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Art Terms

Art Terms

Abstract  A style of art that is not realistic. Unusual lines, colors, and shapes make the subject look unrealistic. It is often characterized by the use of geometric lines and shapes and bold, bright colors.

Analogous colors Colors that appear next to each other on the color wheel. Analogous colors have one hue in common. For example, blue, blue-green, and blue-violet all contain blue. They are also called related colors.

Art criticism The process of looking at, thinking about, and judging an artwork.

Art history The study of art created in different times and cultures.

Art media The materials used by artists.

Asymmetrical balance A type of balance in which the two sides of an artwork are not exactly alike, but are still visually balanced.

Background The part of an artwork that seems the farthest away.

Balance The arrangement of the elements, in a work of art, to create a sense of equilibrium. Balance is a principle of design.

Blend To mix or rub colors together.

Block In printmaking, a piece of flat material, such as wood, clay, or metal, into which a design has been carved. It is also known as a plate. The block is used to print the design.

Brush stroke A line, shape, mark, or texture made with a paintbrush.

Canvas A strong, closely, woven fabric, which is often used as a surface for painting.

Cityscape Artwork that gives a view of a city.

Close-up A very near or close view of an object or subject.

Collage Artwork made by gluing bits of paper, pictures, fabric, or other materials to a flat surface.

Color The element of art derived from reflected or absorbed light. Color adds interest and mood to a work of art. It is also referred to as "Hue". The primary colors are red, yellow and blue. The secondary colors are created by mixing the primary colors. They are purple (violet), orange and green.

Color wheel Colors arranged in a certain order in the shape of a circle.

Complementary color Colors that contrast with one another. Complementary colors are opposite one another on the color wheel.

Compose To design or create something by arranging different parts into a whole.

Composition An arrangement of the elements of art (line, color, value, shape, form, texture, and space) using the principles of design (unity, harmony, variety, emphasis, balance, proportion, pattern, and rhythm) to express the artist’s idea.

Contrast The effect of showing the difference between two unlike things, such as a dark color and a light color.

Contour The outline of a shape.

Contrasting colors Colors placed opposite one another on the color wheel. They are also called complementary colors. For example, orange and blue are contrasting colors.

Cool colors The family of colors that includes greens, blues, and violets. Cool colors bring to mind cool things, places, and feelings.

Having a skill or talent for making things in a new or different way; showing originality and imagination.

Credit line The information that is given with a picture of an artwork. A credit line usually tells the artist, title, date, medium, size, and location of an artwork.

Critique The process of using description, analysis, interpretation, and judgement to evaluate a work of art.

Cross-hatching A method of showing value by using parallel lines at different angles that get darker as they are drawn closer together.

Cubism A style of art that stresses abstract structure at the expense of other pictorial elements especially by displaying several aspects of the same object simultaneously and by fragmenting the form of depicted objects.

Cultural style A style of art that shows something about the culture in which the artist lives or lived.

Culture The customs, beliefs, arts, and way of life of a group of people.

Depth The apparent distance from front to back.

Design A plan for the arrangement of the art elements (lines, spaces, colors, shapes, forms and textures) in an artwork. Also, the act of arranging the parts of an artwork.

Detail A small part of an artwork.

Diagonal A slanted edge or line

Distance The sense of depth or space between objects in an artwork.

Drawing An artwork consisting of lines and shapes/forms sketched on paper with materials such as pencils, pens, chalk, pastels.

Easel A stand used to hold a painting while an artist works on it.

Edge The outside line of a shape or form.

Elements of art The basic parts of an artwork. Line, color, value, shape, form, texture, and space are elements of art.

Emphasis It is the importance given to certain object or areas in an artwork. Color, texture, shape, and size can be used to create emphasis. Emphasis is a principle of design.

Exaggeration Showing something in a way that makes it seem larger or more important than it is.

Expression A special look that communicates strong feeling. A smile is an expression of happiness.

Expressionism A theory or practice in art of seeking to depict the subjective emotions and responses of the artist towards the objects in his/her work.

Expressionists A group of artists who use simple designs and brilliant colors to express feelings. Artists began using this style in Germany in the early 1900’s. It gained interest in the United States in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Exterior The outer part of a building or other form.

Fantasy Something that reflects the imaginary.

Fauvism A movement in painting typified by the work of Matisse and characterized by vivid colors, free treatment of form, and a resulting vibrant and decorative effect.

