Art Glossary



A term given to invented forms usually derived from nature that may involve the simplification or exaggeration of natural form.


Abstract Art

It is an art in which shapes, forms, and colors have been extracted, abridged, distorted, or “abstracted” from the design of nature.



Achromatic refers to works of art that are black, white and shades of gray; without color or hue.


Acrylic Paint

This is an artist liquid medium in which the pigment (or coloring matter) is mixed with an acrylic polymer emulsion binder.


A. D.

A.D. is an abbreviation for the Latin term, “Anno Domini,” meaning “in the year of our Lord” referring to the time after Christ’s birth. Another term that is used for the same time period is “C.E.” meaning “Common Era.”


Additive Color

Additive color refers to color created by overlapping wavelengths of light. The physical primary hues are red, green and blue. The secondary colors produced when these colors are paired are yellow (red and green), cyan (blue and green) and magenta (red and blue). Overlapping all three primaries will produce white (or natural) light. Theater lighting, electronic equipment such as televisions and computer monitors, even the light receptors in our eyes, rely upon additive color to produce the full range of color that we see.


Additive (Method of) Sculpture

(Sculpture) created by building up.


Advancing Colors

Colors that seem to be closer to the viewer


Adhering/Adhering Techniques

A term, which refers to additive methods such as joining, gluing, stapling, wiring, sewing, nailing.



Qualities or experience derived from or based upon the senses and how they are affected or stimulated; from the Greek word meaning “of sense perception, artistic;” appreciative of, responsive to, or zealous abut beauty.


Aesthetic Criteria

Standards used for assessing the effectiveness of visual form (These may include the quality of the physical perception, emotional makeup of the viewer, and the context in which a particular image is being experienced.)


Aesthetic Judgment

Assessment and decision-making about the adequacy of visual imagery (It is relative, never absolute, and depends upon the character of the form, needs of the viewer, and the environment.)


Aesthetic Qualities

Refers to cues within artwork, such as literal, visual, and expressive qualities, which are examined during the art criticism process.

Aesthetic Response

Viewer’s reply, answer, or reaction to artwork after studying the work, describing, analyzing, and interpreting.



1) Branch of philosophy that provides a theory of the beautiful and of the fine arts; a systematic attempt to explore human feeling, form, beauty, and style expressed in disciplines involving creative effort; dealing with questions of definition, meaning, value, and evaluation in the arts; 2) Traditionally the theory of the artistic or the “beautiful,” aesthetics now attempts to discover the origins of sensitivity to art forms, and the relationships of art to other phases of culture.


Alla Prima

A term, which describes the technique of completing a painting’s surface in one session in full color and with such opacity that neither previous drawing nor underpainting, modifies the final effect.


Analogous Colors

Colors closely related; neighbors on the color wheel – yellow, yellow-orange, red, for example



Noting how the Principles of Art are used to organize the elements of line, shape, form, color, texture, shape, and space.



Having or forming angles, corners and projections; Having straight lines and angles



A general belief in spiritual beings


Applied Art

This term refers to the integration of form, function and beauty as it applies to an object; works of art that are also utilitarian; another term for “crafts.”



Appliqué is the application, sewing or fastening of one material upon another for ornamentation.



Architecture is the planning and creating of buildings; the art of science of building for use and beauty, i.e., houses, churches, or public buildings; or a style or method of building.



An armature is the framework or skeleton of a sculpture.



It is an orderly design or array of shapes, lines, and objects.



Creative work or its principles, making or doing of things that display form, beauty, and unusual perception (Visual art includes all forms of creative and expressive production in material and media resulting in architecture, painting, sculpture, photography, craft, ceramics, printing, and applied design.)


Art Concepts

Theories and ideas about art and how it contributes to human growth, how it may be understood in terms of styles and techniques, and how it rests on philosophical and aesthetic assumptions about making art.




Refers to a man-made object; esp. from pre-historic times



An ascender is the part of the lower case letter that extends above the body.


Ascending line

An ascending line is the guideline that determines the height of ascending letters.



Assemblage is a technique, which combines items and objects into a three-dimensional form.



Asymmetrical refers to a type of balance in which the work is brought into balance by arranging unlike or different elements on either side of an imaginary axis.


Atmospheric/Aerial Perspective

The illusion of deep perspective produced in two-dimensional work by depicting those things that appear to be closer as clearer with sharper edges, crisper and brighter colors that have greater contrast and detailed, while

those things that appear to be farther away as fainter with blurred edges, muted, duller colors that have lower contrast and few details.



The story or history of one’s life written by themselves



Doodling; shut the eyes and draw, the subconscious will do the rest; a favorite Surrealist technique.



The background is that portion of a composition, which are back of the primary or dominant subject matter or design areas. It is also referred to as the “negative space.”


Background Plane

The background plane is the deepest illusionary plane within a composition.



Balance is a principle of art that refers to the way the art elements are arranged to create a feeling of stability or equilibrium in a work of art. This can be achieved through various methods, symmetrical or formal balance, asymmetrical or informal balance and radial balance.


Baroque (ba – rok)

It is a style of European art from 1600 to about 1800, known for its dramatic, theatrical and ornamental nature.

The Baroque style embraced themes of heroism and piety.


Base Line

In drawing, the base line is a line drawn along the bottom of the page to represent the ground. In lettering, it is a line that is the guideline that determines the base of all letters.


Bas-relief (ba re – lef )

Sculpture in low relief; the subject stands out slightly from its background.


B. C.

A division of time that refers to “Before Christ,” or the years before Christ’s birth. Another term that refers to the

same time period is B.C.E. or “Before Common Era.”

B. C. E.

A term that means “Before Common Era” and is a division of time that refers to the years before Christ’s Birth. It is a modern term that is interchangeable with the term B.C. or “Before Christ.”


Biomorphic Shape

A shape related to life or living organisms.



A binder is a liquid, which holds or “binds” grains of pigment. It is used to make artist materials such as paints,

pastels and crayons.


Bisque Firing

The first firing in which clay is hardened, prior to applying glaze


Blind Contour

A method of drawing which employs the use of one long continuous line to define the observed subjects’ contours while the artist neither takes their eyes off of the subject nor doesn’t lift their pencil from the paper until the drawing is complete.



