Art Encyclopedia

Art Encyclopedia

If you would like to prepare for school subjects or simply increase your general knowledge, then enjoy our art encyclopedia. We tried to focus only on very important terms and definitions. We also kept our terminology very brief so that you absorb the concept more quickly and easily.

Art Glossary (Page 2)

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COOL COLOR: Colors whose relative visual temperatures make them seem cool. Cool colors generally include green, blue-green, blue, blue-violet, and violet.
COOL COLORS: In color theory, colors are described as either warm, cool, or neutral. A cool color generally is one which contains a large amount of blue, as opposed to a warm color, which will contain more yellow. In theory, cool colors seem to recede in space, as the distant mountains or hills tend to appear light bluish-gray, and the closer ones will be more green or brown (warmer). In landscape paintings, artists often paint the distant hills in this pale blue color; and it is generally thought that cool colors will recede into space in any painting. However, color is a complex element, and colors often misbehave.
COPAL: A hard resin used in making varnishes and painting mediums.
CO-POLYMERS: A polymer in which the molecule is of more than one type of structural unit.
CROPPING: The cutting out of extraneous parts of an image, usually a photograph; excluding part of a photo or illustration to show only the portion desired or to fit a given space requirement.
CROSSHATCHING: More than one set of close parallel lines that crisscross each other at angles, to model and indicate tone.
CROSS-HATCHING: The practice of overlapping parallel sets of lines in drawing to indicate lights and darks, or shading. (Hatching is one set of parallel lines, cross-hatching is one set going in one direction, with another overlapped set going in a different, often perpendicular, direction.).
CUBISM: Art that uses two-dimensional geometric shapes to depict three-dimensional organic forms; a style of painting created by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in the early 20th century whereby the artist breaks down the natural forms of the subjects into geometric shapes and creates a new kind of pictorial space.
CULTURE: The rarely questioned system of beliefs, values and practices that form one's life. Cultures are often identified by national borders, ethnicity, and religion-while some cultures cross borders, ethnicities and organized faiths. A culture which involves a select portion of a population and which is organized around a particular interest (such as cars, graffiti, or music) is known as a subculture.
CURATOR: A person who is responsible for the collection, care, research, and exhibition of art or artifacts.
DAMAR: A resin from conifer trees, used in making oil mediums and varnishes.
DEAD COLOR: A term for colors used in underpainting.
DECKLE EDGE: The ragged edge found on handmade papers.
DECORATIVE ARTS: Collective term for such art forms as ceramics, enamels, furniture, glass, ivory, metalwork and textiles, especially when they take forms used as interior decoration.
DECOUPAGE: The Victorian craft of cutting out motifs from paper gluing them to a surface and covering with as many layers of varnish as is required to give a completely smooth finish.
DEPTH OF FIELD: In photography, the area in front of and behind the focused point that is sharp. A shallow depth of field is used in portraits to provide a soft backdrop, whilst a greater depth of field is useful for landscapes to ensure everything from the foreground to the background is in focus. Shorter (wide angle) lenses and smaller apertures increase depth of field.
DESIGN: Relating to popular forms of art including architecture, books, the internet, furniture, and mass media. Today, things that are designed are often mechanically produced or made with the help of a computer.
DESIGNER COLORS: Best quality Gouache paints, often used in commercial art.
DESIGNING: The process of relating the elements whether they are similar or contrasting and visually arranging an interesting unity with them using the design principles.
DILUENTS: Liquids, such as turpentine, used to dilute oil paint, the diluent for waterbased media is water.
DIPTYCH: Two separate paintings which are attached by hinges or other means, displayed as one artwork.
DIRECTIONAL MOVEMENT: A principle of visual movement in artworks, which can be carried by line, dots, marks, shapes, patterns, color, and other compositional elements. Directional movement in paintings or sculptures directs the viewer's eye around or through the artwork, in a way which the artist consciously or unconsciously determines. One important function is to keep the viewer's eye from "leaving" the work, and instead cause the viewer to follow an inventive (interesting) path within the work, or exit in one area, only to be brought back in another area.
DISPERSION: Applied to paint, a smooth, homogeneous mixture of ingredients; the process of dispersal, in which pigment particles are evenly distributed throughout the vehicle.
DISPLACEMENT: The act or feeling of being removed or alienated from a place or people.
DISTEMPER: A blend of glue, chalk and water-based paint, used mostly for murals and posters.
