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Humanities LibreTexts

2.6: Key Terms

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  • 2-Dimensional Art: art that is executed on a two dimensional surface that has length and width; a flat (or nearly flat) surface. These include, but are not limited to, paintings, drawings, and prints.

    3-Dimensional Art: art that is executed in the three dimensions of length, width, and height. These include, but are not limited to, sculpture, architecture, ceramics, glass, textiles, assembly, and installation.

    4-Dimensional Art: art that is executed in, and depends upon, both space and time, which is considered the “fourth dimension.” Examples include but are not limited to performance art and video art.

    Abstract Expressionism: or ABEX; this art historical term is specific to a group of painters working in New York after the Second World War. This group includes Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner, and Helen Frankenthaler. Their primary approach to painting was gestural, and “all over,” a condition in which no single part of the work is visually predominant.

    Acrylic: a fast drying water-soluble petroleum based painting medium.

    Actual Texture: the condition in which texture is created, not represented. Actual texture is the opposite of simulated texture or the illusion of texture. Examples include brushstrokes, impasto, collage, and inclusion.

    Additive Color: color based on projected light.

    Additive: a sculptural process in which material is added.

    Afterimage: the optical sensation that occurs after a visual stimulus is removed. The afterimage is a quickly fading complement of the original stimulus.

    Analogous Color: a color scheme that uses colors adjacent to an initial point on the color wheel. For example, if an artist chose red for the initial color, then an analogous color scheme would employ the color range that occurs between orange, red, and purple.

    Armature: a wire or wood substructure used to support a clay sculpture while it is being worked.

    Assembly: a sculptural process in which disparate materials are combined to form the final artwork.

    Asymmetric: lacking symmetry.

    Atmospheric Perspective: the use of color to simulate the illusion of space.

    Axis: an imaginary line around which objects are arranged.

    Balance: the property of equality in visual weight.

    Binder: a transparent fluid used to suspend colored pigment and attach it to a support.

    Brush: tools used to apply paint to a support, usually hair or fiber attached to a wooden or plastic handle.

    Buon Fresco: literally, “good fresco.” A mural process in which pigment is painted on and absorbed into wet plaster.

    Calligraphy: beautiful writing.

    Carving: a sculptural process in which material is removed to reveal the final artwork.

    Casting: a sculptural process in which material is substituted to form the final artwork.

    Charcoal: an art medium made from burned wood used to make dark black marks usually on paper.

    Closed Form: sculptural forms that are not penetrated by exterior space.

    Color Scheme: an organized or formulaic approach to the selection of color. For example, Monochromatic (one color), Complementary (opposite colors), and Analogous (adjacent colors) color schemes.

    Color Temperature: in visual art, the sensation of “warm” or “cool” relative to a given color. Warm colors tend toward red/orange, while cool colors tend toward blue/white. Every color, when compared to another can be seen to be either more warm or more cool.

    Color: the sensation caused by differing qualities of light.

    Complementary Color: colors that when blended together create a neutral gray. On a color wheel, complementary colors appear opposite to one another. Examples of a complementary color pair would be blue and orange or red and green.

    Composition: the arrangement of visual elements.

    Conte Crayons: in drawing, square sticks of compressed charcoal or pigment and wax or clay.

    Conte: a mixture of pigment and clay used to make colored marks, usually on paper. Traditionally manufactured in black, white, and sanguine (red) colors.

    Contour: the exterior boundary of a form.

    Contrast: areas with a high difference in value, color, texture, or other scale.

    Cool Color: a color that tends toward blue/white in hue. A cool color can be any color that tends toward blue/white when compared to another color. For example, alizarin crimson is a cool red when compared to cadmium red medium.

    Crosshatching: intersecting marks that create value on a form.

    Description: the process of enumerating the various elements of an artwork.

    Design: a plan for the arrangement of visual elements.

    Drawing: the process of making marks on a support, often but not always representative of an idea or object.

    Edge: exterior boundary of a shape.

    Edition: a series of prints made from a single matrix.

    Electromagnetic Spectrum: continuous range of radioactive energy by wavelength.

    Elements of Design: the physical components of visual art.

    Emphasis: the strategy of directing attention with the use of high contrast.