The body is the main or central part of a letter.


Body Line

A body line is the guideline that determines the height of non-ascending letters.



A brayer is a small roller, usually of rubber for inking blocks, type, or plates by hand. A tool used in printmaking.



This is a technique whereby a greenware surface has been “polished” by smooth stone, metal or wooden tool. This is a technique for creating a shiny or lustrous surface on pottery without using glaze.



Tool used to rub the paper so that the inked block imprints the paper.



Calligraphy is an art form dedicated to the creation of beautiful and decorative writing.



A photographic apparatus for recording an image on a sensitized surface


Camera Lucida

An optical instrument for projecting an image to be copied or traced onto paper


Camera Obscura

A camera obscura is a darkened room or in which a real image of an external object is projected and viewed.


Capital Line

The capital line is a guideline that determines the height of all capital letters.


Career Assessment

The term refers to a method for ascertaining which career paths are appropriate for a person based on an analysis of that person’s strengths, talents and preferences.


The term applied to all baked or fired clay articles such as pottery, tile or sculpture.



Distinguishing traits or qualities



Chiaroscuro is a technique of representation, which concentrates on the effects of light and dark on forms in the composition in order to create the illusion of three-dimensionality.


Chisel Edge

It is a style of pen point characterized by a squared edge.



Chroma refers to the saturation, intensity or purity of a hue for example, “bright” red versus “dull” red.



Chromatic refers to the presence of color.



Refers to a work of art whose dominant theme is the city or urban life.


Classical Art

A form of art derived from close study of the perfect antique examples from Greek and Roman cultures. It is highly idealized.



A composition developed by securing various materials on a surface in a textural and pictorial arrangement, usually two-dimensional. Also, an arrangement of various materials with textures glued to a flat surface.



Stems from the Greek term, “colla,” meaning glue or “coller,” to glue, and from the English word, “graphic,”

pertaining to written or drawn material. Simple definition: A printed collage.



Color is an element of design and represents the visual response or perception of wavelengths of light. Color has three physical properties – hue, intensity and value. Further, as color is a phenomenon of light it exists in two forms, additive and subtractive. Colors are naturally occurring or may be made from various dyes, pigments or chemicals.

For additional terms related to color, see the following:

Accented Neutral

Additive Color

Advancing Colors

Analogous Colors


Cool Colors

Intermediate Colors

Monochromatic Colors


Primary Colors

Receding Colors

Secondary Colors

Shade Subtractive Color


Tertiary Colors




Warm colors


Color Harmonies

Combinations of colors that produce certain effects or are considered aesthetically pleasing; color schemes


Color Interaction

Color Interaction refers to how colors affect one another. The appearance of a color is dependent on what color is placed on or near.


Color Schemes

Specific types of color harmonies, i.e., an analogous color scheme, triadic color scheme or monochromatic color scheme


Color Wheel

The color wheel is a circular arrangement of the colors that helps establish a visual relationship between the colors and helps the artist mix color.


Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are those two colors, which are directly opposite one another on the color wheel. A primary color’s complement is a secondary color (a mixture of the other two primary colors), blue and orange, red and green, yellow and violet. A tertiary color’s complement will be another tertiary color, i.e., red-violet and yellow-green.



Composition is 1) a unified arrangement of the elements of art in accordance with the principles of art; 2) a structure or basic organizing plan of all the elements within a work of art; or 3) the product of creative effort.



Content is the message the artist is trying to convey or communicate in a work of art; the content relates to the subject matter, idea, theme, mood, or emotion which the artist is trying to communicate to the viewer.



A contour line is a line that forms the boundary of one shape defining it in relation to another. It delineates the exterior and/or interior edges of an object



Contrast is a principle of art that stresses the differences or “unlikeness” of elements compared; closely related to emphasis.


Cool Colors

The hues of blues, greens and violets



Refers to skill; technique; doing a job with careful attention to detail and discipline.



Craftsmanship refers to the quality of workmanship exhibited in the use of the tools and materials.





Generation of original art (This may include, but is not limited to, the expression of unique ideas, feelings, and responses as visual images, characterization, written or improvised dramatic works, music, or dance.



It is the experience of thinking, reacting and working in an imaginative and idiosyncratic way that is characterized by a high degree of innovation and originality, divergent thinking, and risk taking.


Credit Line

An acknowledgement for work done or assistance given as used by newspapers, magazines, in films, and television programs



Standards, lists, rules used to make judgments, i.e., the established conditions that must be met within any assignment.



A process used to describe, analyze, interpret, and judge.



Clustered marks usually parallel lines that pass over similar marks but move in different directions in order to create areas of darker values and tones.


Cross Contour

A drawing method that depicts an object’s surface through the use of lines that move in the direction that the surface of the object moves



A geometric form in which the height, length and depth have the same measurement



A style of art stressing the transformation of natural images in compositions of singular planes that often appears many-sided and geometric.



The shared ideas, beliefs, customs, and experiences of a given people at a given time and place



Curvilinear refers to those elements that consist of or are bound by curved lines as opposed to “rectilinear” which stresses straight lines.


Cut Edge

The cut edge is the actual termination of a piece of material (i.e., paper or fabric) that is cut rather than rolled or folded away.



To decorate is to add to in order to improve and make interesting or to adorn.


Decorative shapes

Decorative shapes are two-dimensional shapes, which seem to lie next to each other on a picture surface, to divide or break up the pictorial surface.



Deepness; measurement that moves downward, inward or backwards


A descender is the part of a letter that extends below the body.


Descending Line

A descending line is the guideline that determines the length of descending letters.



In art criticism, making a careful list of all things seen in an artwork; in art history, telling who produces a particular work of art, when, and where it was done.



Design is an ordered aesthetic arrangement or organization of one or more of the elements of art. It is our attempt to create, to fashion, to execute, or to construct a work of art according to a plan; Plan or blueprint for a visual work if art as well as the outcome or product of applying.


Design Concepts

Qualities applied through choice and arrangement to control and organize the elements of arts and Principles of Art; used to purposefully produce, understand, and judge of art, i.e., proximity, touching, combining, deletion, overlapping, closed and open forms, alignment, and direction. A planning process that refers to ways in which components of art elements and principles, tangible or intangible, may be selected, manipulated, and synthesized to create a whole visual expression – a work of art. (Components of the element “line” may be straight or curved; “shape” may be closed or open, touching, apart, or overlapping; and elements and principles may be minimized, monumentalized, exaggerated, etc.)



