Visual Art Glossary of Terms

Abstract art- art that departs significantly from natural appearances. Images are extremely simplified, modified or changed to varying degrees in order to emphasize certain qualities or content. This term is also used to describe art that is non-objective (no recognizable objects) Major artists of this style: Piet Mondrian, Joseph Overstreet, Hans Hartung, Joan Miro ( Mee Roe) Frank Stella

Abstract expressionism- an art movement, primarily in painting, that originated in the United States in the 1940s and remained strong through 1950s. Artists working in many different styles emphasized spontaneous personal expression in large paintings that are abstract or nonrepresentational. One type of abstract Expressionism is called action painting. Major artists of this movement: Willem de Kooning Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock.

Aerial/atmospheric perspective- creating the illusion of depth or Pictorial space by representing the natural effect on air or atmosphere between the viewer and distant objects softly defined forms bathed in blue or purple gray haze.

Aesthetic- Relating to the sense of the beautiful and to heightened sensory perception or the impact of artwork on our senses, intellect and emotion.

Aesthetics- the study and philosophy dealing with the concept of beauty. Humans seek to formulate laws and criteria by which to understand and appreciate art. Aesthetic judgments are influenced by our age, emotions, intellect, culture, economic status, political and moral values.

After image- the phenomenon of seeing a complementary color after fatiguing the sensory nerves of the eye by staring at its complement. e.g. saturating the eye with green (then looking at a neutral) and seeing a red spot.

Analogous colors- Closely related hues that are neighbors (next to each other) on the color wheel such as blue, blue-green and green.

Art Deco- an art movement of the 1930s that glorified industrialized forms and was very influential on all the arts, but widely used decorative style in architecture e.g. Art Deco spire of the Chrysler building and city hall of Buffalo, New York. Major artists of the movement: Hector Guiimard, Emile Decour

Art Nouveau (new vo)- a style that originated in the late 1880s, based on the sinuous curves of plant forms, used primarily in architectural detailing and the applied arts organic decorative primary artists Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha, Hector Guimard and Louis Tiffany.

Art Specialist- an educator with a license and a major in art, dance, drama, or music.

