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Glossary of Art Terms
Welcome to USBlackart.Com Glossary of common Art Terms. Here we hope to give you a brief definition of various art terms which might be unfamiliar to you. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas please e-mail us.
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Calendar Painting: - painting having pleasing subject matter, but rarely having lasting value as art. Return to top
Collotype: - An early photographic process, it was patented in 1840 by William H.F. Talbot (English, 1800-1877), the first process to employ a negative to produce a positive image on paper, known as Talbot. Return to top
Calligraphy: - Elegant writing as a decorative art.
Camaïeu :- A painting technique, in which the painter creates a monochromatic image by employing two or three tints of a single pigment without regard to local or realistic color. Or, a woodblock print that imitates highlighted drawing on tinted paper. Return to top
Cameo - A small-scale low relief in a stratified or banded material, usually a gemstone such as onyx or sardonyx, Return to top
Canvas:- Closely woven cloth used as a support for paintings. Canvas - Commonly used as a support for oil or acrylic painting, canvas is a heavy woven fabric made of flax or cotton. Its surface is typically prepared for painting by priming with a ground. Linen-- made of flax-- is the standard canvas, very strong, sold by the roll and by smaller pieces. A less expensive alternative to linen is heavy cotton duck, though it is less acceptable (some find it unacceptable), cotton being less durable, because it's more prone to absorb dampness, and it's less receptive to grounds and size. For use in painting, a piece of canvas is stretched tightly by stapling or tacking it to a stretcher frame. A painting done on canvas and then cemented to a wall or panel is called marouflage. Canvas board is an inexpensive, commercially prepared cotton canvas which has been primed and glued to cardboard, suitable for students and amateurs who enjoy its portability. Return to top
Canvas Art: - art, usually oil and acrylic works, painted by an artist on canvas.
Caricature: Art that exaggerates the qualities, defects, or peculiarities of a person or idea, usually in a humorous manner. Traditionally used in editorial cartooning Return to top
Carpenter's Pencil: A graphite pencil that features a flat ovoid wooden grip surrounding a wide graphite core capable of creating chiseled thick and thin pencil lines. Used for sketching and drawing. Must be hand sharpened and shaped. Return to top
Cartoon: - Other than what we watch on TV it is a planning device in mural painting, often a full-scale line drawing of the design, without color and tone. Also, In painting, a full-size preliminary drawing from which a painting is made. Before the modern era, cartoons were customarily worked out in complete detail; the design was then transferred to the working surface by coating the back with chalk and going over the lines with a stylus, or by pricking the lines and "pouncing" charcoal dust through the resulting holes. Return to top
Cast Shadow: The dark area that results when the source of light has been intercepted by an object. Return to top
Casein:- A natural protein obtained from cow's milk. That produces a flat, water-resistant film. A water-soluble protein found in milk that is used as a binder for creating casein paints. Casein is sometimes used as an under painting for oil or acrylic painting. Return to top Return to top
Charcoal: -Used for drawing and for preliminary sketching on primed canvas for oil painting. Natural vine charcoal is very soft and can be easily rubbed off with a soft rag. Natural willow charcoal is harder than vine charcoal and gives a darker line. Compressed charcoal is available in several forms. You can choose from stick form, wood-encased pencils, and peel-as-you-go paper wrapped pencils. These charcoal formulations range from extra soft to hard. Powdered charcoal is used to transfer drawings to surfaces by dusting through "pounced" lines on the drawing. Return to top
Chiaroscuro: - The rendering of light and shade in painting; the subtle gradations and marked variations of light and shade for dramatic effect. The style of painting, light and deep shadows. Return to top
Chroma:- The purity or degree of saturation of a color; relative absence of white or gray in a color. Of the two variables of color, the apparent amount of light reflected and the apparent purity, value and tonality represent lightness; chroma, saturation, and intensity represent purity. Return to top
Cold Pressed: -Watercolor paper that is Cold Pressed (CP) or 'Not' Pressed (NP) has mildly rough texture. It takes color smoothly but the tooth allows for slight irregularities and graining in washes. Return to top