A designer is a professional artist, whose major concern is the development of efficient, functional products, which are satisfying aesthetically.



A line or movement that moves in a slanting direction


Digital Media

Digital media is a technology driven by computer access with emphasis on web-based and print output design.



A small scene, representation with diminutive, three-dimensional figures and landscape objects in front of a painted backdrop, often enclosed in a small box, and viewed through a small opening.



A measurement in one direction; height, length, depth



Lack of harmony; dissonance



A covering, makeup or body art that masks, misleads or conceals identity



The act of twisting something out of shape; changing something’s normal or usual shape, appearance or form



A docent is a person who leads guided tours through an art museum.




Refers to a twelve sided geometric form



An fact-based educational film or video



Drawing is a method of marking a surface by moving a tool across it. In this way, building up these marks,

otherwise known as lines develops an image. Drawing materials can be anything that will leave a mark but the

popular choices are pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, crayon, markers and pastels.


Drawing Conventions

Ways of drawing and rendering form that have developed over time (e.g., conventions for showing depth include overlapping, diminution of sizes, and one- and two- point perspective)



Drypoint is a technique of engraving using steel or jeweled point directly onto a metal or plastic plate without the use of acid as in etching.



An edition is the number of prints or impressions pulled from a master image, approved, signed, dated and

numbered as part of a series by the artist.



Something planned or carried out with great care and worked out in detail.


Elegant Problem

A task or assignment that has sufficient flexibility to engage audiences from elementary through postsecondary

education, that provides for fluency of responses from varied types of learners, and which provides opportunities for learners to make many choices and responses and to arrive at multiple solutions that are earmarked by a high degree or originality and elaboration.


Elements of Art/Elements of Design

These are the components comprising a work of art, such as line, color, texture, value, shape, and form.



Artist is concerned with content. Distortions and deviations come about as the artist tries to project a

feeling, mood, idea or thought.



Emphasis is a principle of art in which elements are arranged to create focal points or areas that are seen before others. Emphasis refers to a way of combining elements to stress the differences between those elements and to create one or more centers of interest in an artwork. The elements or areas that are noticed first are “dominant,” those that are seen later are “subordinate.”



Engraving refers to the art of drawing by a process of incising lines on surfaces such as wood and metal.



This refers to the space or context in which a person lives, works, and plays and in which the visual world, including works of art, is experienced; or, in two-dimensional works of art, the space in which the subject, object or figure exists (It is also known as the ground, background, negative space.)




Etching is a method of engraving a metal plate, such as zinc, copper or steel, by a process of biting the drawn lines with mordants (corrosive substances like acid).



An evaluation is a measurement and documentation of student progress.


Exemplar(s) Exemplary Model(s)

Examples of works representative of a specific time period, group, artist, school, or style used to model the

characteristics, materials, processes, or ideas of that time period, group, artist, school, or style (Exemplars can be works done by children to model what children of a comparable age would, could, or might make.)



An art theory and movement originating about 1916, having at its motive the full and free expression of the artists’ emotional experiences and reactions rather than the representation of the natural appearance of objects.


Expressive Qualities

The feelings, moods, and ideas communicated to the viewer through an artwork.



Operating from and acting upon the outside nature of a person.



The main or primary exterior face of a building



Figure/ground is a term, which refers to the relationship between positive space and negative space within a

composition. The term is interchangeable with negative and positive space and the pairing of the two words, figure and ground, suggests the interdependent nature of the two.


Fine Arts

Refers to the disciplines of dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts; painting, sculpture, architecture, drama, and literature, etc.



Flexibility is characterized by a readiness to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements.



Fluency is a smooth and rapid effortlessness, flowing from one idea to another.


Focal Point

A focal point is a center of attention in a work of art created by the use of an element or combination of elements; a dominant element in a composition



Form is an element of art that is three-dimensional (having height, width and depth) and which encloses volume, i.e., cubes, spheres, pyramids, and cylinders; the configuration or shape of an object in two-dimensional or three-dimensional space; and art marked by a distinctive style, form, or content.



An approach in art based on a rational regard for formal organization and a rejection of emotional concerns in art; artist is concerned with composition; the arrangement of the Elements and Principles of Art to provide order.

Form(s) of Human Expression

The manner in which the artist presents the subject matter or content of a work of art (Form is the product of the organization, design, composition, and manipulation of materials.)



The act of breaking something into pieces, parts or shapes


Free Form

A design or shape either carved or drawn that is not named circle, oval, square, rectangle, triangle, diamond,

parallelogram, or the like. It resembles a thought or idea of the artist.


Free-Standing Sculpture

A free-standing sculpture is a three-dimensional form, which the viewer can walk around and view from all sides. Many times, it is referred to as “sculpture in the round.”



A form of painting that involves applying a mixture of lime water and pigment to a damp plaster surface (such as a wall) before it dries. Once dry, the “paint” is chemically bonded to the surface and becomes part of the wall. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel mural is an outstanding example of fresco.



Function refers to the intended use or purpose of an object.



A term descriptive of burial rituals and accompanying accessories and artifacts



Genre refers to themes or subject matter taken from everyday life (home, family, humorous anecdotes, etc.); A

category of art marked by a distinctive style, form, or content, i.e., still life, portrait, etc., representation of subjects and scenes from everyday life, for example, works by Vermeer, the 17th century Dutch painter.



Geometric refers to something that is precise and can be described by mathematical formulas. Examples of

geometric shapes are triangles, squares and circles while geometric forms are cubes, rectangles and cylinders.



A movement, pose or action that conveys feeling, mood or attitude or to emphasize or illustrate



In ceramics, glaze is a liquid coating applied to the surface of ceramics that when fired will add color and/or gloss to a ceramic work of art as well as waterproofing. In painting, it is a thin layer of transparent paint that is generally used to modify the underlying color.



Gloss refers to the characteristic of a surface’s finish that reflects light and therefore appears very shiny. The level of glossiness can vary depending on the make of the surface. Those surfaces that reflect some light are referred to as having a semi-gloss finish and those that reflect very little or no light are referred to as have a matte finish.


