A Glossary of Fine Art

Abstract Art:

Art created from a realistic situation but represented unrealistically. Abstract art images are "abstracted" from real life images


Acrylic paint:

A plastic, water-based pigment used for painting.



Originally the study of beautiful things. But currently aesthetics refers to the study or understanding of anything that is visually pleasing or "works" within the boundaries of the

principles of art.



Synthetic resin used in paints and mediums. It works as a binder that encapsulates the pigment and speeds the drying time.

Analogous colors:

Colors next to each other on the color wheel.


Applied art:

A functional object or arrangement whereby the principles of art are applied. Refers to such things as pottery, interior decorating, architecture, furniture, etc



Refers to materials that meet certain criteria for permanence such as lignin-free, pH neutral, alkaline-buffered, stable in light, etc.


A structural support for an object. Particularly used in sculpture to build upon.



The use of found objects or three-dimensional objects to create a work of art.



The art principle which refers to the arrangement of elements in an art work. Balance can be

either formal symmetrical, informal asymmetrical or radial.



In artwork, the effect of a dark color seeping through a lighter color to the surface.


Smoothing the edges of two colors together so that they have a smooth gradation where they meet.


The "glue" the holds pigment together and makes it stick to a surface.



Clay objects that have been fired one time. (unglazed)


Body Colour:

Opaque paint, such as gouache, which has the covering power to obliterate underlying color.

Brush drawing:

An image created with a paint brush, typically using India ink or watercolor, that has a linear quality rather than a painterly finish.


A sculpture representing the neck and head only of a person.



Literally means beautiful line. Typically refers to a type of writing that incorporates the use of a wide pen nib.



Coarse cloth or heavy fabric that must be stretched and primed to use for painting, particularly for oil paintings.



Clay objects that have been fired twice, the second time with a glaze.



Soft limestone, sometimes used as a drawing material or mixed to make pastels and other crayons.



A drawing material made from charred wood.



Italian word for "light-shade". The use and balance of light and shade in a painting, and in particular the use of strong contrast.



A natural, moist earth substance used in making bricks, tile, pottery and ceramic sculpture.



An arrangement of shapes adhered to a background.



A print made from a collage of assorted pasted materials such as papers, cardboards, string etc.



An element of art that refers to "hue".


Color wheel:

The organization of colors on a wheel. Used to help understand color schemes.


Complimentary colors:

Colors opposite each other on the color wheel. When to complimentary colors are mixed together you will get a neutral tone



The arrangement of the parts of a work of art.


Computer art:

Art made with the use of a computer program.


Conceptual art:

Art where the idea, rather than the actual object is the most significant feature. Particularly popular in the 1960's.



A resin from conifer trees, used in making oil mediums and varnishes.

Dead Colour:

A term for colors used in underpainting.

Deckle edge:

The ragged edge found on handmade papers.


The act of cutting out paper designs and applying them to a surface to make an all over collage.


From the Italian word meaning "drawing" which also implied planning and composing.


Designer Colours:

Best quality Gouache paints, often used in commercial art.


Liquids, such as turpentine, used to dilute oil paint, the diluent for waterbased media is water.




Painting, usually an altarpiece, made up of hinged panels.



Applied to paint, a smooth, homogeneous mixture of ingredients; the process of dispersal, in which pigment particles are evenly distributed throughout the vehicle.


A blend of glue, chalk and water-based paint, used mostly for murals and posters.


Representations on a flat surface usually made with pen, pencil, crayon, chalk or paint with an emphasis on line.



A material that accelerates or initiates the drying of an oil paint or oil by promoting oxidation.

Earth colors:

Pigments made using earth (dirt) that contain metal oxides mixed with a binder such as glue.


Egg tempera:

Paint made of powdered pigment and bound together with egg yolk or egg whites. The most prominent painting material used from the 12th century to the rise of oil painting.



A principle in art where important elements and ideas are emphasized via composition.



A liquid in which small droplets of one liquid are immiscible in, but thoroughly and evenly dispersed throughout, a second liquid. eg. Acrylic Emulsion


Literally, to burn in. A painting technique in which the binder is melted wax.


A process, used by printmakers, of incising or scratching lines into a wood block or metal plate from which a print was made.


Environmental art:

Art made on a grand scale, involving the creation of a man-made environment such as architecture, sculpture, light or landscape.



In reference to perspective, eye-level is the artists' view of where the perceived line or perspective came from.



The front or face of a building.



Artwork based on the human form.



A thin coating or layer of paint, ink, etc.

Fine art:

A term used to describe work that is without any particular function. Typically paintings, sculpture, drawings and prints.



The process of baking clay in a kiln or banked fire outside (such as raku firing). This process hardens the clay and makes it very permanent.



Varnish, usually of alcohol & shellac, sprayed or painted onto a surface to prevent smudging or smearing. Usually on a charcoal or chalk pastel work.


Folk art:

Art made by untrained practitioners. Typically lively, colorful artwork in a somewhat "naive" style.



A rule in perspective to create the illusion of coming forward or receding into space.



An element of art focused on all three dimensions (height, width and depth).


Fugitive colours:

Pigment or dye colors that fade when exposed to light.


A surface preparation or primer made of chalk or gypsum for tempura or oil paintings that is painted onto the picture surface.



Applying gold leaf to a painting or other surface.




