Glossary of Art Terms
Abstract - painting, sometimes called non-figurative painting, generally relies on colors, lines, and shapes instead of recognizable images or symbols for its compositional elements.
Acrylic - A fast-drying paint comprised of pigments suspended within an acrylic polymer emulsion. Acrylic paintings can resemble watercolor or oil paintings depending on the methods and additives used during the painting process.
Analogous Colors - Closely related hues, especially those in which you can see a common hue; hues that are neighbors on the color wheel, such as blue, blue-green, and green.
Art deco - An eclectic form of stylish modernism based on mathematical geometric shapes. Art Deco was a popular international design movement from 1925 until 1939.
Art Nouveau - Characterized by organic floral and plant-inspired designs, as well as stylized, flowing meandering forms. The flat-perspective and strong colors of Japanese woodcuts was a major influence on this movement.
Baroque - An art movement of the Counter-Reformation in the seventeenth century, mostly in Catholic countries, in which painters, sculptors, and architects sought emotion, movement, and variety in their works.
Black and White Photography - Monochromatic process involving the making of a photographic image recorded in neutral tones of gray ranging from white to black. Also referred to as grayscale photography.
Botanical Art - Art whose subject is plant life.
Caricature - Art where the subject's distinctive features or peculiarities are deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect.
Complementary Colors - Two hues directly opposite one another on a standard color wheel which, when placed together make the other appear brighter. The complementary color of a primary color (red, blue, or yellow) is the color you get by mixing the other two
Cool colors - Colors whose relative visual temperature makes them seem cool. May include green, blue-green, blue, blue-violet, and violet.
Contemporary Art - Art produced since World War II. Includes art being produced today.
Encaustic - Paint made from pigment mixed with melted wax and fixed by heat after application on the surface.
English Art - Although many different styles and themes have been explored within English art over the years some recurring topics include English landscape painting as well as coastal and sea paintings.
Expressionism - An art movement of the early 20th century in which traditional adherence to realism and proportion was replaced by the artist's emotional connection to the subject.
Etching - An impression from an etched plate. The plate, usually made of copper or zinc, is hand etched by the artist with a metal tool, then covered with ink, carefully wiped to leave the ink in the scratched lines only. The plate is then put on a press with paper. A heavy roll is run on the paper and plate, and the print that results is called an etching.
Gallery wrap - A canvas that has been mounted on a wooden frame, and covers all sides, leaving the staples on the back, so that they are not visible when the piece is hung.
Giclee - Pronunciation: “jee-clay”. Comes from the French verb: gicler, which means to squirt. A reproduction of an original artwork produced with digital equipment and printed with a high quality ink jet printer that has multiple ink cartridges. The giclees are hand pulled, can be on paper or canvas, and are usually limited editions.
Glazing - The process of applying a transparent layer of oil paint over a solid one so that the color of the first is profoundly modified.
Gold Leaf (also Silver leaf) - Gold (or silver) beaten into extremely thin sheets; used for gilding.
Gouache - A type of paint similar to watercolor but more opaque and reflective in nature due to the presence of white chalk in the paint.
Gray Scale - A term used to describe an image containing shades of gray as well as black and white.
Harmony - The pleasing interaction or appropriate combination of the elements as a whole in a piece of artwork.
Hue - The actual name of a color, such as red.
Impasto - The application of thick layers of paint. When paint is so heavily applied that it stands up with the tracks of the brush evident, it is "heavily impasted".
Impressionism - The name of the movement comes from the title of a work by Claude Monet called "Impression, Sunrise." Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement distinguished by visible brush strokes, open composition, and an emphasis on light as it changes and evolves throughout the day.
Limited edition - A reproduction of an original artwork that is numbered and usually signed by the artist. Example: 1/100. 100 is the amount of that print that will be available, and 1 is the first of that serie.
Lithography - The process of printing from a plane surface (as a smooth stone or metal plate) on which the image to be printed is ink-receptive and the blank area ink-repellent.
Mixed Media - Any work of art created by employing any combination of mediums.
Monochromatic - Based on a single hue.
Neutral Colors - Colors that blend or combine with all other colors to alter their value or intensity. Black, white, gray and variations of brown are considered neutral colors.
Palette knife - A knife with usually a flexible steel blade and no cutting edge used to mix colors or to apply colors (as to a painting).
Palette - 1)A thin oval or rectangular board or tablet that a painter holds and mixes pigments on. 2) The set of colors put on the palette b (1): a particular range, quality, or use of color (2): a comparable range, quality, or use of available elements.
Pastel - A combination of pure pigment and binder forming permanent-colored sticks. When the ground is completely covered with pigment, the work is considered a pastel painting; leaving much of the ground exposed produces a pastel sketch.
Pen and Ink - A drawing using black ink.
Photography - The process, activity, and art of creating a still picture on a sensitive medium such as film. During the printing process additional modifications can be made.
Photorealism - Photorealism evolved from the Pop Art movement and was a response to the flowing brush strokes and explosion of paint that was Abstract Expressionism. Photo realists relied extensively on photographic reference to compose and execute their works.
Plein Air - Referring to landscapes painted out of doors with the intention of catching the impression of the open air.
Pointillism - The concept behind Pointillism involves painting small dots of primary colors on the painting surface which are visually mixed by the eye when viewing from a distance creating secondary and intermediate colors. George Seurat is the most famous artist who practiced Pointillism.
Pop Art - This 20th century art movement emphasized images of popular culture as opposed to elitist tastes in art by calling attention to the ordinary or tacky elements usually through the use of irony. Probably the best known Pop Artist is Andy Warhol.
Primary Colors - The three basic colors: red, blue and yellow. They can be mixed to form all other colors.
Realism - Realists favored commonplace themes to depict their subjects. Everyday locations and mundane objects were painted as they appeared without embellishment or interpretation. The introduction of photography was a large influence on this style movement that began in France in the 1850s.
Secondary Colors - Colors that are mixtures of two primary colors. Red and yellow make orange, yellow and blue make green, and blue and red make violet.
Sepia Photography - Black and white photographs that have been bleached and dropped into a sepia bath resulting in a monotone photograph in shades of warm browns. Because this photographic technique was used extensively in the past it often evokes a vintage feel.
Surrealism - Beginning in 1920s, the Surrealist art movement embraced the element of surprise and unexpected compositions. Working from a Manifesto, the Surrealist artists explored the philosophy of revolution.
Tempera (also known as Egg Tempera) - Classically, paintings made with pigments bound in an egg medium. Used in illuminated manuscripts and Orthodox icons.
Unity - The oneness or wholeness in a design that occurs when all parts work together to create a cohesive whole.
Watercolor - Water-soluble paint typically applied in a series of washes on paper.
Warm Colors - Colors whose relative visual temperature makes them seem warm. Includes red-violet, red, red-orange, yellow-orange, and yellow.