Collage: A composition made of cut and pasted pieces of different materials, sometimes photographs or drawn images are used. Return to top
Complementary colors: Colors at opposite points on the color wheel, for example, red and green, yellow and purple. (See Primary and Secondary Colors) Return to top
Composition:- The arrangement of elements of form and color within an artwork. Return to top
Composition:- The arrangement of elements of form and color within an artwork. Return to top
Camera Obscura:- An ancestor of the modern camera in which a tiny pinhole, acting as a lens, projects an image on a screen, the wall of a room, or the ground-glass wall of a box; used by artists in the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries as an aid in drawing from nature. Return to top
Contemporary Art:- the art of the late 20th and early 21st century Return to top
Concept Art: -art in which emphasis is placed on the means and processes of producing art objects rather than on the objects themselves and in which the various tools and techniques, as photographs, photocopies, video records, and the construction of environments and earthworks, are used to convey the message to the spectator. Also called conceptual art Return to top
Caravaggisti - Artists influenced by "Caravaggio", Michelangelo Merisi (Italian, Lombard, 1571/73-1610) -- his dramatically contrasting dark-light effects; painters of "night pictures" in the "dark manner", a manner known as tenebrism (or by the equivalent Italian term tenebroso). (pr. kah'rah-vah-jee"stee) Examples of works by Caravaggio and his followers Return to top
Cartoon- In painting, a full-size preliminary drawing from which a painting is made. Before the modern era, cartoons were customarily worked out in complete detail; the design was then transferred to the working surface by coating the back with chalk and going over the lines with a stylus, or by pricking the lines and "pouncing" charcoal dust through the resulting holes. Return to top
Casein Paint - A paint much like opaque watercolor in which casein-- a milk glue-- is its binder. Casein is a white, tasteless, odorless protein precipitated from milk by rennin. Casein is the basis of cheese, and is used to make plastics, adhesives, and foods, as well as paint. Casein paint can be used on paper or board for light impasto, for under painting, wall decoration, etc. Casein paint is too inflexible for use on canvas. It dries quickly with a waterproof surface, and may be varnished. Return to top
Charcoal - Compressed burned wood used for drawing. Examples of charcoal drawings Return to top:
Chiaroscuro :- The treatment and use of light and dark, especially the gradations of light that produce the effect of modeling. Of the two variables of color, the apparent amount of light reflected and the apparent purity, value and tonality represent lightness; chroma, saturation, and intensity represent purity. Return to top
chromolithography - A lithographic process using several stones or plates--one for each color, printed in register. The result is color prints, to be distinguished from colored prints that have the color hand-applied after printing. Return to top
Commission:- To Order a special piece of art work to an Artist. Return to top
Christian Art:: - is art that spans many segments of Christianity. Per each religious sect, art mediums, style, and representations change; however, the unifying theme is ultimately the representation of the life and times of Jesus Christ and in some cases the Old Testament Return to top
Crosshatching: - More than one set of close parallel lines that crisscross each other at angles, to model and indicate tone. Return to topCross-hatching: Using fine overlapping planes of parallel lines of color or pencil to achieve texture or shading. Used in traditional egg tempera technique; drawing in pencil, chalk, pen and ink; and engraving, etching, and other printmaking techniques Return to top
Chroma:- The relative intensity or purity of a hue when compared to grayness or lack of hue. Return to top
Cinquecento - The 1500s- The sixteenth century. Used to refer to Italian art of that century. The time of the High Renaissance and Mannerism. (Italian for 500) Return to top
Cissing : - In painting, an application of color that would have resulted in a flat area of paint (covering with an even thickness), but resulted instead in running streaks and bare spots, usually because of poor wetting of the surface. Return to top

Classical: - This term has come to have several meaning. Originally it was used when referring to the art of ancient Greece produced during the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. Later it included all works of art created from 600 B.C. until the fall of Rome. Still later it was used to describe any art form thought to be inspired or influenced by ancient Greek or Roman examples. Today, classical is used to describe perfection of form, with an emphasis on harmony and unity and restraint of emotion. Usually, it is applied to works that are representational but idealistic. Classic is used to describe anything which is the epitome of its type. Return to top