Asymmetrical balance- this balance is not visually the same on both sides of the picture plane. Unlike or unrelated objects are arranged to achieve counter balance. A large object placed more towards the middle axis is counter balanced by smaller objects placed close to the outside edge of the picture. Using the teeter-tauter principle of visual weight.
Avant-garde- French, for advance guard or “vanguard.” Those considered the leaders (and often regarded as radicals) in the invention and application of new concepts in a given field.
Axis- an implied spine or center line of an object or picture plane. An “implied” dividing line in a symmetrical image creating an axis of symmetry for mirrored imagery (same on both sides and an equal number of objects on both sides)
Balance- an arrangement of parts achieving a state of equilibrium between opposing forces or influences. Major types are symmetrical, asymmetrical and radial balance. See symmetry.
Baroque- (Ba Roke) the seventeenth-century period in Europe characterized in the visual arts by dramatic light and shade, turbulent composition, and exaggerated emotional expression. Major artists of the era: Gianlorenzo Bernini, Michelangelo Caravaggio (Car a VOD’ jo), Annibale Carracci, Peter Paul Rubens
Bauhaus- (Bough house) a German art school in existence from 1919 to 1933, best known for its influence on Geometric leadership in art education and a radically innovative philosophy of applying design principles to machine technology and mass production. Primary artists: Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee(Clay),
Bird’s Eye Perspective- the image is depicted from an elevated vantage point. Major artists: Mary Cassette, Grant Wood
Bloom’s Taxonomy- the Elementary Visual Art Core Teacher’s Guide has a structure similar to the learning domains found in Bloom’s Taxonomy. The Natural Progression Pattern (colored columns of the art teacher’s guide) organizes instruction in a natural learning sequence.
(Analysis of a Visual Arts Program in Terms of Bloom’s Taxonomy)
Knowledge Level:
Knowledge of the “ Elements of Art” (line, Shape, Form, Value, Texture, Space, Color)
Demonstration of skill using processes, tools, and materials
Knowledge of criteria for various kinds of artistic mediums
Art History: facts, names, dates, recognition of art
Comprehension Level:
Can identify the more abstract “Principles of Art” (balance, emphasis, repetition)
Ability to understand contrasting ideas in design (unity with variety)
Capable of direct attention to specific visual references suggested by teacher
Ability to understand key ideas in art history (the hierarchical art of Egypt, the educational/symbolic
art of the medieval period or the stylistic breakthroughs of the twentieth century)
Ability to see analogies and to shift frames of reference
Understand the various roles the visual arts play in human satisfaction
Ability to summarize
Aware of the idea creation processes
Application Level:
Follow the first step of the idea creation process: visual input (books, photos, TV, life ) in
generating images
Capable of applying both the “Elements and Principles” of art to produce studio artwork
Organizational ability to use compositional devices and control viewer eye movement
Can create art in situations that require assimilation of prior-knowledge and experience
Analysis Level:
Can identify components of an art work (design principles, color schemes, mood & value keying)
Can point to relationships between elements in a particular composition
Recognize traditional artistic styles (Impressionism, Cubism, Abstraction)
Create the second step of the idea creation process: quick thumbnail sketches
Synthesis Level:
Ability to unite art history content, design, materials, and processes into a satisfactory whole
Can distinguish between the relevant and irrelevant in solving a particular problem
Evolution of ideas into the final step of the creating process: decision making
Can discuss the formation of objects in the creation of a drawing/painting
Evaluation Level:
Accepts criticism from teacher
Listen to comments of classmates in group evaluation
Willing to discuss and respond to differing opinions
Able to make criterion-based judgments, and state preferences about art work
Capable of expressing the emotional and aesthetic value of a piece of art
Calligraphy- the art of elegant writing.
Cartoon- a caricature drawing of a person or thing in which certain characteristics are exaggerated for satire or humor.
Center of interest- the subject or object of emphasis in a layout design or piece of artwork. Artists organize intentional areas or a center of focus to attract the viewer’s eye. (Focal Point) Emphasis areas are created by the size of the main object, its isolation, color or value contrast.
Characteristics of line- recognizing the distinctive contrasting qualities of line. Lines can be thick-thin, solid-broken, curved-straight, light-dark, soft-hard, heavy-light, resting and in motion. Artists use contrasting line characteristics to create quality marks with personality and variety.
Circle- a round symmetrical two-dimensional shape.
Collage- a French word meaning “to glue,” a composition assembled from unrelated materials like newsprint, wallpaper, cloth, photos etc.
Color- a particular color is produced by the length of the light wave within the visible spectrum (prism rainbow). The eye and mind sees red because its pigment allows for a limited portion of the light waves vibrations to reach the eye as it is being reflected off a surface. All the other light wave lengths are being absorbed. White light is the perfect blending of all color wave lengths and black is the total absorption of all color light waves.
Color scheme- a plan for organizing and simplifying the color wheel. Artists restrict their color palettes by choosing a specific color scheme to produce mood/harmony, create contrast, or to unify a picture by repeating colors with in the scheme.
