Concepts, Vocabulary and Terminology
Abstract Art: Imagery which departs from representational accuracy,
Acrylic: A fast-drying paint containing pigment suspended in an acrylic (plastic) polymer emulsion (liquid
suspension). Acrylic paints can be diluted with water, but become water-resistant when dry. Depending on
how much the paint is diluted (with water), the finished acrylic painting can resemble a watercolor or an oil
Aesthetics: Study of sensory and emotional values. Sometimes called judgement or “taste.” Aesthetics is
closely associated with the philosophy of art.
Analogous Colors: Colors near each other. For example; red, red orange and red violet.
Art: Art, in its broadest meaning, is the expression of creativity or imagination, or both.
Thicker and stronger than tempera or watercolor paint, Acrylic is a water-based "plastic" paint.
Asymmetrical: Uneven in design and proportion.
Baroque: Painting style from 17th century. Baroque painting evokes emotional states, often in dramatic
ways. Some of the qualities most frequently associated with the Baroque are grandeur, sensuous richness,
drama, vitality, movement, tension, and emotional exuberance. The most prominent artist of this style was
Basic Color Principles:
All color theory is based on the principle that 'color is light'.
An object that we see as red contains pigmentation that absorbs all of the colored rays of white light except
the red color, which it reflects. White pigment absorbs none of the colored rays, and black absorbs all of the
colors of the spectrum.
Balance: An art and design principle concerned with the arrangement of one or more elements in a work of
art so that they appear symmetrical (even) or asymmetrical (uneven) in design and proportion.
Blending: The technique of smoothing drawn or painted areas so that they blend together. In the case of
graphite, chalk or charcoal a finger, tissue or a tortillon (blending stump) is used.
Brushes: Using for painting. Brush styles are designated by a letter following a series number. Some basic
brushes to meet your needs:
F- Flats, square edge, long bristle. B- Brights, flat, square-edged, long sable. R - Rounds, pointed bristle
L- Longs, flat, square-edge, long sable. Filberts- Flat, oval edge, long fiber.
Canvas: Fabrics that are prepared for painting. Available in panels, stretched on frames, or obtained by the
Chroma: This is the intensity, or strength, or purity of a color. Squeezing paint directly from the tube to the
palette is 'full chroma'.
Classicism (Neo-Classicism): Painting style that uses aesthetic attitudes and principles based on the
culture, art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, and characterized by emphasis on form, simplicity,
proportion, and restrained emotion. The most prominent artist of this style was Delacroix.
Color Wheel: A device that is used to show the relationship between colors.
Complementary Colors: Complementary colors are those that appear opposite to one another on a color
wheel. An example of complimentary colors are red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple.
Composition: The arrangement of lines, colors and form.
Contrast: Contrast is created by using opposites near or beside one another, such as a light object next to a
dark object or a rough texture next to a smooth texture.
Cool Colors: Cool colors are blues, violets and greens.
Cubism: Early 20 century painting style in which the subject matter is portrayed by geometric forms
without realistic detail, stressing abstract form at the expense of other pictorial elements largely by use of
intersecting, often transparent, cubes and cones. The most prominent artists of this style were Pablo
Picasso and Georges Braque.
Dadaism: A western Europe artistic and literary movement (early 20 century) that sought the discovery of
authentic reality through the abolition of traditional culture and aesthetic forms. Known as an “anti-art”
movement, the Dadaists were protesting against the societal norms of the time. The most prominent artist of
this style was Marcel Duchamp.
Dry Brushing: Technique used in paintings using more pigment then water.
Easel: An easel is used to support your canvas while painting. Can be a collapsible tripod, studio types and
as a combination sketch box unit. Some sketch boxes contain lids that serve as easels.
Egg Tempera: A water-base paint made with an egg yoke binder.
Elements of Art: Elements of art are the visual symbols found in an artwork: The basic elements are: line,
shape, color, form, space, value and texture. Some other elements that might be considered are: light,
motion, direction, scale and dimension.
Encaustic: This ancient art uses colored wax for painting. This technique involves painting images onto
walls with pigments that are blended with wax. When used with heat, such as an iron, the permanent color is
burned into the wall, for good.
Expressionism: Movement in fine arts 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. The most prominent artist of this style was Edvard Munch.