A transparent or semitransparent coating of a color or stain used over oil paintings, plaster sculpture or ceramics.



A watercolor paint mixed with white pigments making it more opaque and giving it more weight and body.



Dried clay forms that have not been fired.



Coating material, usually white, applied to a support to make it ready for painting.

Gum Arabic:

A binder used in watercolors made from the gum of an acacia tree.


Horizon line:

The horizontal line that distinguishes the sky from the earth, or the ground from the wall. The eye-level of the artists view. Also, where the vanishing point lies in a perspective drawing.



The technical reference to color.



Absorbing or attracting moisture from the air.


An image that accompanies written text and aids in interpreting it.



A style of painting characterized by thick, juicy color application.

Impasto  Medium:

Impasto Medium is an oil painting medium of finely ground calcite, silica and bentonite in pale linseed oil. Use it to extend paint without altering the consistency, making oil colors 'short' and buttery for impastos.  This putty-like medium makes colors slightly transparent while allowing you to build impasted, thick applications of paint. When added to oil paint, Impasto Medium does not alter its color temperature. It can be thinned with solvent or oil. 


A movement in the 19th century which bridged the "realist" tradition with the modern movements of the 20th century. Focus for the impressionist was on light and atmosphere.



A thin, veil of paint, or paint-tinted size, applied to a ground to lessen the ground's absorbency or to tint the ground to a middle value.

India ink:

A waterproof ink made from lampblack.



The purity and brightness of a color. Also called saturation.


A large "oven" used for firing clay work.



The process of drawing out excess liquid through a porous substance.


Resistant to fading or other changes due to light.


An element of art used in drawing, painting and sculpture. A line is the path of a moving point.


Linear perspective:

Creating the illusion of depth on a picture plane with the use of lines and a vanishing point.


Local colour:

The actual color of an object or surface, unaffected by shadow coloring, light quality or other factors.

Manilla paper:

A general purpose drawing and coloring paper. Typically cream color.



French word for "small model". Used particularly by sculptors as a "sketch" of their work.



An artists finest work, or any particularly fine work.



Flat, nonglossy; having a dull surface appearance. Variant spelling - matt.



The liquid in which pigments are suspended. Also a material chosen by the artist for working. Plural is media.

Mixed media:

In drawing and painting this refers to the use of different media in the same picture.


Representation or making sculptural, three-dimensional forms, usually with clay or wax. Also, making two-dimensional surfaces look three-dimensional , by use of light and shade, color and mass.



Tints and shades of single hue or color.



Light and dark tones of a singular color.



Images created using small tesserae (tiles or glass) arranged and glued into a design or composition. Mosaics date back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, mostly used to decorate walls and floors.


A painting either on a wall or on a surface to be attached to a wall.



Newspaper stock used for sketching, preliminary drawings and printing.


Oil paint:

Paint made by mixing ground pigment with oil (usually linseed oil) as a binder.


Oil pastel:

Oil based crayons.



The surface used to dispense and mix paint on.


Paper Mache:

Art works made with newspaper strips that have been moistened with wallpaper paste or laundry starch.



Design, motif or symbol repeated over and over.





The illusion of a three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface through the use of vanishing point, converging lines and diminishing sizes of objects.



Using cut photographs to create a work of art.


Picture plane:

The surface of a painting as well as a mental construct through which all the pictorial elements are arranged.



Coloring material, which, when mixed with a binder forms a paint.



An image created with the use of small dots or points.



Painting or sculpture representing the likeness of a person.



Also known as paint pouring, flow art, liquid art.etc. Is a form of abstract art that uses acrylic paints with a runny (fluid) consistency. The acrylic paints react with each other when combined together to make interesting and visually organic motifs.

Primary colors:

The basic colors that can be used to mix other colors. The primary colors are red, yellow and




Coating material, usually white, applied to a support to prepare it for painting.


The process of making art from an incised surface that has been inked and pressed on an appropriate surface such as paper.



Polyvinyl acetate, a manmade resin used as a paint medium and in varnish.


A projection from a surface. A low relief, such as a coin, is called bas relief.



A general term for a wide variety of more or less transparent, fusible materials. The term is used to designate any polymer that is a basic material for paints and plastics.

Rubber Cement:

A clean, fast drying latex type of adhesive. Excellent for paper projects.




A technique used in preparation for cementing two pieces of clay together using a series of incised lines. Also describes a process for indentation and curved line paper sculpture and folding.



Secondary colors:

Orange, green and purple.


Refers to the darker values of a color.


The element of art that describes a two-dimensional area (height and width).


Preliminary or rough draft, typically made with pencil, crayon, pen, brush or pastel.


Dried, crushed clay mixed with water to a creamy consistency. Used as a binder in joining two pieces of clay together.

Still life:

Inanimate object(s) represented in a drawing, painting or collage.

Tempera paint:

An opaque, water soluble paint available in liquid or powdered form.


The quality of a surface. One of the seven elements of art.


A hue mixed with white to create lighter values.


The amount of light or shade in a color. The value range in a painting.



The range of lightness or darkness in a color. A gray scale shows the range of values in




Generally, a more or less transparent film-forming liquid that dries into a solid film.



Pigment with a water soluble binder. Available in semi-moist cakes or tubes.


A method of preparing clay by kneading and squeezing it to expel air pockets and make it more plastic.