God’s Eye

A small cross often made of twigs or branches with colored yarn or thread wound around in the shape of square in a diagonal position.



Gouache is a watercolor, which is opaque with a matte or non-glossy finish.



A principle of art referring to a way of combining art elements by using a series of gradual changes in those

elements, usually a step-by-step change



Graffiti is inscriptions or drawings made on some public surfaces or the style in which they are done.



Graphic refers to something that is: 1) formed by writing, drawing, or engraving; sharply outlined or delineated or, 2) related to or involved with techniques of reproduction such as etching and engraving, serigraphy or photography.


Graphite Paper

A paper coated with graphite used to transfer drawings.



Grisaille is a painting executed in tones of one color (monochrome), usually grays to produce a three-dimensional effect. Grisaille is often times used as the “underpainting” phase of a painting.



The grog is previously fired ceramic material that has been ground up.



The ground is the space that surrounds the figure otherwise known as the background or negative space.



Societies formed in Europe about 700 years ago for the protection of their members. Painters belonged to the

Apothecaries’ Guild, which kept records of their methods. The modern equivalent is a union.



Half-tone is an intermediate tone or middle tint, which is neither very light nor very dark.



Harmony is a principle of art that creates unity in a composition by stressing the “likeness” and similarities of the visual elements.



Hatching is produced by drawn marks, usually parallel lines, which produce areas of value and tone.


Helmet Mask

A style of mask in which the head is completely surrounded; some extremely large masks of this style extend to and rest on the shoulders



A point of most intense light


Horizon Line

The horizon is that line in a work of art where the earth and sky meet.





A direction that moves from side to side or runs parallel to the bottom of the picture plane, for example, a line that moves across the width of a page.


Horizontal Ground Plane

The horizontal ground plane is an illusionary plane that appears horizontal, or evolves into the picture plane.



Hue is the name given a specific color in the color spectrum. Hue is one of the three properties of color and is

related to the wavelength of reflected light. Hue may also refer to a specific type of one color distinguishing it from another type, i.e., turquoise versus navy blue.



An Icon is an image, portrait or picture of a religious subject in painting, mosaic, or base relief (but never in




Study of subject matter in the visual arts, including the interpretation of signs and symbols;



Something that deceives the eye or mind


Illusionary Space

Illusionary space simulates the optical experiences of the third dimension on a flat plane.



Physical likeness or representation of a person, place, event, or idea made visible though an art process.



The act of recalling natural and human-made objects, animals, people, places, and events from one’s past

experiences and rearranging them in a new or unusual order or format.



An approach in art based on an artist’s regard for an accurate recreation of the observed world; the artist looks

outward for stimuli and reality is imitated.



Impasto refers to a particularly thick or heavy application of paint to a canvas or panel.



Impressionism is a school of art, which reproduces the immediate and over-all impression, made by a subject on the artist, without attention to detail.



The priming or ground, often tinted, laid on a canvas or panel.



That which is not alive


Incidents at the Edges

Refers to variations and irregularities that may occur along the edge of a shape which add visual interest to that shape



Ink Slab

Used on printmaking it refers to a flat surface, usually a plate, on which ink is spread with a brayer or hand-held roller. Once the ink has reached the proper consistency, it is then transferred from the slab via the brayer to the printing plate; i.e., linoleum, wood block or etching plates.


Inorganic Form

It is a term that refers to form not characteristic of living bodies.



Printing (as a stamping or gravure) done from a plate in which the image is cut below the surface.



Intensity is one of the three properties of color that refers to the brightness or dullness of a hue. A pure (or fully

saturated) hue is called a high-intensity hue. A hue mixed with its complement is considered dulled or a low intensity hue.


Intermediate Color

Color derived by mixing a primary color with a secondary color that is adjacent to it; e.g., yellow-orange, yellow-green



In art criticism, determining and explaining the meaning, mood, or idea of artwork; in art history, noting how the

sense of time and place affect an artist’s style and subject matter.



Operating from and acting upon internal instincts of a person


Isometric Projection

In Isometric Projection, all three faces are equally inclined to the drawing surface so that all the edges are equally foreshortened.



In art criticism, making a decision about an artwork’s success or lack of success and providing the reasons to

support the decision; In art history, deciding whether an artwork introduces a new style or if it is an outstanding

example of a particular style.



Juxtaposition is a type arrangement in which items or elements are placed side by side. Many times the items

used may be of differing natures, i.e., dots and strokes of different colors.



A kiln is an oven, furnace, or heated enclosure used for processing a substance such as ceramics or enamel work by burning, firing or drying.



An artistic representation of natural scenery as observed on land, in the woods, or in the mountains.



It is an artist’s orderly arrangement, plan or design, or for the graphic designer or commercial illustrator, it is their final graphic arrangement, image or design to be reproduced by printing.


Leather Hard

The term, leather hard, refers to clay that is still damp but too dry to permit changes in form. Clay in this condition can be carved, inscribed or burnished but not modeled.


It is an art form in which letters are made or formed by hand to create words and phrases. It is a “hand process” in which a variety of materials can be used and should not be confused with printed or stenciled letters. Illuminated manuscripts are examples of this art form.



Line is an element of art. Line is a two-dimensional or three-dimensional path between two points having length, width, and direction.



It is characterized by an emphasis on the element of line.


Linear Perspective

A system used in two-dimensional works of art, i.e., drawing and painting, to give the illusion of depth and distance though depicting parallel lines as converging at the horizon line. Architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) is generally credited with developing perspective during the Early Renaissance and was adapted for painting by fellow artist, as Massacio as evidenced by the use of perspective in his fresco, Trinity with the Virgin, St. John and Donors (1427).


Linocut (linoleum block printing)

Linocut is a relief process of printmaking in which a block of linoleum is cut into with a knife or various gouges and chisels to produce an image. That which is printed is the portion, which stands in relief above the rest of the block.



Lithography is a process of printing from a plane surface (such as a smooth stone or metal plate) on which the

image to be printed is ink-receptive and the blank area ink-repellent; also known as “planography.”



A logo is a design, symbol, or trademark, which represents a company or business entity and is created to be

easily recognizable.


Lower Case

It is a term, which refers to small letters, those that are not capitalized.