Fauvism: A style of painting that flourished in France from 1898 to 1908; it used pure, brilliant colour,
applied straight from the paint tubes in an aggressive, direct manner to create a sense of an explosion on
the canvas. Fauves means “Wild Beast” in French. The most prominent artist of this style was Henri
Fresco: Pigment is applied directly to damp plaster making this wall painting medium one of the most
permanent form of wall decoration.
Geometric Shape: Any named shape; circle, triangle, square, etc.
Glaze: Color that is thinned to a transparent state and applied over previously painted areas to modify the
Gouache: Opaque watercolors and the technique of painting with such colors using white to make tints.
Graphic designer: A person who translates ideas into images and arranges them in a visually appealing
manner. They may create posters, presentations, logos or advertising materials.
Highlight: Small areas on a painting or drawing on which reflected light is the brightest.
Hue: Hue is another word for color. The attribute which describes colors by name, i.e. red, blue, yellow etc.
Illustrator: An illustrator creates visual images that complement the written word.
Impasto: A manner of painting where the paint is laid on thickly so texture stands out in relief.
Impressionism: Impressionism is referred to as the most important art movement of the 19th century. The
term impressionism came from a painting by Claude Monet. His painting was titled Impression Sunrise.
Impressionism is about capturing fast fleeting moments with color, light, and surface.
Intensity: This term is used to describe the brightness, or the dullness of a color.
Intermediate colors: Obtained by mixing adjoining Primary and Secondary colors.
Layout: The part of design that deals with the arrangement and style treatment of elements (content) on a
paper or page.
Line: A line is moving point that has direction and weight.
Horizontal lines run parallel such as ===, Vertical lines run up and down such as |||||, Diagonal lines are
slanting lines such as \\\\\, Angled lines are a combination of diagonal lines such as /\/\/\/\/ ><<>, Curved
lines are curly and express movement such as ~~~~~ Lines can be thick or thin or a combination of the two.
Linseed Oil: Used as a medium. The traditional "binder" for oil colors.
Medium: The art material that is used in a work of art such as clay, paint or pencil. Describing more than
one art medium is referred to as media. Any substance added to color to facilitate application or to achieve a
Minimalism: A twentieth century art movement and style stressing the idea of reducing a work of art to the
minimum number of colors, values, shapes, lines and textures. No attempt is made to represent or
symbolize any other object or experience. One of the more well known Minimalist artists is Frank Stella.
Monochromatic Colors: A single color used in combination with tints, tones and shades.
Negative Space: Space in an artwork that is negative or empty. The opposite of positive space.
Neutrals: Neutrals are classified as the colors black, white, and gray (all the shades in between black and
white). Also called "non-colors" they don't appear anywhere on the color wheel. They are, essentially, a
combination of all the colors in the spectrum. Sometimes described as "every color's friend,” neutrals go with
everything, and clash with nothing. They can be used to create a sense of visual relief in a strong color
scheme, or used alone to create a subtle, calming, monochromatic palette.
Non-Objective Art: Art that has no recognizable subject matter. Normally a series of shapes, lines, color or
patterns. Two well-known Non-Objective artists are Jackson Pollock and Piet Mondrian.
Oil Paint: Oil paint is a type of slow-drying paint consisting of small pigment particles suspended in a drying
oil (mostly lindseed oil). Oils are one of the great classic media, and have dominated painting for five
hundred years. They remain popular for many reasons: their great versatility, offering the possibility of
transparency and opacity in the same painting; the lack of color change when the painting dries; and ease of
Op Art: Art style from the 1960’s that used line, shape and color to create optical illusions including the
sense pulsating color or physical movement. Two major Op Artists were Victor Vasarely and Bridget Riley.
Organic Shape: Any un-named or irregular shape. Opposite of geometric shape.
Painting Styles: Historical designations given to various aesthetic movements.
Palette Knife: A trowel-type flexible knife used to apply paint in thick strokes.
Perspective: Perspective creates the feeling of depth through the use of lines that make your image appear
to be three dimensional. The closer the image is, the more detailed it will appear, and the larger it will
Linear perspective uses a grid of imaginary or drawn lines that converge at a vanishing point on the horizon
(the viewer’s or artist’s eye level). Shapes get smaller as they recede into the distance. Atmospheric
perspective is the depiction of space by gradations in value. Objects become less distinct as they recede.
Overlapping perspective is a technique where an object that is placed in front of another or lower on the
picture plane appears to be closer to the viewer.
Pigment: A material that changes the color of light it reflects as the result of selective color absorption.
Pigment is the material used to give paints their color. It is often derived from naturally occuring minerals.
