through an adaptation of the egg tempera painting technique, and was applied by the Flemish painters in Northern Europe with pigments ground in linseed oil. More recently, this approach has been called the “mixed technique” or “mixed method”. The first coat (the underpainting) is laid down, often painted with egg tempera or turpentine-thinned paint. This layer helps to “tone” the canvas and to cover the white of the gesso. Many artists use this layer to sketch out the composition. This first layer can be adjusted before proceeding further, an advantage over the “cartooning” method used in Fresco technique. After this layer dries, the artist might then proceed by painting a “mosaic” of color swatches, working from darkest to lightest. The borders of the colors are blended together when the “mosaic” is completed, and then left to dry before applying details.

Artists in later periods, such as the Impressionist era (late 19th century), often expanded on this wet-on-wet method, blending the wet paint on the canvas without following the Renaissance-era approach of layering and glazing. This method is also called “alla prima“. This method was created due to the advent of painting outdoors, instead of inside a studio, because while outside, an artist did not have the time to let each layer of paint dry before adding a new layer. Several contemporary artists use a combination of both techniques to add bold color (wet-on-wet) and obtain the depth of layers through glazing.

When the image is finished and has dried for up to a year, an artist often seals the work with a layer of varnish that is typically made from dammar gum crystals dissolved in turpentine. Such varnishes can be removed without disturbing the oil painting itself, to enable cleaning and conservation. Some contemporary artists decide not to varnish their work, preferring the surface unvarnished.

 

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