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
Abstraction. The process
of making art work abstract.
Asymmetry. A type of
balance in which the parts are unequal in size, shape, etc., but still produce
a balanced visual effect.
Background. The part of
a composition that appears to be farthest from the viewer.
Balance. 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.
Collage. A form of art in which a variety of
materials (e.g., photographs, fabric, objects) are glued to a flat background.
Colour. 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).
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).
Dimension. 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,
Elements of design. Fundamental
components of art works. They include colour, line, texture, shape, form, and
Emphasis. 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,
Focal point. The element
or object in a work of art on which the viewer's attention is focused.
Foreground. The area of
a picture that appears closest to the viewer. It is often at the bottom of the
Form. 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.
Hue. 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.
Line. An element of design. A line may be
defined as the visual path left by a moving point.
Logo. A symbolic form that identifies
organizations, products, etc.
Medium. 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).
Movement. 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.
Perspective. 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
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
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).
Proportion. 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.
Rhythm. A principle of design. Rhythm
involves the repetition of elements to create the illusion of movement.
Sculpture. 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).
Shade. A colour with a certain amount of black added.
Space. 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.
Style. 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.
Symmetry. A type of balance in which parts or
elements are equal in size or shape, or in some other attribute.
Technique. A method or
procedure used in producing a work of art.
Texture. An element of design. Texture is
the feel or appearance of an object or material.
Tint. A colour with a certain amount of
Unity. 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.
Value. The lightness or darkness of a
Vanishing point. In
perspective drawing, the point on the horizon line where the converging
parallel lines appear to meet.
Variety. 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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