Art Terms

A-F

  • Advancing Colors – Warm colors such as reds and yellows, or vivid colors, which appear to come towards the front of the picture.
  • Alla Prima – describes a painting that is completed in one sitting
  • Aerial perspective – how atmosphere affects distant objects. Dust and other substances in the air make background elements less distinct than the same things close to us. They are portrayed with more muted colors and fewer contrasts. Far distance tends to blur into a bluish haze.
  • Analogous Colors – are colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Any three adjacent primary, secondary and tertiary colors such as blue-green, blue and blue-violet or yellow, yellow-orange and orange, etc.
  • Archival – high quality materials created with longevity in mind. They are durable and buffered. Materials are permanent, and chemically stable, good for preservation purposes.
  • Atmospheric light – Effects such as fog, sunsets, sunrese, etc. Since these moments are often brief, not long enough to collect your camera, you must memorize the moment, then make your sketches as soon as possible after the event. You can then add these effects to paintings based on photographs from your collection or from the sketches you have done. (check out sketch book journal)
  • Backruns – in waterbased media it is the effect that occurs when a wet brush of paint or water is reapplied to a drier portion of a painting. The first wash is pushed away from the wet area, creating a feathery outline when dry. This can be an irritation if unwanted, but can also be a method of creating special effects with a bit of practice.
  • Balance – symmetrical (or formal) balance is evenly distributed around a cantral axis with equal weight on each side whereas asymmetrical (or informal) balance has many variables. Strong contrasts, tangents, textures, and the placement of object within the picture all affect the balance. A small dark object near the edge of the picture can balance a large light colored area on the other side of the central axis. Texture has more impact than flat areas so smaller areas of texture can balance larger areas without it. At times you may want a picture to be out of balance to depict violent emotions or instability. The goal may be to express a mood rather than be pleasing to the eye.
  • Black – Black is the complete absence of light since a black surface absorbs all light. There is no such thing as a true black in pigments as all blacks have impurities and therefore all have a hint of blue to them. In painting, black is a controversial color. It is generally agreed that adding black to colors makes them appear dull and that using it in shadows eliminates all interest and variety. It is best to combine "dark colors" to make shadow areas more lively. At times mixtures of dark colors will not create a color dark enough, at such times a bit of black can be added as a last resort. If black is used, ivory black is recommended rather than lamp black, which is made from soot and can create colors which look dirty.
  • Blending – the mixing of two or more colors. It is also a means of creating a soft , gradual change between colors. This can be accomplished by placing one wet color next to another so that they touch and blend. The result will be your original two colors on each end and a mixture of those colors between. There are varying techniques for blending in each of the different mediums.
  • Blocking In – Establishes the main areas of color or tone in a painting or drawing.
  • Blotting – used to lighten areas in a painting or to create special effects.
  • Broken color – small seperate strokes of pure color which when viewed from a distance mix optically to form the impression of blended color
  • Burnishing – In colored pencil drawings, colors are rubbed into one another and into the paper with a Torchon, plastic eraser or white pencil (or light version of the color being used). Burnishing irons out the grain of the paper and compresses the pigment, creating a slight sheen to the surface, increasing the brilliance of the colors.
  • Chiaroscuro – (ke-√§ra-skooro) – Contrasts of light and dark areas in a drawing or painting, often created by dramatic lighting from a single light source. This creates an illusion of depth and space in a composition.
  • Chroma A controversial term which is generally also known as Intensity or Saturation. The brightness or grayness of a color. Not to be confused with Value which means the "lightness" or "darkness" of the color.
  • Collage – bits and pieces of unrelated materials such as plain paper, photographs, newspaper clippings, found objects, etc., that are glued to a flat surface to create a picture or image. Often parts of the image are drawn or painted.