Complementary colors- hues (colors) opposite each other on the color wheel. There are 3 main sets of complementary colors: Yellow-Violet, Red-Green, Blue-Orange. These opposite hues affect each other in a number of ways. Used at full intensity in adjacent areas, they tend to intensify or excite each other. Mixed together, the intensity of each hue is lessened (darkened or grayed).
Contour- defines the outside edge of an object. A contour line follows the surface characteristics of objects suggesting volume and mass.
Contrast- the difference between two things. High contrast would be black and white or bright yellow and black and white or bright yellow and black. Low contrast would be middle value colors or grays. Contrast can also be achieved by size and shape variation, or with different textures.
Cool colors- colors whose relative visual temperatures make them seem cool. Cool colors generally include green, blue-green, blue, blue-violet and violet. The quality of warmness or coolness is relative to adjacent hues. See also warm colors.
Core (“State Art Core”)- meaning the central part in a subject area or a body of knowledge (foundation) needed for meaningful learning.
Core Shadow- the area on a form particularly on a sphere that is between the highlights and the reflected light and is usually the darkest value on the object. It is what creates the “dark side” of the art concept of “light side/dark side.
Cross-hatching- a shading technique in which lines are placed in straight parallel lines in one direction then crossed over in another direction. Variations in the density of the cross-hatching lines create differences in value.
Cubism- the most influential style of the twentieth century, developed in Paris by Picasso and Braque (Brock), beginning in 1907. The early mature phase of the style, called Analytical Cubism, lasted from 1909 through 1911. Cubism is based on the geometric reconstruction of objects, fragmentation of form, showing multiple views of the same object and flattening out a picture’s depth of field with the foreground and background merging into one plane (no traditional perspective)
DAC- (acronym) for District Art Coordinators, individuals who are responsible for facilitating arts education in their school districts. They act as liaisons between individual schools, classroom teachers and the district. In a perfect world…they provide professional in-service, nurturing and leadership. Attend regional, state meetings and an annual DAC retreat. They facilitate core curriculum implementation; create newsletters, websites, festivals, art exhibits, POPS events and D.A.R.T (District Art Resources for Teachers).
Dada- (Dah-dah) art movement protesting the First World War and the materialistic culture they felt caused it. Collages were the main art form and emphasis was placed on the process of making art as opposed to the finished product. These major artists: Marcel Duchamp (Dew shahm) and Max Ernst introduced “readymade” or “found art” as gallery artwork.
De Stijl- an movement founded by Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg in 1917. It is a logical extension of Cubism where the action of color and forms are reduced to very simplistic geometric shapes.
Design- design is visual problem solving. Thinking, problem solving, evaluating and devising a plan are all aspects of the creative process. Every step in creating a design involves making intelligent choices in using these design principles: unity, repetition, emphasis areas, balance, scale/proportion, space and rhythm to find tangible visual solution.
Depth- creating the illusion of depth on a flat two dimensional surface requires these traditional devices. Making or placing the largest objects at the bottom of the picture plane, overlapping, texture application, and linear perspective.
Distortion- the alteration/departure from a normal depiction of shapes, proportion or imagery.
Elements of art- to create in any field one must understand the field’s essential basic components. Six basic elements comprise the structure of art: line, shape/form, value, texture, space and color.
Emphasis- is created by visually stressing the importance of one element over another in order to create a sense of hierarchy in controlling where the viewer looks first. Emphasis areas can be planned by using a compositional device such as using the “Rule of Thirds” or the “Golden Mean or Ratio” in placing the dominate object off center.
Fauvism- (Fove’ ism) an early twentieth-century French art movement characterized by the expressive effects of discordant color. The name “Fauve” means “wild beast” which was applied to the artists of the movement in criticism of their violent distortions of form and crude intense color. Major artists of this movement: Henri Matisse (On ree Ma teess), Georges Rouault (Roo oh)
Focal point- a perceived focus of interest.
Foreground- the area in a drawing or painting that is closest to the viewer, usually the lowest portion of the picture plane.
Form- creating the illusion of mass or three-dimensions on a two-dimensional surface by creating height, width, and depth. There are 5 basic geometric forms: sphere, cube, cone, cylinder, and pyramid.
Geometric shapes- circles, ellipses, squares, rectangles, and triangles, man-made shapes which are more precise and mathematical in proportion.
Geometric Forms- there are 5 basic geometric forms which are three-dimensional having height, width, and depth. e.g. sphere, cube, cone, cylinder, and pyramid
Gesture drawing- a manner of drawing in which the artist seeks to capture the activity or gesture of the model. In contrast to contour drawing where the lines carefully follow the outside edges of objects, the lines in gesture drawing are inside the object following the axis of the form. Gesture drawings may have a scribbled appearance resulting from the artist’s concentration on rendering the dynamic movement of the figure.