Luting is the process of joining leather hard clay with slip.



It is a term, which refers to capital letters.



It is a term that refers to a surface finish that reflects little or no light, the opposite of glossy or shiny.



Refers to a dummy or skeleton copy upon which the format of a book or magazine is laid out.



Refers to or characteristic of the Middle Ages.



It is any material or materials with which a work of art is made or the technique which the artist used to make it.

The material and associated techniques used in an art form, such as watercolor, charcoal, or any other vehicle for visual expression.


Memory is the act of recalling natural and human-made objects, animals, people, places, and events from past



Metaphorical Representation

The use of metaphors to create visual images that can represent ideas, concepts, and feelings; metaphors are

constructs that have coherent structure, highlighting some things and hiding others, and are thus useful in making sense of experience


Middle Ages

Refers to the period of European history from approximately 500 A.D. to 1500 A.D., also referred to as the

“Medieval Period” or “Dark Ages.”



It is a term, which refers to small or lower case letters.


Mixed Media

Mixed media refers to the use of more that one medium or material to complete a work of art.



A mobile is a suspended design, which has balanced movable parts. Also, an art construction made of various

materials and designed to move in space, creating variations of shapes, spaces or shadows.



It is a process of representing form in any medium, i.e., pencil, chalk, pigment, and clay.



Monochromatic means, “Having only one color” and refers to the complete range of that color from black to white.


Monochromatic Colors

Various values of the same color (for example, light blues, medium blues and dark blues)



A mono-print is a simple printing process that produces only one print.



A picture composed of many pieces of photographs or printed matter, glued to a background in an overlapping

fashion to create a truly unified design; also, the cutting and grouping together of many related pictures to form a new picture.



Mood is an emotional quality existing in a work of art, which creates “feeling” or a mental reaction.



A mordant is a corroding substance (usually acid) used in etching. It is derived from mordre, a Middle French word that means, “To bite.”



A picture composed of many small separate bits of clay, glass, marble, paper, etc., which are glued to a

background. Also, refers to a surface decoration made by inlaying small pieces of glass, stone, or other materials in patterns. Mosaic was a prominent form of wall and floor decoration during Roman and Byzantine Empires.



A motif is a unit that is repeated often enough within a composition that it becomes a dominant visual feature or

theme. Repeating motifs can establish rhythm in a visual work in the same manner that melody can establish

rhythm in a musical work. A motif can also be a center or dominant theme or feature – a design within a design. A motif may also refer to the subject or idea of an artwork, such as “still life” or “portrait,” or a portion or passage of a composition that may be of special interest to the viewer.


Motor Skill

Motor skills relate to the quality of one’s muscular movement, coordination and control.



A principle of art which refers to a way of combining elements of art to produce the look of action or to cause the viewer’s eye to travel over the artwork in a certain way



A mural is a large picture or painting applied directly to a wall or ceiling.


Mythological Art

Mythological Art is art that draws its subject matter from the mythology of ancient times. Greek and Roman

mythology has served as the basis for much Western Art but mythologies from other cultures can be and are

incorporated into works of art also.



A mythology is a collection of stories or beliefs dealing with gods, demigods and heroes developed over time by a community or society of people.


Narrative Art

An artwork which conveys a story to the viewer


Narrative Conventions

Techniques and strategies that allow story telling to emerge in visual form with different kinds of realities including real and imagined; the conscious and the subconscious; and the past, present and, future. (A sampling of narrative techniques includes different points of view, different times of day, different seasons of the year, settings, weather and climate, environment, emotion, action, change, characters, book formats, scroll and accordion formats, story boards, text and dialogue, beginning, middle, and end, cause and effect, what if, and what happens next.)


Natural Shapes/Forms

Shapes and forms made by the forces of nature. See organic.


Negative Space

Negative space refers to the unoccupied space. It is the space surrounding the “positive space” (i.e., the subject, the object, the figure, the thing) and is also referred to as the background, the ground or environment in which the subject, the object, the figure or the thing exists.


Neutralized Color

A color has been neutralized (“dulled” or “grayed”) when its intensity has been reduced by mixture with its

complement or another neutral.



Neutrals are colors in which all color wavelengths are present to some extent and in such a way that no one color is noticed. The resulting colors are perceived as falling within a range from black through gray to white. Neutrals are formed when a color is mixed with its complement to the point where the sense of the original color is lost and it is perceived as “gray.”



It is a term that refers to a shape or form that is organic or freeform.



A non-objective work of art does not portray events, historical scenes, still life, portraits, etc., but rather freely

follows the artist’s feelings of creativeness.



The act of sensing or perceiving through sight


Observed Forms

Objects that are natural or human made and perceived primarily through sight


Oil Paint

Oil paint is an artist liquid medium in which the pigment (or coloring matter) is mixed with a linseed oil binder.



Opaque refers to a surface or form, which exhibits the ability to block the passage of radiant energy, especially




Organic refers to shapes and forms that are derived from or related to nature (living plants and animals).

Irregularity and curvilinear contours or outlines characterize organic shapes and forms.


Organizational Structures

Ways that art elements and Principles of Art are used to create effects in works of art



Freshness of idea, design, or style; the result of independent thought or constructive imagination



A drawn line that traces the exterior shape of an object



Overlapping is a method used to create the illusion of depth (or three-dimensions) on a flat surface by placing one object partly in front of another object.



A transparent layer showing additional details, areas of color, etc. placed over a work of art, map, illustration



Painting is a process of applying color, usually in liquid form, to a surface (i.e., canvas, paper, wood panels, and walls) using tools such as brushes, rollers, cloth, sticks, knives and fingers.


Painting Ground

The painting ground is the surface on which color is applied. The ground can be a material such as paper, wood, canvas or a wall.


Papier Maché

Papier Maché is a medium used in sculpture that is composed of paper that is wet and mashed or torn into strips with a paste binder, which dries hard and rigid.




Paste Up

A paste-up or mechanical is a dummy (skeleton copy) upon which the format of a book or magazine is laid out and eventually photographed to create the printing plate.



Pastel is 1) an artist dry medium in which the pigment (or coloring matter) is mixed with Gum Arabic (soft or dry

pastels) or an oil-based binder (oil pastels) and pressed into crayon or stick form or 2) an image created with pastel crayons.