    Encaustic: a painting process which uses wax as the binder.

    Figure/Ground Relation: the figure in front of the ground. Used to specify which objects qualify as figures.

    Figure/Ground Reversal: ambiguous figure ground relation in which figures can be alternately seen as grounds and vice versa.

    Figure: a shape that appears in front of a background.

    Forced Perspective: use of perspective to create a distorted or unnatural scale relation.

    Form: the physical components of visual art.

    Found Objects: material incorporated into artwork that is not normally considered an artistic medium. Found objects serve the same purpose in sculpture that magazine cutouts serve in collage.

    Freestanding: sculpture that can be viewed from all angles.

    Fresco Secco: the process of painting on dry plaster.

    Fresco: the process of painting on wet or dry plaster.

    Fugitive: pigments that change color or become transparent with time or weathering.

    Geometric: a shape with mathematically regular contours.

    Gestalt: intuitive perception of an artwork as a single whole experience.

    Gesture: direction interpreted as movement.

    Gicleé: an Ink-Jet print, usually on acid free paper with archival inks.

    Graphite: a carbon-based mineral mixed with clay to make pencil leads of varying hardness.

    Ground: the stage on which a figure resides.

    Gum Arabic: a water-soluble resin from the Gum tree used as a binder in watercolor.

    Hard-Edged: a shape with clearly defined boundaries.

    Height: vertical distance or measurement.

    High Relief: sculpture that remains attached to a base, but uses undercut. Opposite of low relief.

    Horizon Line: the visual limit of space where sky and land or water meet. In linear perspective, the vanishing point rotated 360 degrees.

    Hue: the quality of wavelength in color; the color name.

    Impasto: thick application of paint.

    Implied Line: invisible line perceived by alignment of unrelated shapes.

    Impressionism: a nineteenth century art movement, originating in Paris, in which changing variations of light become a principal subject. Examples include the work of Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Mary Cassatt.

    Ink: a liquid pigment traditionally used with pens of various manufacture.

    Installation: an art practice that surrounds the viewer in an environment.

    Intaglio: a printing process in which a metal plate is scratched with a steel point to produce printed images.

    Interactive: artwork in which the viewer is expected to participate.

    Interval: the space between elements of an artwork.

    Intuitive Color: an approach to the selection of color that relies on intuition or other internal state rather than observation of an external condition.

    Kinetic Art: art that incorporates motion into its design.

    Line: an infinite series of points with limited length.

    Linear Perspective: geometrically constructed illusion of the recession of space.

    Linear: of or pertaining to the quality of line.

    Lithograph: a printing process that relies on the repulsion between oil-based ink and water. A stone (or aluminum plate) is drawn on and etched. Where the stone is etched will absorb water. Where the stone is not etched (protected by the drawing or image) the stone will remain dry. Water is applied to the stone. Ink is then rolled over the stone. Where the stone is wet, ink is repelled. Where the stone is dry, ink adheres. Paper is then pressed onto the inked stone resulting in a print.

    Local Color: the color of an object under even illumination.

    Lost Wax: a casting process in which a wax original is molded, then wax is melted out and replaced with metal.

    Low Relief: sculpture that remains attached to a base and does not use undercut. Opposite of high relief.

    Mass: the quality of possessing three dimensions.

    Matrix: in printmaking, any material used to produce an image. For example, in relief printing, the matrix is usually a carved linoleum or wood block.

    Metalpoint: drawing using ductile metal such as silver, gold, or pewter as the pigment. Usually on paper or gessoed panel.

    Mixed Media: the use of unconventional or unusual combinations of materials in a single artwork.

    Mobile: in sculpture, a kinetic artwork moved by wind or gravity.

    Modeling: a sculptural process in which material is added to form the final artwork.

    Mold: a hollow form used to shape a fluid or plastic substance.

    Monochromatic: of or using a single color.

    Motion: movement or change in position over time.

    Negative Space: the absence of mass in space.

    Non-Objective Art: art that does not have direct pictorial reference to objects seen.

    Observed Color: the perception of color on an object illuminated by a directional light source. The perceived color of such an object varies as it tends toward highlight or shadow.

    Oil Pastels: paper covered sticks of solid pigment and oil-based binder originally used to mark livestock.