Golden Mean/Golden ratio- the Greeks developed a proportional esthetic ideal. This “golden” proportional relationship was obtained by a dividing line so that the shorter part is to the longer as the longer is to the whole ( A/B = B/A+B ) This ratio is .618 to 1 or approximately 5 to 8, which is the same ratio of male Bees to female Bees in every hive on earth or the spiral interior structure of nautilus shells, tornados, whirlpools and pine cones.
Goodson- the Goddess of art education in the State of Utah.
Halftone- a shade of grey whose value is between the darkest and the lightest tones or values on an object.
Hieroglyphics- an Egyptian system of writing using symbols or pictures.
Hierarchic proportion- use of unnatural proportion to show the relative importance of figures.
Horizon line- In linear perspective, the implied or actual line on a flat surface, represents the place where the sky meets the land or water plane. The horizon line matches the eye level line on a two-dimensional surface. Lines or edges parallel to the ground plane and moving away from the viewer appear to converge at vanishing points on the horizon line. In perspective drawing the horizon represents the eye level of the viewer/artist.
Hue- when an artist uses the word “hue” instead of saying color there is a difference in meaning. There are hundreds of colors but only limited specific hues that are tied to the wavelength of light Hue is the name of a pure color found in the light spectrum (prism or rainbow). Primary, secondary and tertiary colors form the “chief” colors of the spectrum. A Hue is an element of the color wheel. Neutrals are not hues nor are they found in the color spectrum. e.g. brown, black, gray, white. e.g. examples of other colors that are not hues, olive, mauve, rust, beige
Illustration- an image used primarily to illuminate, convey information about, or draw attention to a subject/trademark. The key distinction between illustration and fine art is the manner in which it is used.
Impressionism- a late nineteenth-century (1870) movement originating in France. The main concern of the Impressionists was the study and representation of the fleeting effects of light. Their paintings are characterized by broken brushwork, soft forms, pastel colors saturated by light. Major artists of this style: Claude Monet (mo nay), Edouard Manet (Aid wahr Mah nay), Edgar Degas (D’ gah), Auguste Renoir (Ah goost’ Ren wahr), Camille Pissarro.
Intensity- the degree of purity, saturation or strength of a color. The closer a color is to its pure state, the higher its intensity. A red hue straight from a tube is intense and in a pure state. If black, green or brown is added to red, the purity is changed, and it looses intensity (muddy and darker). When linseed oil, white or more water is added to red, its saturation has been change, creating a pink color.
Kiln- a large stove or oven in which pottery is fired.
Learning Maps- an assessment tool, designed to measure learning in the State Art Core curriculum.
Line- line is a major element of art. It is the mark made by a dot moving across a surface or a stroke between two points. Line is characterized by length and direction. Line quality may be widely varied and is responsive to the tool used to make it, the physical gesture with which it is drawn, its direction and spacing. Line may be thick or thin, solid or broken, soft or hard, curved or straight, smooth or bumpy.
Line is used to define the outline of objects, to make shapes, texture, depth and value (cross hatching).
Line design- repeating line patterns in creating geometric or organic type designs.
Linear perspective- a term which describes those methods of creating an illusion of depth, first applied in the Renaissance, which rely on the principle that parallel lines receding into space and appear to converge a vanishing point.
Mass- the effect of bulk, density and weight of matter in space. Creating the illusion of mass/form on a two-dimensional surface by using shading and perspective techniques.
Meanders- wandering zigzagging organic formations created by wind and water. e.g. ripples found on sand or water and the twisting rivers seen from above.
Medium- the specific material (watercolor, graphite) or technique used in the making of art.
Monochromatic- a color scheme using only one hue. Different variations and values of the one hue are achieved by adding tints(white), tone(gray) and shades(black) to the selected hue. Variety may be introduced only by a change in value or intensity. A monochromatic image is very moody.
Mosaic- patterns of pictures made by embedding small pieces of stone or glass in cement.
Mural- a large painting or drawing created on or mounted flush with an interior or exterior wall. A mural is often integrated into the architectural structure. Because of their size and ability to address a large audience, murals have often been vehicles for the expression of political, social, and cultural beliefs.
Natural Progression Pattern (NPP)- information and skill enhancement structured around a naturally occurring process involving sequential development from simple art elements to final product. The visual art teacher’s guides “colored” columns are organized to the Natural Progression Pattern’s language and instruction.
1. Identify/Experience (define, list, matches, names, reproduces, selects, starts to use)
2. Explore/Contextualize (discovers, investigates, plays, interprets, forms ideas and extends)
3. Build Skills/Practice (applies, constructs, demonstrates, evaluates and practices)
4. Analyze/Integrate (compares, contrasts, categorizes, modifies and incorporates)
5. Research/Create (study, explore, seek, examine, imagine and produce)
6. Refine/Master/Contribute (show skill criterion mastery for grade level, give opinions, support others, critique, evaluated, state preferences, exhibit, express aesthetic value)