Cliché - An idea or expression that has lost its originality or its force, and become trite because of its overuse. A Stereotype, most clichés become popular over the years because they express a thought aptly and concisely, when, if used too often, their aptness can be overwhelmed by their dullness. Return to top
Cockling:- Wrinkling or puckering in paper supports, caused by applying washes onto a flimsy or improperly stretched surface. Return to top

Collage:- A technique of picture making in which the artist uses materials other than the traditional paint, such as cut paper, wood, sand, and so on. Also A composition made by combining on a flat surface various materials such as newspaper, wallpaper, printed text and illustrations, photographs, and cloth. Return to top
Codex - A manuscript book, its text handwritten on a number of separate pages. It cannot be mechanically printed nor can it be written on a rolled scroll. The earliest known codices, date from the fourth century A.D. In Mesoamerican, a painted and inscribed book on long sheets of fig-bark paper or deerskin coated with plaster and folded into accordion-like pleats. Return to top
Cognitive: - Having to do with the mental process or faculty of knowing, including such things as analysis, application, awareness, comprehension, perception, reasoning, synthesis, evaluation, and meta-cognition. Return to top
Collodion Wet Plate - A photographic process invented in 1851, involving the use of a thick glass plate on which to create a negative, exposing it in the camera with its emulsion still wet. wet plate and wet, colluding process. It was the standard photographic process for a time, replaced in the 1870s by the gelatin dry plate process. Return to top
Coarse :- Of low, common, or inferior quality. Lacking in refinement and decency.. “Indecent”. Return to top
Color-Field Painters: - A term used to describe the work Mark Rothko and other painters of Abstract Expressionist or New York School who explored the optical and mystical effects of fields of color. Return to top
Color Wheel :- A radial diagram of colors in which primary and secondary, and sometimes intermediate colors are displayed as an aid to color identification, choosing, and mixing. A color wheel with primary (red, yellow, blue) and secondary (orange, green, and violet) colors can be seen to the left below. The complement to each color is the color opposite that color on the color wheel. Return to top
Composition:- The arrangement of elements by an artist in a painting or drawing. Return to top
Combine - Any painted assemblage that is neither simple painting nor sculpture, but rather a hybrid painting-sculpture. The term combine was coined by Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925-). Return to top
Complementary After-Image - The image (in a complementary color) that is retained briefly by the eye after the stimulus is removed. Return to top
Complementary Colors:- Those pairs of colors, such as, red and green that together embrace the entire spectrum. The complement of one of the three primary colors is a mixture of the other two. In pigments, they produce a neutral gray when mixed in the right proportions. Return to top
Conceptual - In general, referring to concept or conception. In reference to art, imagery departs from perceptual accuracy to present a mental formulation of the object, rather than its appearance alone. As examples, the rigidly formal art of ancient Egypt may be viewed as conceptual, whereas the Realism of Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877) is perceptual. Nevertheless, it should not be thought that perceptual art is really without ideas (or ideology), however. Return to top
Conceptual Art - Art that is intended to convey an idea or a concept to the perceiver, rejecting the creation or appreciation of a traditional art object such as a painting or a sculpture as a precious commodity. Conceptual Art emerged as a movement in the 1960s. The expression "concept art" was used in 1961 by Henry Flynt in a Fluxus publication, but it was to take on a different meaning when it was used by Joseph Kosuth (American, 1945-) and the Art & Language group (Terry Atkinson, David Bainbridge, Michael Baldwin, Harold Hurrell, Ian Burn, Mel Ramsden, Philip Pilkington, and David Rushton) in England. For the Art & Language group, concept art resulted in an art object being replaced by an analysis of it. Exponents of Conceptual Art said that artistic production should serve artistic knowledge and that the art object is not an end in itself. The first exhibition specifically devoted to Conceptual Art took place in 1970 at the New York Cultural Center under the title "Conceptual Art and Conceptual Aspects." Because Conceptual Art is so dependent upon the text (or discourse) surrounding it, it is strongly related to numerous other movements of the last century. Return to top
