Art Vocabulary Terms

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Abstraction
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An alteration of forms, derived from observation or experience, in such a way as to present essential rather than particular qualities
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Actual Texture
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The tactile quality of a surface, including the mark made by a tool, the surface on which it is made, and any foreign material added to the surface.
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Aerial Perspective
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The means by which atmospheric illusion is created.
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Aggressive Line
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An emphatically stated line.
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Ambiguous Space
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Space that is neither clearly flat nor clearly volumetric, containing a combination of both two- and three-dimensional elements.
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Ant’s Eye View
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Objects seen from below. Also called worm’s eye view.
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Bird’s Eye View
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Objects seen from above.
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Blind Contour
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A contour exercise in which the artist never looks at the paper
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Calligraphic Line
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Free-flowing line that resembles handwriting, making use of gradual and graceful transitions.
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Cast Shadow
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One of the six categories of light (6)
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Chiaroscuro
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Modeling, the gradual blending of light to dark to create a three-dimensional illusion.
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Composition
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The organization or arrangement of the elements of art in a given work.
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Constricted Line
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A crabbed, angular, tense line, frequently aggressively stated.
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Content
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The subject matter of a work of art, including its emotional, intellectual, symbolic, thematic and narrative connotations, which together give the work its total meaning.
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Continuous Line Drawing
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A drawing in which the implement remains in uninterrupted contact with the picture plane creating enclosed shapes.
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Contour Line
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Line that delineates both the outside edge of an object and the edges of planes, as opposed to outline, which delineates only the outside edge of an object.
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Core of Shadow
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One of the six categories of light. (4)
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Cross-Contour Line
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Line that describes an object’s horizontal or cross contours rather than its vertical contours.
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Elements of Art
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The principle graphic and plastic devices by which an artist composes a physical work of art. The elements are color, line, shape, texture, value and volume.
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Eye Level
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An imaginary horizontal line parallel to the viewer’s eyes.
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Form
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In its broadest sense, the total structure of a work of art – that is, the relation of the elements of art and the distinctive character of the work. In a narrower sense, the shape, configuration, or substance of an object.
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Formal Elements
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The art elements of color, line, shape, texture, value.
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Frottage
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A textural transfer technique; the process of making rubbings with graphite or crayon on paper laid over a textured surface.
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Gestural Approach
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A quick, all-encompassing statement of forms. In gesture, the hand duplicates the movement of the eyes, quickly defining the subject’s general characteristics – movement, weight, shape, tension, scale, and proportion.
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Highlight
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One of the six categories of light (1).
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Implied Line
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A line that stops and starts again; the viewer’s eye completes the movement that the line suggests.
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Implied Shape
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A suggested or incomplete shape that is mentally filled in by the viewer.
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Informational Drawing
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A category of objective drawing, including diagrammatic, architectural, and mechanical drawing. Informational drawing clarifies concepts and ideas that may not be actually visible, such as a chemist’s drawings of molecular structure.
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Invented Texture
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An invented, nonrepresentational patterning that may derive from actual texture but does not imitate it. Invented texture may be highly stylized.
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Light
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In the graphic arts, the relationship of light and dark patterns on a form, determined by the actual appearance of an object and by the type and direction of light falling on it. There are six categories of light as it falls over a form: Highlight, Light Tone, Shadow, Core of Shadow, Reflected Light and Cast Shadow.
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Light Tone
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One of the six categories of light (2).
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Line
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A mark made by an implement as it is drawn across a surface.
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Lyrical Line
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A subjective line that is gracefully ornate and decorative.
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Mass Gesture
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A type of gesture drawing in which the drawing medium is used to make broad marks to create mass rather than line.
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Mechanical Line
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An objective line that maintains its width unvaryingly along its full length.
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Negative Space
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The space surrounding a positive shape, sometimes referred to as ground, empty space, interspace, field, or void
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Objective
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Free from personal feelings; the emphasis is on the descriptive and factual rather than the expressive or subjective.
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One-Point Perspective
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A system for depicting three-dimensional depth on a two-dimensional surface, dependent upon the illusion taht all parallel lines that recede into space converge at a single point on the horizon, called the vanishing point.
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Organizational Line
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The line that provides the structure and basic organization for a drawing. Also called indicative or directional line.
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Outline
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Line that delineates only the outside edge of an object, unlike contour line, which also delineates the edges of planes.
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Perspective
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A technique for giving an illusion of space to a flat surface.
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Pictorial Space
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In the graphic arts, the illusion of space. It may be relatively flat or two-dimensional, illusionistically three-dimensional, or ambiguous space.
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Picture Plane
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The two-dimensional surface on which the artist works.
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Planar Analysis
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An approach in which shape functions as plane, as a component of volume.
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Plane
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A two-dimensional, continuous surface with only one direction.
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Plastic
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The appearance of volume and space in a two-dimensional painting or drawing.
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Proportion
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Comparative relationship between parts of a whole and between the parts and the whole.
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Reflected Light
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One of the six categories of light. (5)
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Rubbing
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A means of transferring texture from an actual tactile surface to a flat surface.
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Scale
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Size and weight relationships between forms.
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Scribble-Line Drawing
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A type of gesture drawing using a tight network of tangled line.
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Shadow
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One of the six categories of light (3).
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Shape
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A two-dimensional, closed, or implicitly closed configuration. The two categories of shape are organic and geometric shape.
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Sighting
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The visual measurements of objects and spaces between objects.
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Structural Line
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Line that helps locate objects in relation to other objects and to the space they occupy. Structural lines follow the direction of the planes they locate.
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Subjective
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Emphasizing the artists emotions or personal viewpoint rather than informational content.
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Sustained Gesture
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A type of gesture drawing that begins with a quick notation of the subject and extends into a longer analysis and correction.
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Tenebrism
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Extreme contrast of light and dark.
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Texture
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The tactile quality of a surface or its representation. The three basic types of texture are actual, simulated and invented texture
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Three-Dimensional
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Having height, width and depth.
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Thumbnail Sketch
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A small, quick preparatory drawing to note ideas.
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Two-Dimensional
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Space that has height and width with little or no illusion of depth, or three-dimensional space.
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Two-Point Perspective
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A system for depicting three-dimensional depth on a two-dimensional surface, dependent upon the illusion that all parallel lines converge at two points on the horizon.
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Value
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The gradation of tone from light to dark, from white through gray to black.
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Value Scale
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The gradual range from white through gray to black.
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Vanishing Point
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In one-point perspective, the single spot on the horizon where all parallel lines converge.
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Volume
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The quality of a form that has height, width and depth; the representation of this quality.
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Works on Paper
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A classification that includes drawings, prints, photography, book illustrations and posters.

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