DOMINANCE: The emphasis placed on a particular area or characteristic of a work, with other areas or aspects given subordinate or supporting roles.
DOUBLE EXPOSURE: A technique used in film and photography to expose two images onto one negative, or sheet of photographic paper.
DOUBLE LOADING: Refers to loading a brush with two colors side by side. This is a technique typical of tole and other kinds of decorative painting. Also known as "side loading".
DRAWING: Pencil, pen, ink, charcoal or other similar mediums on paper or other support, tending toward a linear quality rather than mass, and also with a tendency toward black-and-white, rather than color (one exception being pastel).
DRIER: A material that accelerates or initiates the drying of an oil paint or oil by promoting oxidation.
DRYING OIL: An oil that, when spread into a thin layer and exposed to air, absorbs oxygen and converts into a tough film.
EARTHWORK: A type of contemporary art begun in the 1960's and '70's, which uses the landscape, or environment, as its medium, either by using natural forms as the actual work of art, or by enhancing natural forms with manmade materials. Two well-known earthwork artists are the husband and wife team of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and Robert Smithson. Some of these earthworks can be very large, measured in miles.
EASEL: An upright support (generally a tripod) used for displaying something. It is most often used to hold up an artist's canvas while the painter is working or to hold a completed painting for exhibition.
ECOLOGY: The relationship between organisms and their environment, ecology is also concerned with the relationship between people and nature.
ECONOMY: The deletion of non-essential details to reveal the essence of a form.
EGG TEMPERA: A medium created by mixing pure, ground pigments with egg yolk. This was a very common medium before the invention of oil paints.
ELEMENTS OF DESIGN: Those qualities of a design that can be seen and worked with independently of its figurative content. They include line, form, value, texture, color, and shape.
EMPHASIS: The stress placed on a single area of a work or a unifying visual theme.
EMULSION: A liquid in which small droplets of one liquid are immiscible in, but thoroughly and evenly dispersed throughout, a second liquid. Eg. Acrylic Emulsion.
EN PLEIN AIR: French for "in open air," used to describe paintings that have been executed outdoors, rather than in the studio.
ENCAUSTIC: The process of using pigments dissolved in hot wax as a medium for painting; mostly used long ago, but there are some contemporary artists who have used encaustic, such as Jasper Johns.
ENGRAVING: A general term used to describe traditional printing processes, such as etching, aquatint, drypoint, etc., where an image is made by the use of metal plates and engraving tools, and printed, usually through a printing press. The image can be incised into the plate, or drawn with fluid and then dipped in acid to etch the uncovered areas. These processes are still used by artists, but of course have been supplanted by more modern processes for general printing purposes.
ETCHING: An impression made from an etched plate; an intaglio process in which an image is scratched through an acid-resistant coating on a metal plate. The plate is then dipped in acid which eats into the exposed surface.
ETHICS: A system of morals or judgments which govern one's behavior, ethics often intersect with a work of art or the process of its making. Artists often feel that they have an ethical responsibility to voice political concerns or make changes to society.
EXHIBITION: A public showing of a piece or a collection of objects. Also called an exhibit.
EXPRESSIONISM: Post-World War I artistic movement, of German origin, that emphasized the expression of inner experience rather than solely realistic portrayal, seeking to depict not objective reality but the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events arouse in the artist.
EXPRESSIONISTIC: A characteristic of some art, generally since the mid-19th century, leaning toward the expression of emotion over objective description. James Ensor, Edvard Munch and Vincent Van Gogh were perhaps the first expressionists, though there was not really a movement per se, but individual artists. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, expressionism became widely espoused, particularly by German and Austrian artists, such as Emil Nolde, Kirchner, Gustav Klimt, and others. Though there is variation, certain characteristics predominate, bright, even garish, color; harsh contrasts of black and white (as in woodcuts); exaggeration of form; and distortion or elongation of figures. There are still many artists whose work has expressionistic tendencies; in the 1980's there was a period of art called Neo-Expressionist. (The word 'neo' before an art label means that there is a reprise of work similar to the original movement.).
FAÇADE: An artificial or deceptive appearance or the front or public facing side of a building.
FAT: A term used to describe paints which have a high oil content.
FERRULE: Refers to the metal or plastic device that that aligns and anchors paintbrush bristles or hairs in an adhesive. The ferrule is attached to the handle by crimping or by binding wires. .
FIGURATIVE: A term used to describe art which is based on the figure, usually in realistic or semi-realistic terms; also loosely used to describe an artist who paints or sculpts representationally, as opposed to painting or sculpting in an abstract or non-objective manner.