Patchwork is a method of joining pieces of cloth of various colors together to create a design or pattern which, can be used to create coverings such as quilts.



The film that forms on the surface of metal, stone, wood, etc., as a result of age and exposure or artistic

manipulation. A patina whether naturally occurring or artificially induced, serves to protect the surface as well as modify its appearance (i.e. bronze which turns green or iron which rusts).



A pattern is a repeated element or design. Through repetition of lies, shapes, colors or motifs, a pattern creates

movement, harmony, regular or irregular rhythm or interconnections between an image’s parts. Further, a pattern can be the artistic arrangement of any area or object into a design or a guide or model which serves as a guide for something to be made.


Pen Width Guide

A pen width guide is a system of measurement used to arrange guidelines for lettering.



Perception refers to an awareness of the elements of environment though physical sensation as in one’s mental image or recognition of color or sound.



When human qualities are attributed to living things that are not human or inanimate objects



An occurrence or fact directly perceptible by the senses; that which appears real to the senses, regardless of

whether its underlying existence is proved or its nature understood



The process of gathering, publishing and disseminating information and news stories presented primarily through photographs



A photomontage is a collage (cutting and pasting together) of photographic images.


Physical Qualities

Composed of or relating to things that occupy space and can be perceived by the senses



Pictorial relates to the painted or drawn image, a spatial illusion that includes more than the seeming solidity of

objects, the interaction of the whole picture plane (i.e., in painting) that produces a single visual context.


Picture Plane

Refers to the surface on which the artist works.


A dry coloring material (mineral, chemical or vegetable compound) that when mixed with a liquid binder creates

paint, pastels or crayons. Also, coloring matter used by the artist to create the effect of color on a surface.



A plane is a two-dimensional shape or surface, existing in a three-dimensional space relationship. It is a flat or

level surface.



It is the process, as in lithography, for printing from a plane surface.



It is a word derived from the Latin plasticus meaning of molding and from the Greek plastikos and plassein meaning to mold or form. In art terms, plastic refers to the formative, creative or sculptural nature of a material and its ability to be molded and modeled to a desired shape yet after hardening, strong enough to maintain that shape or form. Plastic may also refer to organic synthetic or processed materials that can be made into objects, films or filaments.



Plasticity refers to the capacity for being molded modeled or altered or the ability to retain a shape attained by




It is a term, which refers to something that has the capacity to be easily bent.



It is a man-made substance which, artist use in the form of Acrylic Polymer. It is used as a binder for Acrylic paints and as a Glaze, similar to Elmer’s Glue, because it dries transparent and can seal, coat or make surfaces shiny.


Pop Art

A movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s that concerned itself with the popular culture and commercial art techniques of that time; Also known as Neo-Dada, artists satirized and depicted mass-media symbols, brand name products and logos, comic strips, billboards and fast food.



A collection of documents and artworks representative of a person’s completed works and/or works in progress



A depiction of a person or person, referring especially to paintings of heads and generally done from life with the subject “sitting” for the artist as long as needed.


Positive Space

Positive space refers to the occupied space. It is the subject, the object, the figure, the thing.



A complex concept that challenges formal elements of art and invites multiple approaches to art with a focus on increasing awareness of societal problems, environmental issues, and art for society’s sake



A drawing assessment or test given at the end of the learning experience and is compared against the pre-test to evaluate a student’s progress.




A drawing assessment or test that evaluates a given ability level prior to the learning experience.


Primary Colors

Primary colors are those hues which, cannot be made by mixing or combining other hues. As color or hue is a

byproduct of light and the color produced from it can be divided into two different types, subtractive and additive, the type of light will dictate which primary colors will be used.

In additive color, the primary colors are green, red and blue, and yield the secondary colors, yellow, cyan and


In subtractive color, the primary colors are yellow, red and blue, and yield the secondary colors, orange, green and violet. Artists who work with pigment-based materials work with subtractive color.



The process of preparing a surface to be painted upon, for example, a sized canvas is coated, or “primed” with

white lead or gesso in order to receive oil paint. The priming serves as a barrier between applied material and the surface that it protects.


Principles of Design/Principles of Art

Organizing concepts for perceiving and understanding the elements of art, such as balance, rhythm, movement, repetition, harmony, gradation, proportion, emphasis, contrast, variety and unity



A printmaking image made from any of the following processes: linocut, woodcut, etching, engraving, lithograph, serigraph, monoprint, collograph or drypoint. The term may also refer to a photographic image.



A series of techniques (i.e., woodcut, engraving, lithography) in which a print is made or an image is produced in multiples.


Problem Solving

The process of finding a solution to a stated problem (Convergent problem solving tasks require the identification of one correct response; divergent problem solving tasks require the formation of multiple solutions to a problem, e.g., generating a list of uses for an object.)



The manipulative skills of a specific method of painting, sculpture, etc., such as the techniques used for watercolor painting, copper enameling, or ceramic glazing



It is a term, which means being adept, knowledgeable, skilled and skillful in a discipline, subject, trade or

profession. Being proficient implies a thorough knowledge and competence derived from training and practice.



It is a principle of art that deals with the relationship of one element to another or to the whole with respect to

magnitude, quantity, or degree; proportion refers to the relationship of various elements of art to the whole

composition and to each other; also refers to size relationships.



A survey; a series of questions to be answered







Quilting is a method for joining or fastening together two layers of fabric and a layer of batting or filler sandwiched in

between. The lines and patterns created by the stitching form an overall pattern and add texture to the surface of the finished piece.



Radial refers to a type of balance in which the work is brought into balance by an arrangement that emanates from a central location, as with ripples on a pond or light rays from the sun.



Realism is a style of art that represents the visual realities of life, drawing upon facts, actuality, immediate

experience, and phenomena as subject matter. In Realism, the artist acts as interpreter and attempts to add

underlying meaning to the depiction of everyday scenes and events.


Receding Colors

Refers to colors that seem to fade into the distance



Rectilinear refers to those elements that consist of straight lines as opposed to “curvilinear” which stresses curvy lines.


Relief/Relief Sculpture

Relief sculpture, which is not freestanding; figures and forms project from a background to which they are adhered or are cut below the background surface. The projection of the forms may be limited and shallow and is known as “low relief,” or the projection of forms may be more exaggerated and deep and is known as “high relief.”