    Oil: in painting, a solvent soluble binder that dries slowly, usually linseed oil.

    One-point perspective: a mathematical drawing system with the intention of making three dimensional objects and space look realistic in appearance as they converge on a single vanishing point.

    Open Form: sculptural forms that are penetrated by exterior space.

    Organic: shapes or forms that are loose or undefined.

    Original Print: a handmade print.

    Orthogonal: in perspective, lines that recede to the vanishing point.

    Overlap: a shape or object which obscures or lies over something else.

    Painting: the process of applying liquid pigment to a surface, or an art object resulting from this process.

    Pastel: solid sticks of pigment.

    Performance Art: an approach to art in which the object is an action by participants.

    Performance: artworks consisting of actions, usually documented photographically.

    Perspective: in art a system that portrays three dimensions on a flat surface.

    Pigment: in art, the substance with gives color to a medium.

    Pigment: the coloring agent in paints, pastels, inks, and other art media.

    Planographic: a printing process which occurs on a flat surface, originally limestone.

    Point: in perspective, an object with zero dimension.

    Positive Space: the area occupied by a solid or filled object.

    Primary Colors: in art the three basic colors by which all other colors are mixed, i.e., red, yellow, and blue.

    Principles of Design: the strategies by which the elements of art are arranged to create a desired visual effect.

    Print: an artwork produced by transferring pigment from a matrix to a support, usually paper. Most often done in a series of identical impressions. See “edition.”

    Printmaking: the process of producing multiple identical or nearly identical images from a single print matrix or set of matrices.

    Psychic Line: in art, line that is understood without being seen by the eye.

    Refracted Light: light that has been separated into distinct colors after having been passed through a prism.

    Relief: the physical projection of an artwork beyond the support or base.

    Reproduction: a mechanically produced print.

    Rhythm: in art, a pattern formed by repeated objects.

    Scale: the size of an object.

    Sculpture: the production of artwork that exists in three dimensions. Examples are carving, casting, modelling, or assembly.

    Secondary Colors: in art, the three colors formed by mixing two primary colors, i.e., green, orange, and purple.

    Shape: an area of two dimensional space.

    Simulated Texture: a visual representation of a tactile experience.

    Site Specific: installations which use their location as part of the intended effect.

    Soft-Edged: lacking a definite boundary.

    Solvents: substances usually liquid, which dissolve a given paint binder.

    Stencil: a printing process in which pigment passes through a mask onto a support.

    Substitutes: in sculpture, replacing one substance with another. In casting, hot liquid metal is substituted for melted wax.

    Subtractive Color: sensation of color created by reflection of light off of a surface.

    Subtractive: a sculptural process in which material is removed.

    Support: the surface on which an artwork is created.

    Symmetric: shapes reflected equally about an axis.

    Technological Change: notable shifts in available technology and science that play a part in the shift of culture and determine the availability of new artistic media.

    Texture: the tactile quality of a surface.

    Three-Point Perspective: a system of perspective that uses a third point above or below the horizon line to indicate the recession of space above the viewer.

    Time Arts: the use of change as an element in art, usually performance art, kinetic art, or video.

    Tughra: Islamic calligraphic device designating a high status individual.

    Two-Point Perspective: a system of perspective that uses two points on the horizon to indicate the recession of space on either side of the viewer.

    Undercut: in sculpture, an overhang created by removing material from underneath an object without detaching it from the base or support.

    Value: in visual art, the characteristic of lightness or darkness of a color, ranging from near-white to black.

    Vanishing Point: the point on the horizon where orthogonals meet, representing the viewer’s vision extended infinitely in one direction.

    Vector: the characteristic of having direction.

    Video: moving images recorded and projected or displayed on a monitor.

    Visible Light: the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be seen by the human eye.

    Volume: a bounded three dimensional area.

    Warm Color: a color that tends toward red/orange in hue. A warm color can be any color that tends toward red/orange when compared to another color. For example, ultramarine is a warm blue when compared to cobalt blue.

    Watercolor: a water soluble painting medium that uses gum arabic as binder.

    Willow/Vine Charcoal: a drawing medium made from burned willow twigs, and used primarily for initial layout of paintings as it does not adhere well to drawing surfaces.

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