Photo Realism (Super Realism): A style of painting from the 1960’s and 70’s. Photorealists very
consciously took their cues from photographic images, often working very systematically from photographic
slide projections onto canvases and using techniques such as gridding to preserve accuracy. The
photorealist style is tight and precise, often with an emphasis on imagery that requires a high level of
technical prowess. Chuck Close is one of the artists closely associated with this style.
Pointillism: A style of painting in which small distinct points of primary colors create the impression of a
wide selection of secondary colors. The technique relies on the perceptive ability of the eye and mind of the
viewer to mix the color spots into a fuller range of tones. One of the more famous Pointillists is Georges
Pop Art: Artistic movement that emerged in the late 1950’s in England and the United States. Pop art is one
of the major art movements of the Twentieth Century. Characterized by themes and techniques drawn from
mass culture, such as advertising and comic books. Roy Lictenstein and Andy Warhol are two major
creators of Pop Art.
Primary Colors: Primary colors are red, yellow and blue. They cannot be made by mixing other colors.
Principles of Art: The principles of art are a set of rules or guidelines to keep in mind when considering the
impact of a piece of artwork. They are the principles that help an artist decide how others will percieve the
art. The principles of art are combined with the elements of art to create a complete artwork. The basic
principles are: Balance, contrast, movement, emphasis, pattern, rhythm and unity. Other principles that
might be included are: Proportion, variety and harmony.
Realistic: Art work is dubbed realistic when it portrays real life objects or people or recognizable, identifiable
shapes. In general, the term used for the depiction of human figures, real objects or scenes as they appear.
Realism: An artistic style that concentrates on the accurate, detailed, unembellished depiction of nature or
of contemporary life. A well known Realist is the Spanish artist Diego Velázquez.
Renaissance: The term Renaissance means "rebirth," and describes the radical changes that took place in
European culture during the 15th and 16th centuries, bringing about the demise of the Middle Ages and
embodying for the first time the values of the modern world. Two famous Renaissance artists are Leonardo
da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Reflected Light: Light that bounces off an object and is reflected on a separate object.
Repetition: Repetition is created when objects, shapes, space, light, direction, lines etc. are repeated in
Rhythm: When the regular repetition of particular forms or elements occurs in a work of art, that work is said
to have rhythm. It suggests motion.
Romanticism: Artistic and intellectual movement that originated in the late 18th century and stressed strong
emotion, imagination, freedom from classical correctness in art forms, and rebellion against social
conventions. The movement is associated with the 19th century, particularly in the paintings of Théodore
Secondary colors: Secondary colors are orange, violet and green and are made by mixing two primary
Shade: Using a mixture of black mixed with a color to make it darker. The opposite of shade is tint. Shade is
also an area where light cannot penetrate.
Shadow: An area where light is blocked by an object.
Shape: Shapes can be in the form of squares, circles, triangles, rectangles, and ovals.
Spectrum: The colors that are the result of a beam of white light that is broken by a form of prism into its
Surrealism: An artistic movement that flourished between WW I and WW II. Surrealism attempts to express
the workings of the subconscious by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtaposition of subject matter. By
far the most famous Surrealist is Salvador Dali.
Symbol: A symbol is a picture or image that tells a story of what it is without using words.
Symmetrical: Evenly balanced in design and proportion.
Tempera: Tempera is a word used to describe any type of binder such as oil, water or egg that makes a
pigment workable as a paint form.
Tertiary Colors: Are a mixture of a primary and secondary colors. For example; blue green.
Texture: Texture refers to the creation of a physical or visual “feel” (as in the sense of touch) in an art work.
Tint: Tint is the opposite of shade. Tinting is combining white with a color to make it lighter.
Tone: Tone is between and tint and a shade. Toning is adding grey to a color.
Three Dimensional (3-D): An artform having height, width and depth as opposed to painting which is 2-D or
Two Dimensional (2-D): A flat surface having only height and width.
Underpainting: Preliminary painting used as a base for textures or for subsequent painting or glazing.
Unity: A feeling of completeness is created by the use of elements in the artwork.
Value: Shadows, darkness, contrasts and light are all values in artwork.
Warm Colors: Warm colors are reds, oranges and yellows.
Wash: A highly fluid, mostly transparent, application of color.
Watercolor: A translucent, water-based paint that comes in cake or tube form. Watercolor is a painting
technique using made of pigments that easily suspend or dissolve in water. Although the grounds used in
watercolor painting vary, the most common is paper.