Religious Art

Relates to art in which religion is the dominant theme or subject matter, i.e., Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, The Last Supper, which depicts Christ and his disciples at the Passover feast.



Derived from the French word, renaistre, “to be born again,” it refers to a transitional period in European history that runs from the 14th century in Italy and spreads throughout many parts of Europe in the 17th century. The term also refers to a revival of the classical influence of Ancient Greek and Roman ideals of beauty and proportion on the arts, architecture and literature as well as the art, literature and architecture produced at that time.



To reproduce, represent or transmit by visual means.



Repetition is a principle of art. It is the use of one element or elements more than one time in a single composition.


Representational Accuracy

A style of art in which the goal is to render an image or object realistically and with as much accuracy and detail as possible


Representational Art

Images or forms in which the natural world is depicted accurately



Representational Crisis

That period of time for which an intervention strategy is needed for a person that struggles to accurately render the three-dimensional form of an object or person



It is the part of the pen that holds the ink.



A combination of affective, cognitive, and physical behaviors (Responding involves a level of perceptual or

observational skill; a description, analysis, or interpretation on the part of the participant; and sometimes a

judgment or evaluation based on criteria.)



Rhythm is a principle of art in which the repetition of an element or elements achieve movement and flow in a




It refers to a substance or surface being stiff, firm or hard.



A prescribed order, service or ceremony


Rococo Art

Rococo originated in Paris during the reign of Louis XIV and spread throughout Europe. Light, graceful, and

elegant, it is further characterized by it excessive use of decorative curved lines. Unlike Baroque art, in Rococo, emphasis was placed on portraying the lifestyles of the aristocracy and moved away from the grand themes of classical heroism and religious piety.


Rolled Edge

It refers to the visual edge or end of materials (paper and fabric) that occurs because the material is rolled away or forward from the visual plane.



Romanticism is an art style emphasizing the imagination and emotions.



Scale is a proportion between two sets of dimensions, for example, the size of a person compared to the size of the Statue of Liberty.



A representation with no intentional experience expressed; a symbol for the thing itself



Scrim is a mesh or stiff netting often used to create backdrops for theatrical productions.



A method of slitting or cutting a surface in order to make it pliable



Sculpture is a work of art executed in three-dimensions.



Another term for sculpture that is three dimensional; a work of art that is viewed from all directions



It is the opposite of glazing. By covering a color or painting with a thin coat of opaque or semi-opaque color, it is made to appear less brilliant. Scumble also refers to the process of softening the lines or colors of a drawing by rubbing lightly.



Refers to a work of art whose dominant theme is the sea.


Secondary Color

Secondary colors are those hues which, are made by mixing or combining two of the primary hues. As color or hue is a byproduct of light and the color produced from it can be divided into two different types, subtractive and additive, the type of light will dictate which set of secondary colors will be used.

In additive color, the secondary colors are yellow, magenta and cyan.

In subtractive color, the secondary colors are orange, green and violet.

Artists who work with pigment-based materials work with subtractive color.


Secret Society

An organized group that conceals some of its rituals and practices from those outside the established membership


Secular Art

Secular Art is art, i.e., portraits and scenes that are created without reference to religion.



It is a term that refers to a surface’s finish that reflects some light and shines but is not very shiny.



An order of succession



It is the fine finishing cross stroke on a letter.



Serigraphy is a method of color reproduction consisting of breaking up the design or picture to be reproduced into its chief colors, for each of which a screen or stencil is made. Paint is then squeezed through the respective screens onto the printing paper maintaining an accurate alignment of each subsequent color to the previous. This process is also referred to as screen printing or silk screening.



It is a painting technique in which form is defined by blending one tone into another instead of using abrupt




From the Italian sgraffire meaning “to scratch,” sgraffito is a decorative technique in which a surface layer (as of plaster or clay) is cut or scratched away to expose a different colored ground.



The dark values of a hue that result from black being added; an area of darkness depicted in two-dimensional work such as drawings, paintings or prints



The representation or indication of lights and darks in a two-dimensional work of art (i.e., a drawing, painting, print)



A priest or medicine man; believed to have influence over good and evil spirits.



Shape is an element of art where an area consisting of two dimensions (length and width) is clearly defined by one or more of the other elements such as line, value, color and texture.



It refers to making a copy, imitation or facsimile.



It is a drawing or painting which may be complete in and of itself or intended as a preliminary draft or idea for a

more detailed work.



Clay mixed with water to a creamy consistency, used for adhering pieces of clay.



Space is an element of art that defines the distance or areas between, around, above, below or within shapes and forms. (Volume refers to the space within a form)

Two-dimensional Space – Refers to an area or surface that has length and width but no thickness or depth.

Three-dimensional Space – Refers to a form that has length, width and thickness or depth.

Four-dimensional Space – Refers to an entity that not only possesses length, width and depth but time as well.

Decorative Space – Refers to design, which occurs on a flat or two-dimensional surface.

Plastic Space – Refers to design, which occurs in the round or three-dimensional space.


Spatial skills

It refers to the quality of perceiving and manipulating three-dimensional space.



It is the bank of colors resulting when a beam of light is refracted or broken up into its component wavelengths of hues.



A movement that circles around a central point that constantly increases or decreases in size along the same plane (i.e., a coil); or a movement that circles around a central axis that constantly increases or deceases in size in the form of a conical or cylindrical form (i.e., the thread of a screw)



Refers to a color and the two colors that sit adjacent to that first color’s complement, for example, green, red-orange and red-violet or blue-violet, yellow and orange



Refers to one’s ability to proceed from natural feelings or native tendency without constraint or create inspired from a momentary impulse.



A staff is a tool, which holds a pen point or nib.


Still Life

A still life is an arrangement or composition of inanimate objects such as fruit, flowers and bottles or tools, used by the artist as a subject matter for a work of art.



Stippling is a shading technique used in drawing to create areas of light and dark using dots.



A visual or verbal narrative related to real experiences, imagined experiences, or a combination of both; a story can be presented sequentially or as an isolated moment in time



The act of sharing stories, either visually or verbally



An artist studio is where the artist works.