Focal Point The area in a work of art that an artist emphasizes.

Folk art (Naive art) Art made by people who have not been formally trained in art. Folk art usually reflects the artist’s culture or tradition.

Folk Artist Artists who have not been formally trained in art.

Foreground The part of an artwork that seems the closest to you.

Form Objects having three dimensions (3D), or height, width, and depth. You can walk around a form. Examples of form can include cubes, cylinders, and spheres. Form is an element of art.

Functional Designed with a useful purpose in mind.

Galleries Places where artwork can be seen and bought.

Geometric A word describing shapes and forms such as squares, circles, cubes, and spheres.

Highlights Areas of direct light on an object.

Horizon line In an artwork, the line where the ground and sky appear to meet.

Horizontal Moving straight across from side to side rather than up-and-down. For example, the top edge of a piece of paper is horizontal.

Hue Another word for color.

Illusion An image that tricks the eye or seems to be something it is not.

Illustration A picture used to help explain something or tell a story. An illustrator creates pictures for books, magazines, or other printed works.

Imagination To have the power to visualize and build mental images; dream about things that have never happened; feel intuitively; and to reach beyond sensual or real boundaries.

Impressionism A theory or practice in painting especially among French painters of about 1870 depicting the natural appearances of objects by means of dabs or strokes of primary unmixed colors in order to simulate actual reflected light.

Impressionists A group of artists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who paid special attention to light and its effect on the subjects in their paintings.

Intensity The brightness or dullness of a color.

Interior The inside of a building or another hollow form, such as a box.

Intermediate Colors Colors that are a mixture of a primary and a secondary color. Blue-green, red-orange, and red-violet are examples of intermediate colors.

Landscape A drawing or painting that shows outdoor scenery such as trees, lakes, mountains, and fields.

Line  A path created by a moving point, mark or object. It is a dot that takes a walk. Line can be straight, swirly, wavy, jagged, dotted, dashed, broken, thick, thin, zig zag, diagonal, vertical, horizontal, curved, bold, parallel or perpendicular. Line is an element of art.

Media Materials used to create an artwork, such as clay or paint. The singular of media is medium.

Middle ground In an artwork, the part between the foreground and the background.

Mixed media Artworks that are created from more than one medium.

Model  Someone or something an artist uses as an example when creating an artwork. Also a small copy of something.

Monochrome A color scheme using only tints and shades of a single color.

Montage Combining parts of several photographs or drawings to produce a new single image.

Mood The feeling created in a work or art.

Motif An element that is repeated often enough to be an important feature of a design.

Motion A sense of movement or action in an artwork.

Movement The sense of motion or action created in an artwork. Also, a trend in an art is called a movement. Movement is a principle of design.

Mural A large artwork, usually a painting, that is created or placed on a wall or ceiling, often in a public place. A muralist creates murals.

Museum A place where works of art are cared for and displayed.

Negative space The empty space around and between forms or shapes in an artwork.

Neutrals A word used for black, white, and tints and shades of gray. (Some artists use tints and shades of brown as neutrals.)

Non-Functional An artwork or other object that serves no useful purpose but is appreciated for its beauty alone.

Non-objective A style of art that does not represent real objects.

One-point perspective The graphic system in which all diagonal lines converge to a singular point on the horizon line.

Opaque Not letting light through; the opposite of transparent

Organic A word describing shapes and forms similar to those in nature and the opposite of geometric.

Outline The line that forms the edge of any shape or form. Also called the contour.

Overlap To partly or completely cover one shape or form with another.

Painting An artwork created by using a brush or other tool to apply tempera, watercolor, oil, acrylic, etc. to a surface.

Palette A flat surface (palette, boards, etc.) on which an artist holds and mixes colors.

Pastel A crayon made of either chalk or oil.

Pattern Repeated colors, lines, shapes, or textures in an artwork. Pattern is a principal of design. 

Perspective A way of making a flat artwork look as if it has depth. In a painting, an artist creates perspective by making far-away objects smaller and nearby objects larger.

Plate In printmaking, a piece of flat material, such as wood or metal, with a design on the surface. The plate is used to print the design.

Portrait A work of art created to show a person, animal, or group of people, usually focusing on the face.

Pose The way subjects sit or stand while an artist paints portraits of them.

Positive space Shapes, forms, or lines that stand out from the background in a work of art.