  • Color – Color is what the eye sees when light bounces off an object,… red, blue, yellow, etc. The "properties" of color are hue, saturation, value and temperature.
  • Color Key – The overall color range of a painting. A painting with a high key would range from medium to light values, low key would have medium to dark values. High or full contrast paintings take advantage of all the values from light to dark.
  • Color Temperature – Warm colors are those in the yellow to red range, while cool colors are greens, blues and violets and mixtures thereof.
  • Color Wheel – A circular arrangement or primary, secondary, and intermediate colors based on one of several color theories. The wheel has each color opposite its complement for quick reference.
  • Complementary Colors – Complementary colors are those colors directly opposite each other on the color wheel, such as yellow and violet. A color can be darkened, or greyed by adding its complement. The end result depends on how much you add. Mixing with complements can create a beautiful range of greys very useful in the painting process. When when mixed evenly they produce a neutral gray or brown. Also called Complements.
  • Composition – Good compositions are a pleasing balance of positive and negative spaces within a painting. Variety of shapes, textures and values help create an interesting composition . Slightly off-center placement of the focal point creates variety in the negative spaces, breaking up the area and creating interest. Avoid lining up objects. Overlapping objects of various sizes and in random placement are more interesting than those that are evenly sized and spaced. Try creating thumbnails to decide on the best composition. Good results are worth a bit of preplanning.
  • Contour Drawing – An outline drawing that represents the edge of a form. Blind Contour Drawing is performed by slowly drawing the edges of an object, following each bump and curve with your eyes and slowly having your hand follow the same path on the paper without looking at the paper as it is being drawn.
  • Contrast – the use of opposites beside one another, such as rough/smooth, dark/light or the use of complementary colors. This creates visual interest in a picture and prevents it from becoming static or boring.
  • Cool colors – Greens, blues and violets are considered cool colors. They are calming colors and appear to recede into the background or distance. The opposite of warm colors, which appear to advance into the foreground.
  • Cropping – is the trimming away of unnecessary portions of a picture to create a more pleasing end result. A viewfinder may be used to help determine the best composition before cropping.
  • Crosshatching – lines crossing each other in different directions used to indicate volume or shading in a drawing. Fewer lines create a light image, while more lines, more closely spaced creates a darker more dense image. Layers of different colors can create new colors.
  • Directional Lines – edges of objects, such as roads, trees, folds in clothing or even people's line of sight, can create lines in the eyes of the viewer. We naturally follow directional lines in a picture. Correct use of such lines can cause the viewer's eyes to follow a predictable path. Our eyes tend to follow lines towards the center of a picture and towards the areas of greatest contrast, however, they also follow arrow-type-shapes so be sure not to lead the eye away from your focal point.
  • Dominance – An object or color designed to be the focus of the painting. It tends to be a stronger, brighter or more visually powerful element within the painting.
  • Drybrush – created by having thick paint and little water on your brush. This causes the brush to skip on the surface of the paper or canvas producing a broken effect good for creating the look of weathered wood, bark, or texture in an object.
  • Focal Point -the center of interest in a painting. This is where you want to draw the eye as it is the main reason for the painting. There are various techniques used to draw the eye to the focal point such as directional lines, contrast , etc.
  • Flat Wash – in water-based media, it is a large area of evenly distributed color.
  • Frottage – texture created by placing paper over a textured surface, then rubbing the surface of the paper with a pencil, pastel, etc. causing the texture to be reproduced on the surface of the paper. In wet mediums it is created by placing nonabsorbent paper, tinfoil, saran wrap, etc in the wet paint. Crumpled paper or foil creates more texture than it does when it is flat.
  • Fugitive Colors – Colors that fade or change noticeably under normal conditions. Yellow and reds are most prone to changes. See also lightfast.