Style refers to the characteristics peculiar to an artist’s manner of visual expression. Style can be applied also to describe the visual expression and aesthetic of a community, culture, country or time period.


Stylistic Elements

Those characteristics that define a particular art period, group, artist, or school of artwork


Stylistic Methods

The manner in which artists manipulate and apply materials, tools, and techniques to achieve desired aesthetic

intentions that are individually distinctive or recognized as part of a larger group or school



Of, determined by or resulting from the feelings, temperament, thoughts, ideas or feelings of the artist as opposed to based on or determined by reality void of bias or prejudice


Subtractive Color

Subtractive color is the sensation of color that is produced when wavelengths of light are reflected back to the

viewer after all other wavelengths have been subtracted and/or absorbed.


Subtractive Sculpture

Subtractive sculpture or “subtraction” refers to the sculptural technique of carving or cutting away materials to

reveal the form as in stone carving.



A modern movement in art and literature in which an attempt is made to portray or interpret the work of the

unconscious mind as manifested in dreams.



A form, image, or subject representing a meaning other that the one with which it is usually associated


Symbolic Art

Symbolic art is art in which symbols are used to represent or suggest ideas or feelings through association.


Symbolic Form

Object or configuration used to represent or evoke associated ideas, meanings, and values through analogy,

metaphor, or personification


Symbolic Language

A language that uses signs and symbols to refer to or denote meaning




The representation of things through the use of symbols



Symmetrical refers to a type of balance in which the work is brought into balance by arranging alike or similar

elements on either side of an imaginary axis.



Tactile is or relates to the sense of touch.



Tapestry is a fabric woven by hand, usually pictorial in design and displayed on walls. Tapestry was a popular wall decoration used in castles of Medieval Europe.



Technique is 1) the skill or manner in which a medium is handled; 2) the method or approach to art making,

including the use of tools and equipment, the application of media, manipulation and control of materials, etc.;

or 3) any way of working with art materials to create an art object.



Skill and knowledge connected to revolutionizing ways of doing and making; invention of new ideas or new ways of doing and making things


Tempera Paint

Tempera is an artist liquid medium in which the pigments (or coloring matter) are mixed with yolks or whites of eggs to bind them.


Tertiary Color

This type of color is the result when two secondary colors have been mixed or all three primary colors in varying combinations. A distinguishing quality of tertiary colors is the neutralization of intensity and hue. Neutral and muted colors would fall within this type of color.



Four colors that are equal distance from each other on the color wheel



Refers to a four- sided geometric form



Texture is an element of art that relates to how a surface feels (actual texture) or how it looks like it feels (simulated texture). “Actual texture” is tactile, as in a sculpture or rough surface you can feel. “Simulated texture” is perceptual, as in drawing or photograph of a plank of wood that appears to be rough but whose surface is smooth in actuality.


Thematic Work

A series of artworks that have a commonality, i.e., the same subject matter, style, technique, concept such as

works about life and leisure, life and work


Three-dimensional Art

Three-dimensional art refers to a work of art that possesses height, width and depth.



The light values of a hue that results from white being added



Tone relates to the lightness or darkness of a color.



The act of changing, altering, or converting



Translucent refers to a surface or object that allows light to pass through it. Light is transmitted but diffused so that an object beyond it cannot be seen clearly, if at all.



Transparent refers to a surface or object that allows light to pass through it with much distortion so that an object beyond it can be seen clearly.


Triad/Triadic Colors

Three colors that are equal distance from each other on the color wheel



A T-Square is t-shaped tool (may include a ruler) for drawing parallel, straight lines.



A typeface is a style of lettering.



A ceramic underglaze is a method or technique for applying decoration to the surface of a “bisque” fired or raw

(unfired, known as “greenware”) clay. Once fired, the underglaze can then be covered with a transparent or

colored glaze.



The underpainting is the preliminary layer, usually in “grisaille” (monochrome), in which the drawing, composition, and tone values of a picture are worked out.



Unity is a principle of art in which the organization of the elements and principles of art brings about a feeling or

perception of oneness or wholeness in the work of art.


Universal Theme(s)

Artworks from a variety of cultures that share a commonality based in human experiences and that show the

relationships of individuals to each other and within social groups (Examples include use of the same subject

matter, styles, techniques, and concepts such as containers, entranceways, rites of passage, fabrics for life, places to live, life and leisure, life and work, conflict, the human figure, couples, animals, landscapes, allegory, myth, and fantasy.)


Upper Case

Upper Case refers to the capitalization of letters.



Value is an element of art that relates to the lightness or darkness of a tone or hue and is one of the three

properties of color.


Vanishing Point

The point at which all straight, parallel lines receding into the distance appear to meet




Variation refers to the change, modulation, alternation or divergence of components in a work of art.



Variety is a principle of art that creates complexity and interest through changing, contrasting, diversifying, or

opposing elements in a composition.



Perpendicular or at right angles to the horizon or the plane of a supporting surface; straight up and down; upright


Visual Concepts

Descriptive qualities of form and structure (such as straight and curved, open and closed, spiral and concentric)


Visual Form

Visual and spatial attributes (including shape, line, texture, color, value, volume, and/or space) that have

relationships within a given whole


Visual Qualities

Aspects of design elements and principles used to create and critique artwork


Visual Thinking

Perception; mental representation and ordering of information using images or figures



Space within a form


Warm Colors

The hues of red, yellow and orange



A wash is a transparent layer of color applied to a surface allowing underlying lines, shapes, or colors to show



Watercolor paint

Watercolor is an artist liquid medium in which the pigments (or coloring matter) are bound together by a watersoluble binder such as Gum Arabic. It is dispersed by mixing the paint with water, is transparent and therefore is characterized by its luminosity (or relative brightness).


Weaving is a method of forming fabric by interlacing strands of fibers, usually on a loom. Weaving can be also a process of interlacing elements to form a texture or design.



Works of art characterized by a dominant European influence


Woodcut (woodblock printing)

Woodcut is a relief process of printmaking in which a block of plank-grained wood is cut into with a knife or various gouges and chisels to produce an image. That which is printed is the portion, which stands in relief above the rest of the block.

Work of Art/Artwork

The product of creative effort in dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts


Refers to a series of short sharp angles or turns in alternate directions, such as in a line.