Negative shape- a shape created in the background of an image by the contours of the positive shapes (objects) and the edge of the format.
Neutrals- a color (not a hue) of low intensity. Black, whites grays and dull gray-browns are neutrals and are not found in the light (color) spectrum.
Oil paint- paint that uses linseed oil as a binder for the pigment. Two advantages to working with oil paint are the ability to easily correct (paint over) mistakes and the color does not change during the drying process.
One-point perspective- a system of linear perspective in which rectangular solids are oriented frontally or facing forward (perpendicular) to the picture plane. One vanishing point is place on the horizon line for the corner points (edges) have lines of projection recede towards and converge at the vanishing point.
Op Art- short for “optical” art. A movement during the mid-1960s in which Op artists use line and color optical illusions to trick the viewer into believing that a flat painting surface is vibrating, warping, “fluxing” or had unusual depth. Among the major Op painters are Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely (Vazar ELL ee)
Organic shapes- are shapes found in nature. They are irregular, flowing, and have symmetry imperfections (not perfectly straight or round). There are 8 basic organic shapes: Spirals (spiral fern, whirlpools, and nautilus shells)… Drops (flower peddles, southern Utah rock formations, bud bodies, icicles)… Meanders (rivers seen from above, sand and water ripples, snakes)…Branching (leaf veins, trees, elk antlers, lightening)… Starburst (cactus spines, kiwi seeds, inside flowers, sea urchins)… Amoeba (fungus found on trees, coral, water puddles, and clouds)…Helicoids (grape vines, pig tails, tornados)… Hexagons (although one might consider this a geometric shape, in nature hexagons have imperfections and are not symmetrical) (honeycomb, bubbles squished together, corn on the cob, crystals)
Overlapping- overlapping occurs when one object or shape in an image passes in front of another interrupting its contour. Overlapping is one of the most basic means of creating an illusion of space.
Palette- a thin board with a thumb hole at one end upon which an artist lays and mixes his/her colors. A palette (Pal it) means the colors, kind of colors or color scheme typically used by an artist.
PD- (acronym) for Professional Development
Pigment- the material which provides color in media. Pigments are chemical materials ground into fine powers. Pigments are suspended or mixed in “binders” like linseed oil, wax, gum arabic, glycerin, egg yolk or honey.
PLC- (acronym ) for Professional Learning Communities that foster collaborative learning among colleagues and reduces the isolation of teachers.
Pointillism- term used to describe a technique of intermingling small dabs or dots of color next to each other to optically mix by the viewer being at a distance from the canvas to sufficiently allow the individual dots of color to blur and blend. Major artist of this technique is George Seurat.
Pop Art- a term used during the 1960s to describe an American artists that embraced images from the mass media and adopted techniques used by commercial artist, including the bold graphics of billboard illustrations and the flat, linear, impersonal line of comic strips. Pop Art is characterized by a sense of humor in elevating mundane objects to the status of high art. Major artist of this period: Andy Warhol (war-hole), Roy Lichtenstein, and Claes Oldenburg
POPS- (acronym) for Professional Outreach Program in the Schools (includes Ballet West, Utah Opera, Utah Symphony, (RDT) Repertory Dance Theatre, (RD) Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, Shakespearean Festival, Spyhop, UMFA)
Positive shapes- are the shapes of the objects or figures. Positive shapes are those shapes actively produced by the artist, where negative (background) shapes are created by the space around, in and between the objects.
Post-Impressionism- a term coined in 1910 to describe the stylistic tendencies of those artists who took the heightened color of the Impressionist and developed a more rigidly structured compositions and systematic brushwork. Major artists of this period: Paul Gauguin (Go gan), Vincent van Gogh (go), and Paul Cezanne (Say zan)
Pottery- Objects, usually vessels, made of clay and hardened by firing.
Primary colors (Hues)- a hue which cannot be created by mixing other colors. The primary colors (Red, Yellow and Blue) are essential in making all other colors. When the primary colors of light are mixed they create white light.