G-P

 

  • Glazing – Transparent washes of paint laid over other washes that have been previously dryed creating a glowing effect similar to stained glass.
  • Graded Wash – In waterbased media it is a wash that gradually changes from dark to light.
  • Hatching – parallel lines used to create an image. Strokes closer together create dark values while strokes farther apart appear lighter. They may also be curved to follow the shape of the object. Hatching can also be used to blend colors. Since the colors are placed side by side, instead of being blended together, the colors appear clearer and brighter. When seen from a distance the colors appear to merge creating the desired image.
  • Highlights – the small light areas that add the finishing touch to a painting, such as the sparkle on water or the light catching the edges of a fence throwing it into focus. They are the lightest, brightest areas on the painting often accented by dark or strong contrasts nearby.
  • High key – characterized by an overall feeling of lightness but without strong contrasting colors or values. The opposite of low key.
  • Hue – The name of a color – red, blue, purple, etc. Often the words "color" and "hue" are used synonymously.
  • Inorganic pigments – are the earth colors (siennas and unbers) and the minerals (cadmiuns, cobalts, and oxides). Earth colors tend to be "less saturated than most other pigments", often granular and sometimes opaque. The minerals tend to be more brilliant and sometimes opaque
  • Imprinting – created by pressing objects into a wet surface or by coating an object with paint and pressing it onto a dry surface leaving a pattern. Objects with raised or a textured surface work best.
  • Intensity – The purity of a color, its brightness or grayness, often used interchangeably with chroma or saturation.
  • Intermediate Colors – Also known as tertiary colors. Created from the mixture of adjoining primary and secondary colors. Examples are red-orange, blue-violet, yellow-green, etc.
  • Light – Color depends on light, for without it we can see no color. "The diversity of light depends on the fact that light is a composite of rays of different kinds." – Sir Isaac Newton. Interior light produces a yellowish glow, whereas natural light is bluish in color.
  • Lightfast – The ability of a pigment to resist fading with long exposures to daylight. The term "lightfast" on the label of artist's pigments indicates permanence under normal conditions. See also fugitive.
  • Local Color – The natural color of an object seen under normal daylight. This color changes depending on distance or the lighting conditions. Seen at a distance, in the shade, in the morning or evening a color becomes weaker or grayed.
  • Low Key – A term used to describe a painting created in medium to dark values. The opposite of high key.
  • Masking – there are several methods of masking light areas. the most common way in watercolor is with masking fluid which can be used to protect small areas of white paper.For larger area of a painting you can use masking tape and paper to cover the area. Masking with ripped paper or cotton wool layed down on the paper produces an irregular or soft edge. The spattering technique works particularly well with loose masks so that they don't shift.
  • Monochromatic – A painting done in different tints and shades of a single color.
  • Negative Shapes – are the areas around the positive shapes. They can be described as the background. Negative shapes can have identifiable objects in them but they are not as important as the positive shapes (in a landscape, a farmhouse might be the positive shape and the fields and trees behind would be the negative)
  • Neutral – Blacks, browns, grays or white. Colors can be neutralized by adding some of their complement. An even amount of two complementary colors results in a neutral gray or brown.
  • Opaque – The covering power of a pigment. Strong opacity will not allow the color below to show through.
  • Optical Mixing – Spots of pure color placed side by side on the painting surface. They are mixed by the eyes of the viewer rather than on the palette.
  • Painting Knife – used to create loose or textured effects in paintings. It should be practiced first before being applied to a painting as you neet to learn how to handle the knife. It takes a bit of practice so don't give up too soon.
  • Organic pigments – come from plants or animals or can be man made of chemical compounds containing carbon and created in a laboratory. They tend to be strong and transparent. The synthetic organic pigments can be more brilliant than their natural counterparts, they lack the sublety of many of the natural colors.
  • Pigment – Powdered colors made from natural or synthetic materials which are mixed with a binder to create pastels, paints, or a number of other drawing or painting mediums.
  • Pointillism – created with small dots of pure color placed close together which when combined optically appear to merge creating various shapes and colors. Since the colors are not physically mixed they are more vibrant and the dots create a shimmering efect.
  • Polychromatic – A color scheme in which multiple colors are used.
  • Positive Shapes – are the objects themselves. They are surrounded in a painting by what are called the negative shapes.
  • Primary Colors – The basic colors of the spectrum from which all other colors can be mixed. These are red, blue and yellow. Mixtures of these produce the secondary colors orange, green and violet. Further mixtures produce intermediate or tertiary colors, etc.
  • Prism – When sunlight passes through a crystal prism it is broken up into bands of different colors known as the spectrum. The six colors of the spectrum are red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.

