Now you, too, can sound like an artist! Here’s my glossary of art terms—highly subjective and relevant mainly to painters.
|Fallow field, Carol L. Douglas, 12X16, $1449 framed.|
Abstraction: non-representational art in which meaning is expressed through a formal pattern of shapes, lines and colors. Sometimes called “non-objective.” There are degrees of abstraction.
Alkyd: an oil-based medium which uses a polyester resin to speed drying.
Alla prima: a painting finished wet-on-wet, in just one or a few sessions.
Analogous color: those next to each other on the color wheel.
Atmospheric (or aerial) perspective: creating a sense of distance using color.
|Autumn Farm, Carol L. Douglas, 12X16, $1449 framed.|
Binder: the material that holds pigment together in paint.
Chroma: The purity or intensity of a color. Also called “saturation.”
Color: an object’s pigmentation, comprised of three elements: value, hue and chroma.
Color temperature: a convention where we agree that greens, blues and violets are cool and that reds, yellows and oranges are warm. Entirely subjective but it works.
Color wheel: a circular grid that shows the relationships between hues in color theory.
Complements: hues directly opposite each other on the color wheel.
|Three Chimneys, Carol L. Douglas, 12X16, $1159.|
Composition: the fundamental design of the painting, created by line, color and shape. See also design.
Contour: a line that encircles a space, separating it from what’s next to it.
Direct painting: laying down colors opaquely on the canvas, with the same hues and tones as are intended in the final work.
Focal point: the object(s) given the greatest dominance in a painting. There can be more than one.
Glaze: a transparent layer of paint applied over a dry layer.
Grisaille: a painting in monochrome, in my classes used as an underpainting.
- The substance applied to a drawing support in preparation for painting, e.g. gesso;
- An initial coating in printmaking (doesn’t concern us here);
- The background in a painting, as distinguished from the figure.
- The position on the color wheel, i.e. red, orange, blue, yellow—that which we generally refer to as ‘color’; sometimes these are referred to as ‘color families’;
- A pure pigment; e.g., not a tint or shade;
- An analogous combination of pigments that mimics a single-pigment paint color that may be obsolete or expensive.
Impasto: thick paint.
Imprimatura: an initial stain of color painted on a ground that creates a transparent, toned surface.
|On Fernald’s Neck, Carol L. Douglas, 9X12, $696.|
Indirect painting: applying layers of glaze onto a drawing or underpainting to subtly alter colors and tones. See Rembrandt as an example.
Linear perspective: giving a sense of three-dimensional depth on a two-dimensional surface through drawing.
Lost-and-found edge: a line that goes from hard to soft (or invisible) in different passages in a painting.
- The material with which an artist is working;
- The binder in a pigment or its equivalent, which is used in the top layers of painting to provide viscosity and prevent oxidation.
Motive force: the energy within a painting.
Motive line: the line that carries the motive force.
Negative space: the space around an object.
Neutral: having low saturation or chroma.
Pigment: the material in paint that gives it its color.
Plein air: painted outside while looking at the subject in question.
Primary colors: Colors that can’t be mixed; e.g., red, blue and yellow.
Proportion: the size relationship between things.
Realism: art which attempts to represent things as they’re seen. This is, of course, a moving target.
Secondary colors: colors that are made from mixtures of two primary colors; e.g., orange, green and violet. A secondary color is always opposite a primary color on the color wheel.
Sketch: a preliminary drawing for a work of art.
Still life: any combination of inanimate objects that form the subject of a painting, in contrast to a landscape painting or figure painting.
Solid media: media designed to create an opaque surface, e.g., oil paints, pastels, gouache, and acrylics.
Tertiary color: the six colors located between the primary and secondary colors on the color wheel.
Texture: real or illusory roughness or smoothness on the surface of your work.
Toning: painting a light, warm transparent stain onto a primed canvas, see also imprimatura.
Transparent media: media designed to work transparently, e.g., watercolor and acrylics.
Underpainting: the first layer of oil painting, usually a value statement in monochrome.
Value: How light or dark the color is.
Value sketch: a drawing designed to create a value map for the finished painting.
Wash: a broad thin layer of diluted paint; primarily a watercolor technique.