Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vocabulary for Visual Arts

Abstract art.

A style of art that achieves its effect by simplifying or altering the visual elements (e.g., line, shape, colour), rather than by representing recognizable things or people.


The process of making art work abstract.


A type of balance in which the parts are unequal in size, shape, etc., but still produce a balanced visual effect.


The part of a composition that appears to be farthest from the viewer.


A principle of design. A feeling of balance results when the elements of design are arranged to create the impression of equality in weight or importance.


A form of art in which a variety of materials (e.g., photographs, fabric, objects) are glued to a flat background.


An element of design. Colour is the particular hue that is seen when light is reflected off an object.

Colour wheel.

A tool for organizing colours and representing relationships among colours.

Complementary colours.

Colours that are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel (e.g., red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple).


The organization of the elements of design in an art work, following certain principles of design.

Contemporary art.

Art created in the present day.

Cool colours.

Colours that suggest coolness (e.g., blue, green, purple).


A term used to describe an object's extent in space. A two-dimensional object is one that has length and width. A three-dimensional object is one that has length, width, and depth.

Elements of design.

Fundamental components of art works. They include colour, line, texture, shape, form, and space.


A principle of design. Emphasis may be defined as the special attention or importance given to one part or element in an art work. Emphasis can be achieved through placement, contrast, size, etc.

Focal point.

The element or object in a work of art on which the viewer's attention is focused.


The area of a picture that appears closest to the viewer. It is often at the bottom of the picture plane.


An element of design. Form is sculptural or three-dimensional shape (e.g., cube, pyramid, sphere).

Geometric shape.

A shape that is based on geometric figures (e.g., square, circle, triangle).

Horizon line.

The "line" at which the sky and the earth appear to meet.


The common name of a colour (e.g., red).

Impressionistic art.

Art in the Impressionist style, a characteristic of which is the depiction of the effect of light on objects.


An element of design. A line may be defined as the visual path left by a moving point.


A symbolic form that identifies organizations, products, etc.


Any material used by an artist to produce a work of art.

Middle ground.

Area in the picture between the foreground and the background.

Mixed media.

Any art work in which more than one medium is used.

Monochromatic colour scheme.

A colour scheme in which only one hue is used, along with its tints (i.e., hue plus white) and shades (i.e., hue plus black).


A principle of design. Movement is the way in which the elements of design are organized so that the viewer's eye is led through the work of art in a systematic way.

Negative space.

The void or open areas around an object or form.


A technique for creating the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface. There are three types of perspective: - linear perspective, which involves the use of parallel lines that appear to converge as their distance from the viewer increases; - diminishing perspective, in which objects appear to diminish in size as their distance from the viewer increases; - atmospheric perspective, which is produced by the gradual lessening of the intensity of colour and the reducing of detail as the distance between an object and the viewer increases.

Organic shapes or forms.

Shapes or forms that are non-geometric or free- flowing, and that are based on natural objects.

Positive space.

Shapes or forms on a two-dimensional surface.

Principles of design.

Principles or guidelines used by artists to organize the visual elements of an art work. They include balance, emphasis, rhythm, unity, movement, variety, harmony, and proportion.

Primary colours.

Colours that cannot be created by mixing other colours, but that can be mixed to produce all the other colours (red, yellow, and blue).


A principle of design. Proportion may be described as the relationship between objects with respect to size, number, etc.

Representational art.

Art whose subject matter contains recognizable images from real life.


A principle of design. Rhythm involves the repetition of elements to create the illusion of movement.


A work of art in three dimensions (i.e., with height, width, and depth) that is meant to be seen from all sides.

Secondary colours.

Colours that are created by mixing the primary colours (orange, green, and purple).


A colour with a certain amount of black added.


An element of design. Space is the area around, within, or between images or elements. Space can be created on a two-dimensional surface by using such techniques as overlapping of objects, varying of object size or placement, varying of colour intensity and value, and use of detail and diagonal lines.


The artist's way of representing something. The choice and use of materials, methods of work, subject matter, etc., reflect the style of an individual, a culture, or a historical period.


A type of balance in which parts or elements are equal in size or shape, or in some other attribute.


A method or procedure used in producing a work of art.


An element of design. Texture is the feel or appearance of an object or material.


A colour with a certain amount of white added.


A principle of design. Unity is the coherence of a work that gives the viewer the feeling that all the parts of the piece are working together.


The lightness or darkness of a colour.

Vanishing point.

In perspective drawing, the point on the horizon line where the converging parallel lines appear to meet.


A principle of design. Achieving variety involves the use of differences or contrasts.

Warm colours.

Colours that suggest warmth (e.g., red, yellow, orange).



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