Q-Z

 

  • Reflected Color – Color that bounces off nearby objects.
  • Repetition – Similar shapes, colors, etc. that are repeated in several areas within a painting to create unity.
  • Saturation – The purity or brilliance of a color. See also chroma and intensity.
  • Scraping – paint may be scraped off the surface of a painting to show the layers below as in Sgraffito, or in watercolor a razor blade may be used to produce white highlights.
  • Scumbling – an uneven layer of color placed over an already dry underlayer. The scumbled layer is created using fairly dry paint and in an irregular scrubbing motion,. You may use a brush, rag, sponge, paper towel, etc. If using a brush, an old one is recommended to aid in the irregular appearance and also to avoid damaging good brushes as the paint is scrubbed onto the surface Scumbling is good for producing weathered or irregular textures such as rocks, bushes, etc.
  • Secondary Colors – colors resulting from the mixture of even amounts of two primary colors. Blue and red produces violet, yellow and red makes orange, and blue and yellow makes green.
  • Sgraffito – is created by scratching into paint to reveal the colors benieth. When the paint is wet it can be scraped away with a pallet knife, the back end of a paint brush (some brushes are specially designed for this) a credit card or even your finger nail. Once the paint has dried a razor blade, craft knife, or even sandpaper can be used.
  • Shade – A medium to dark value of a color. When a color has been darkened from its original purity. The opposite of shade is tint.
  • Spattering – spots of color flicked onto the surface from a brush held above, creating a random pattern of dots.
  • Stippling – done with a brush, it is a series of small dots similar to pointillism but used mainly to accent areas of a painting or to create texture where needed. Dots close together create darker areas while spacing the dots farther apart creates a lighter, more airy appearance. As in pointillism the separate dots of color creates a shimmering effect. Stippling can also be done with a stiff brush or a sponge which produces a similar effect and which is much faster than painting each dot with a brush.
  • Successive Contrast – If you stare at a color long enough you will begin to see a halo of its complementary color around it, etc. a green halo around a spot of red.
  • Tangents – lines that touch but don't overlap. Tangents can be useful in calling attention to an area but can also distract the eye if placed in an area that is not desirable. Avoid having objects just touch. It is better to leave a bit more space between objects or overlap them in an obvious manner.
  • Temperature – The relative coolness or warmth of a color. Colors in the green/blue /violet range are considered cool, while those in the red/orange/yellow range are considered warm. Within a painting cool colors recede into the distance while warm colors appear to come forwards.
  • Tertiary Colors – Colors produced by mixing primary colors with secondary colors, eg. red and orange produces red-orange and violet and blue produces a violet-blue. Also called intermediate colors.
  • Thumbnails – small sketches with only the very basic information included. Because of their small size it is quite easy to do several sketches to help determine the best possible compositions and values for the finished work.Try several different layouts with various combinations of pictorial elements of various heights and widths. Examine different vertical and horizontal layouts and closeups as well as the more traditional distant views.
  • Tint – A light value of a color produced by adding white or by diluting the color to allow the white of the background to show through.
  • Tone – How dark or light a color is. Also called value.
  • Underpainting – By blocking in the main shapes with thin layers of paint, you help organize shapes and values before adding color details.
  • Values – how light or dark an object is. Strong changes in value grab the viewer's attention no matter how close or far the object appears to be, while light objects blend into light surroundings. The focal point of the painting should have stronger changes in value than the rest of the painting to draw the viewer's eyes there first. After their eyes have had a chance to travel around the rest of the painting those same contrasts will bring them back to your center of interest once again.
  • Variegated Wash – in waterbased media it is created by wetting the paper then applying a variety of colors so that they blend together on the paper.
  • Viewfinder – a frame made of heavy paper or plastic which is used to find pleasing compositions when presented by an image with a lot of possibilities. It helps determine what to include and what to leave out of your picture.
  • Warm Colors – colors in the yellow to red range are considered warm colors as they are associated with such things as the sun and fire. Warm colors make an object appear to advance into the foreground. The opposite of cool colors, which appear to recede into the background.
  • Wet-in-Wet – in waterbased media colors are applied over others while still wet so that they partially mix on the paper.
  • Wet Over Dry – created by letting each layer dry before applying another color on top.