Post-Impressionism A theory or practice of art originating in France in the last quarter of the 19th century that in revolt against Impressionism stresses variously volume, picture structure, or expressionism.

Primary colors The colors from which all other colors are made. The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue.

Principles of design Guidelines artists use as they create art works. Unity, harmony, variety, emphasis, balance, proportion, pattern, and rhythm are the principles of design.

Print To produce (a text, picture, etc.) by applying inked types, plates, blocks, or the like, to paper or other material either by direct pressure or indirectly by offsetting an image onto an intermediate roller. 2. to reproduce (a design or pattern) by engraving on a plate or block.

Printmaking The process of making one or more prints.

Profile Something that is seen or shown from the side, such as a side view of a face.

Proportion A principle of design that shows the relation of one thing to another with respect to size and placement.

Radial balance A type of balance in which lines or shapes spread out from a center point.

Realism Art style which renders life in a life-like way.

Realistic Showing something, such as a person or scene, as it might really look.

Repetition  works with pattern to make the work of art seem active. The repetition of elements of design creates unity within the work of art. Repetiton is a principle of design.

Rhythm The repeating of elements, such as lines, shapes, or colors, that creates a pattern of visual motion in an artwork. Rhythm is a principle of design.

Seascape An work that includes in the scene the sea, ocean, or shore.

Secondary colors A color made by mixing two primary colors. The secondary colors are green, violet, and orange.

Self-portrait A drawing, painting, photograph, or sculpture that shows the likeness of the artist.

Shade A color made by adding black to a hue. For example, adding black to green results in dark green. Also a dark value of a color.

Shading A way of showing gradual changes in lightness or darkness in a drawing or painting. Shading helps make a picture look more realistic.

Shape A flat area, such as a circle or a square, that has clear boundaries. Shape is an element of art.

Sketch A quick drawing. A sketch can be used to explore a subject or plan an artwork.

Sketchbook A book or pad of paper used for drawing and keeping sketches

Space An empty surface or area. Also, the area surrounding something. Space is an element of art.

Still life An artwork showing an arrangement of objects that cannot move on their own, such as fruit or flowers

Stippling Technique of using patterns of dots to create values and value gradation.

Story quilt A quilt showing pictures that tell a story.

Studio A room or building where an artist creates art.

Style An artist’s own way of designing and creating art. Also a technique used by a group of artists in a particular time or culture.

Subject What an artwork is about. A person, animal, object, or scene

Surface The outside layer of a material, an object, or another form.

Surrealism The Twentieth Century artistic style that uses dreams and fantasy as subject matter.

Symbol A letter, color, sign, or picture that expresses a larger meaning, For example, a red heart is often used as a symbol for love.

Symmetrical balance A type of balance in which both sides of an artwork look the same or almost the same.

Symmetry Balance created by making both sides of an artwork the same, equal or almost the same.

Technique The way an artist uses art materials to create a certain type of artwork.

Tempera paint A chalky, water-based paint. Also called poster paint.

Texture The way a surface looks and feels, such as smooth, rough, or bumpy. Texture is an element of art.

Theme In an artwork, the artist’s message about the subject of the work.

Three-dimensional Having height, width, and thickness. Forms are three-dimensional.

Tint A color such as pink that is created by mixing a hue with white. Also, a light value of a color.

Translucent Something through which light can be seen.

Two-dimensional Having height and width; flat. Shapes are two-dimensional.

Ukiyo-e A Japanese art movement that flourished from the 17th to the 19th century and produced paintings and prints depicting the everyday life and interests of the common people.

Unity A principle of design, unity occurs when all of the elements of a piece combine to make a balanced, harmonious, complete whole.

Value The lightness or darkness of colors. Tints have a light value. Shades have a dark value. Value is an element of art.

Vanishing point A point on the horizon or eye-level line at which receding parallel lines meet in a perspective drawing.

Variety is the use of several elements of design to hold the viewer’s attention and to guide the viewer’s eye through and around the work of art. The combination of elements or art, such as line, shape, or color, in an artwork. Variety is a principle of design.

Vertical Moving up and down rather than side to side. For example, the side edge of a piece of paper is vertical.

Visual rhythm In an artwork, rhythm created by repeating elements, such as colors and lines. Visual rhythm might remind a viewer of music or dance rhythm.

Warm colors The family of colors that includes reds, yellows, and oranges. Warm colors bring to mind warm things, places, and feelings.

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