Proportion- the relationship on scale between one element and another, or between a whole and one of its parts. Proportion refers not to absolute size or amount, but to the comparison of dimensions. Objective drawing emphasizes correct proportion and the relationships between the parts of the object. Intentional violation of actual proportion is often employed by artists for expressive reasons.
Radial balance- a symmetrically balanced design with images radiating from a central point.
Realism- a type of representational art in which the artist depicts as closely as possible what the eye sees. Scenes of commonplace activities were offered without the idealization of mainstream art. In the mid-nineteenth century Gustave Courbet(gew Stahv, Coor bay), Thomas Eakins(Eek’ ins) and Edouard Manet(Mah nay), Grant Wood and John Stuart Curry insisted on a straightforward representation of the visible world. Major modernartist of this style: Chuck close, and Bev Doolittle, Duane Hanson.
Repetition- multiple occurrences. Repetition is a fundamental unifying factor in works of art. There are four types of repetition rhythms:
1. Repetitive (regular) repetition: e.g. (AAAA)
2. Alternating repetition: e.g. (AbAb)
3. Progressive repetition: e.g. (Abc Abcd Abcde)
4. Flowing repetition: e.g. (ABCabcdeFABCabcdefABCdefghi)
Rhythm- in art, rhythm results from the perception of intervals between repeated elements (line, shapes, texture, color) or gestures in an image. Rythms may be described as regular, alternating, flowing and progressive.
Saturation- the purity of a hue, the higher the saturation, the purer the hue. Direct color application from the tube has a high saturation, where adding water or oil dilutes it. e.g. Red changing to pink by adding water.
Scale- the size or apparent size of an object seen in relation to other objects, people or its environment.
Shade- a hue (pure color) with black added to it.
Shape- is created by a line that encloses an area. Shapes are two-dimensional having height and width but no depth. Artist use line, changes in value or color to define an area and make shapes.
Sphere- a three-dimensional circle. A ball is a sphere.
Surrealism- a art movement develop during 1920s and remained strong until the 1940s. Surrealists achieve bizarre effects either by taking real objects and placing them in unrelated situations or by distorting a real object until it becomes extremely different from its normal appearance. Images are rendered in clear illusionism ( making the impossible seem real) and meant to have symbolic meaning drawn from the artist’s dreams, hallucinations, and nightmares. Violence, repressed sexual yearnings frequently served as subjects for these artists. Major artist of the method: Salvador Dali (Dah’ lee), Rene Magritte (Mah greet), Note: safe “G” rated surrealistic images: Magritte’s “The Human Condition”, “Personal Values” and “The Son of Man” Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” (melting watches), “The Sacrament of the Last Supper,” “Animated Still Life”
Symmetrical balance- the visual impression that both sides of a project or image is visually equal.
Tertiary color- a hue which is the result of mixing a primary with its adjacent secondary color; it is usually placed between a primary and secondary on the color wheel. e.g. Tertiary colors are: yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet, red-orange, and yellow-orange.
Tessellations- tessellation are created when a shape is repeated over and over again covering a plane without any gaps or overlaps.
Texture- defines the surface characteristic of an object. Texture may be physical/tactile (touchable)
or implied/visual using line, dot, shapes and value repeated in a regular or irregular fashion to mimic the surface qualities of objects. Visual textures result from the creation of a field of marks that duplicate those created in real life. Texture is affected by distance. The detail and size of the marks making textures diminish in the background.
Tint- a hue (pure color) with white added to it. e.g. red + white = pink
Tone- a hue with gray added to it.
Triadic color scheme- a color harmony based on the inter-relationship of three hues equidistant (equally spaced) from on another on the color wheel forming a triangle. There are two main triadic color schemes…the primary triad and the secondary triad.

Trompe l’oeil (trohmp loy) - French for “trick the eye.” A form of illusionist painting or drawing that attempts to fool the viewer into believing that the rendered image is truly there rather than merely represented.

Worm’s-eye view- a view in which the scene depicted is shown from an exaggeratedly low vantage point.