FIGURE/GROUND: The relationship of the picture surface (ground) to the images on the picture surface (figure). The figure is the space occupied by forms (e.g., a person in a portrait) (also known as the 'positive' space); the ground is the "empty" or unoccupied space around the person in the portrait (also known as the 'negative' space) (The ground is also commonly called the 'background.') In art since the early 20th century, this division of the picture plane has been seriously challenged, to the point where there is not a distinction of figure/ground, but rather one continuous surface and space, with no 'positive' or 'negative' space, just one interwoven space.
FILBERT: Brushes used to create soft edges, blend colors, and has the shape of a flower petal or leaf.
FILIGREE: A technique used to produce fine intricate patterns in metal. Often used for metal beads, clasps, and bead caps.
FILLER: Inert pigment added to paint to increase its bulk, also called extender.
FILM: A thin coating or layer of paint, ink, etc.
FINE ART: Art created for purely aesthetic expression, communication, or contemplation. Painting and sculpture are the best known of the fine arts.
FIXATIVE: A liquid, similar to varnish, which is usually sprayed over a finished piece of artwork to better preserve it and prevent smudging. Artwork media requiring fixative include drawings done in pencil, charcoal, and pastel.
FLAT BRUSH: A brush with a flat shaped end like a screwdriver. .
FLUXUS: Implying flow or change, the term fluxus was adopted by a group of artists, musicians, and poets in the 1960's to describe a radical attitude and philosophy for producing and exhibiting art. Often presented in non-traditional settings, Fluxus forms included impromptu performances, mail art, and street spectacles.
FOAM CORE: A strong, stiff, resilient, and lightweight board of polystyrene laminated with paper on both of its sides used as backing for art prints before framing. Also referred to as "foam board".
FOCAL POINT: In two-dimensional images, the center of interest visually and/or subject-wise; tends to be used more in traditional, representational art than in modern and contemporary art, where the picture surface tends to have more of an overall importance, rather than one important area.
FOLK ART: Art of people who have had no formal, academic training, but whose works are part of an established tradition of style and craftsmanship.
FONT: A complete set of characters in a particular size and style of type. This includes the letter set, the number set, and all of the special character and diacritical marks you get by pressing the shift, option, or command/control keys.
FONTOGRAPHY: The field of font design. A person who designs fonts is a "fontographer".
FORESHORTENING: A form of perspective where the nearest parts of an object or form are enlarged so that the rest of the form appears to go back in space; To shorten an object to make it look as if it extends backwards into space.
FORM: The shape and structure of a work of art, formal elements include color, shape, pattern, and duration. Many artists strive for a relationship between form and content, so that the way something is made fits with what the artist intends the work to be about or how it will be seen.
FORMAL: A term used by artists to describe the visual elements of a work of art, such as composition, space, color, etc., i.e., formal elements.
FOUND OBJECT: First used in the early years of the 20th century (in the Dadaist movement), a found object is any object that an artist comes upon, and uses in an artwork, or as the artwork itself. Marcel Duchamp called these works 'readymades.' He exhibited a urinal in the Society of Independent Artists exhibition in New York in 1917, under the signature 'R Mutt'; Dada was the precursor to Surrealism, and was an 'anti-art' movement after World War I, which sought to avoid order and rationality in art. Dada also questioned the very meaning of art, what is art? Who decides if an object is art? Is it art because an artist places it in a museum and calls it art? Etc. Later, Picasso made a bull's head from found objects, the seat and handle bars of a bicycle.
FRACTAL: A mathematically generated pattern that is reproducible at any magnification or reduction. A geometric pattern that is repeated at ever smaller scales to produce irregular shapes and/or surfaces that cannot be represented by classical geometry.
FRAME: Something made to enclose a picture or a mirror; enclose in a frame, as of a picture.
FRESCO: The technique of blending wet plaster with water based paint. As the plaster dries it becomes a lasting surface base. The term applies to the technique as well as the painting itself.
FROTTAGE: French term, meaning to rub a crayon or other tool onto paper or other material, which is placed onto a textured surface, in order to create the texture of that surface on the paper. The Surrealist artist Max Ernst used this technique in some of his collages.
FUGITIVE COLORS: Pigment or dye colors that fade when exposed to light.
GALLERY: A room or series of rooms where works of art are exhibited.
GENRE: A means of categorizing works of art based on style, form, and subject matter. History painting and landscape are genres of painting; horror and romantic comedy are genres of film; detective and science fiction are genres of literature.