Concretion: - In the work of Surrealist Jean (or Hans) Arp (French, 1887-1966), sculptural form characterized by twisting and growing effects. Return to top
Cone - A three-dimensional shape having a surface formed by a straight line (the side length) passing through a fixed point and moving along a circular curve. It usually refers to a right circular cone-- a cone in which the side length remains a constant length. The volume of a right circular cone equals one-third of pi (3.14159) times radius squared times height. Its surface area (including circular side) equals pi times radius times the sum of radius plus side length. Lateral area (not including circular side) equals pi times radius times side length. Return to top
Configuration: - Arrangement of parts or elements of a form, or of a figure, especially the pattern formed by the arrangement of parts within a form. Return to top
Connoisseur:- An expert on works of art and the individual styles of artists. Return to top
Consistency: - Agreement among things or parts. Compatibility, and similarity of certain, aspects. Degrees, of texture, density, firmness or viscosity. Return to top
Conté Crayon: - The common and brand name for a drawing medium comparable to colored chalk. It is available in several colors. Most common are red-brown (called sanguine, French for blood), black, grays, and white. Return to top
Contextually: - The causal relationships among artists, art work, and the society or culture that conditions them. Return to top
Continuous Narration: - The convention of the same figure is appearing more than once in the same space at different stages in a story. Return to top
Contour Drawing:- Drawing in which contour lines are used to represent subject matter. A contour drawing has a three-dimensional quality, indicating the thickness as well as height and width of the forms it describes. Making a contour drawing with a continuous line is a classic drawing exercise (sometimes modified as a "blind continuous-line contour"): with eyes fixed on the contours of the model or object, drawing the contour very slowly with a steady, continuous line, without lifting the drawing tool or looking at the paper. There are other variations on this method. Return to top
Contraposition :- The disposition of the human figure in which one part is turned in opposition to another part, creating a counter positioning of the body about its central axis. Sometimes called weight shift, the weight of the body tends to be thrown to one foot, creating tension on one side and relaxation on the other. Return to top
Contrast :- A large difference between two things; for example, hot and cold, green and red, light and shadow. Closely related to emphasis, a principle of design, this term refers to a way of combining elements of art to stress the differences between those elements. Thus, a painting might have bright colors which contrast with dull colors, or angular shapes which contrast with rounded shapes. Used in this way, contrast can excite, emphasize and direct attention to points of interest. Return to top
Conversation Piece: - A portrait of a group of earnest people. Also a Object or a work of art that is sure to attract attention and have the visitors and onlookers converse about the piece. Return to top

Cool Colors: - Color often associated with water, sky, spring, and foliage, and suggesting coolness. These are the colors which contain blue and green and appear on one side of the color wheel opposite the warm colors. Psychologically, cool colors are said to be calming, emphatic, and depressive; optically, they generally appear to recede. Return to top
Cube:- A polyhedron having six square faces. It is also one type of hexahedron, as well as one type of prismatic. Calculate its volume by multiplying the length of one edge by itself, then again by that product. A quantity is cube when it is multiplied twice by the same quantity. Return to top
Cultural Constructs:- In the reconstruction of the context of a work of art, experts consult the evidence of religion, science, technology, language, philosophy, and the arts to discover the thought patterns common to artists and their audiences. Return to top

Culture:- The collective characteristics by which a community identifies itself by which it expects to be recognized and respected. Return to top

Curvilinear: - Formed or characterized by curving lines. Elements of late Gothic and Art Nouveau ornament are examples of curvilinear treatment Nouveau ornament are examples of curvilinear treatment of form. Return to top
Co-Polymers:-A polymer in which the molecule is of more than one type of structural unit. Return to top
Copal :- A hard resin used in making varnishes and painting mediums. Return to top