scumble /SKUM-bəl/. verb or noun. To soften the colors of a painting or other work of art by applying a thin coat or layer of opaque or near-opaque color. The effect of this process. Scumble is a frequentative (a form expressing repetition) of the verb scum (in its older sense meaning to clear, to skim), whose origin is unknown.
“‘Eschew surplusage,’ snapped Twain, that anti-European, anti-Catholic pinchfist from the American midwest, with his unlovely spray of scentless botanicals. Blink the incidentals! Fract that chicken! Scumble that depth-of-field! Rip off that wainscotting! Slubber that gloss! Steam down those frills!” (Alexander Theroux)
“But this wasn’t that flat, affectless Pop thing, the Brillo box, the soup can. If anything, it was the opposite: a stop-sign whose unique scumble of urban grit—whose peeling green pole, textured upon the canvas, whose reflection of morning light near a river in summer—made William want to cry.” (Garth Hallberg)
“I felt secretly sure any other teacher would kill all that was strangest and most luminous in her playing. That scumbled virtuosity of the nonnative speaker wouldn’t survive her first real lesson.” (Richard Powers)
“In this preliminary report on infinite consciousness a certain scumbling of the essential outline is unavoidable. We have to discuss sight without being able to see.” (Vladimir Nabokov)
“The desert moves out on half the horizon
Rimming the illusory water which, among islands,
Bears up the sky. The sea scumbles in
From its own inviolate border under the sky.
“Consider this sky. Supposedly it is blue; we say, Pierrot stands outlined against a blue sky. In fact, what blue there is is more a faded, bluish green, and the effect is further softened by a scumbling of ochreous pinks.” (John Banville)
“And he, Abraham, was a painter, splendid-but need the walls of the house be filled top-to-bottom with nude portraits of his wife? Need the paintings in the front parlor sometimes be visible from the corner of Dean and Nevins, scumbled flesh beaming past half-drawn curtains?” (Jonathan Lethem)
“a horizonless pattern of small dark patches that were forest a little darker than the canopy of cloud, and small patches a little lighter and yellower than the cloud that were rolling withered winter fields under a thin scumble of rime: the high Bavarian plateau, stretching away into purple immensities under a purplish slate sky.” (Richard Hughes)