GESSO: An undercoating medium used on the canvas or other painting surface before painting, to prime the canvas; usually a white, chalky, thick liquid. In the mid-20th century, gesso became available already commercially prepared; before this time, artists often mixed their own gesso mixture.
GESTURE: A description of figural movement; the embodiment of the essence of a figure.
GESTURE/GESTURAL: The concept of gesture in drawing is twofold, it describes the action of a figure; and it embodies the intangible "essence" of a figure or object. The action line of a figure is often a graphic undulating line, which follows the movement of the entire body of the figure being drawn or painted. The term gestural is an extension of this idea to describe a type of painting which is characterized by brushstrokes with a gestural quality, that is, flowing, curved, undulating lines or forms. Gestural composition means a type of composition based on gestural directional movements. The work of Arshile Gorky, the Abstract Expressionist, is an example of gestural painting, which often connotes a spiritual or emotional content.
GIF: An acronym for "Graphic Interchange Format", an image format type generated specifically for computer use. Its resolution is usually very low (72 dpi, or that of your computer screen), making it undesirable for printing purposes.
GILD THE LILY: A phrase meaning to add unnecessary ornamentation to something already beautiful.
GILDING: The application of a gold finish. It can be achieved by applying gold leaf, or by using metallic powders.
GLAZE: A thin layer of translucent acrylic or oil paint applied to all or part of a painting, to modify the tone or color underneath. Glazing is the process of using this technique.
GLAZE/GLAZING: A glaze is a thin layer of translucent oil paint applied to all or part of a painting, to modify the tone or color underneath. Glazing is the process of using this technique.
GOLD LEAF: An extremely thin tissue of gold used for gilding.
GOLDEN SECTION: A mathematical ratio first used by the Greeks in their architecture, and developed further in the Renaissance, which was said to be in tune with divine proportion and the harmony of the universe. It has been used by artists to divide the picture surface (as a compositional device); among others, Seurat and Mondrian are thought to have used this ratio to create compositions.
GOUACHE: A type of watercolor paint, made heavier and more opaque by the addition of a white pigment (chalk, Chinese white, etc.) In a gum arabic mixture. This results in a stronger color than ordinary watercolor.
GRAFFITI: Art made on a public surface, such as a building or a street sign, that is not owned by the artist. Dating back to ancient Egypt, graffiti today is often made with spray paint and marker. Seen by some as vandalism, others view graffiti as an important expression of opinions.
GRAPHIC: A description applied to flat, two-dimensional images or primarily graphic media such as fonts, comic books, and cartoons.
GRAPHIC ART: Two-dimensional art forms such as drawing, engraving, etching and illustration in their various forms.
GRAPHIC DESIGN: The applied art of arranging image and text to communicate a message. It may be applied in any media, such as print, digital media, motion pictures, animation, product decoration, packaging, and signs. Graphic design as a practice can be traced back to the origin of the written word, but only in the late 19th century did it become identified as a separate entity.
GRAPHIC/GRAPHIC ARTS: The graphic arts (drawing and engraving) are said to depend for their effect on drawing, as opposed to color. The term graphic describes drawings or prints which lean more toward drawing (line) than color (mass). I think that this division is less pertinent in modern and contemporary art than in traditional art or art of the past.
GRAPHITE: A soft, black, lustrous mineral made of carbon used in lead pencils, paints, crucibles, and as a lubricant.
GRAYSCALE: Refers to the range of gray tones between black and white.
GRID: Refers to a series of crossed lines that meet to form a boxed pattern used in the predetermined placement of photographs and graphic elements on a page. A series of non printing horizontal and vertical rules assist in creating and maintaining a grid for page layout.
GRID ENLARGING: The process of using a grid to enlarge an image; for copying very precisely, another image, on the same or a different scale, usually larger; used in scaling an image by drawing.
GRILLE: (pronounced "zee-clay") a printmaking process usually on an IRIS inkjet printer to make reproductions of a photograph of a painting; the printer can produce a very wide range of colors resulting in prints that are of very high quality.
GRISAILLE: Monochrome painting generally employing shades of gray executed in a black pigment and an inert white pigment in oil, gouache or tempera; a stained glass window incorporating muted tones as opposed to bright colors.
GRISSAILLE: A monochromatic painting, usually in gray, which can be used under colored glazes.
GROUND: Coating material, usually white, applied to a support to make it ready for painting.

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