Posted on

Learning Art Terms: What is Impasto?

textured paint surface in white, blue and green with a raised circle
Detail of Kure Beach by Carolyn DiGiovanni

Impasto, the Italian word for mixture, means a thick application of a pigment to a surface so brush strokes or palette knife marks are visible. It can also mean a raised decoration on ceramic.

Artists can use either oil or acrylic paint for impasto technique. Oil works fine by itself, but acrylic paint needs a thickener added to it to make it viscous enough. An artist layers the paint on with a brush or a palette knife, almost sculpting with the paint to add raised detail. Because the paint is so thick, some impasto paintings can take weeks to dry.

Examples of famous artists who used this style are Leonardo DaVinci and Claude Monet. Impasto is a favorite of impressionist painters because it works well with a less precise, more energetic painting style. Impasto gives a painting a three-dimensional look, letting the viewer really see the shape of the artist’s brush strokes.

Our artist, Carolyn DiGiovanni, uses this technique in her work. Her signature is a raised circle that you will see on all her paintings. She uses tissue paper, cheesecloth or whatever she can find mixed with a hardening agent. After the raised sections of her paintings are adhered, she tells us she “uses about a hundred layers of paint. Mostly pure pigments are used to mix the color to my liking. I use texture to begin with because it adds so much depth to the work..”

Here are a few examples of her work.