Friday, January 12, 2018

Art Terminology


Abstract – derived from or representing an actual thing in the world but, departing significantly from natural appearances. Forms are simplified, distorted, exaggerated.

Additive: The process of adding or joining parts and/or visual elements together to create a work of art (as opposed to subtractive).

Aesthetic: Aesthetic has often been used interchangeably with the word beauty, but this is not accurate. Anything that can be perceived by human beings with any sense has aesthetic characteristics and the aesthetic of a thing refers to the nature of experiencing it.

Analogous: closely related colors; a color scheme that combines several hues next to each other on the color wheel.

Art criticism: An organized system for looking at the visual arts; a process of appraising what we want students to know and be able to do.

Assemblage: A three-dimensional composition in which a collection of objects is unified in a sculptural work.

Asymmetry: (informal) – two sides are not the same but still balance each other.

Atmospheric or aerial perspective – creates the illusion of distance by reducing color saturation, value contrast, and detail to imply the hazy effect of atmosphere between the viewer and distant objects. Things appear paler, more blue-gray, less distinct as they approach the horizon.

Background: area within a composition that appears further away from the viewer. objects appear smaller with less detail.

Balance: The way in which the elements in visual arts are arranged to create a feeling of equilibrium in an artwork. The three types of balance are symmetry, asymmetry, and radial.

Cast Shadow: A shadow that goes from one object to another

Chiaroscuro – Italian word meaning light/dark. The gradations of light and dark values in a two-dimensional imagery; especially the illusion of rounded, 3-dimensional forms created through gradations of light and shade rather than line.

Collage An artistic composition made of various materials (e.g., paper, cloth, or wood) glued onto a surface.

Complementary colors: Colors opposite one another on the color wheel. Red/green, blue/orange, yellow/violet are complementary colors.

Composition The overall placement and organization of elements in a work of art, as well as the interrelationships between individual elements.

Content The representations, messages, ideas, and/or feelings expressed in a work of art.

Contrast Differences between two or more elements (e.g., value, color, texture) in a composition; juxtaposition of dissimilar elements in a work of art. Also refers the degree of difference between the lightest and darkest areas of an image.

Contour line – line that delineates the edges of forms, separating each volume or area from neighboring ones.

Contrapposto – Italian for counterpose. When weight is placed on one foot causing the hip and shoulder lines to counterbalance each other – often in a graceful

Cool colors Colors suggesting coolness, blues, greens, violets and their variants

Core of a shadow – the darkest part of the shadow.

Crop – cut off

Cross contour – the edges of the object you are drawing go one way the lines you use for describing the object go the opposite way, giving the object a 3-dimensional look.

Cross-hatching – drawing one set of hatchings over another in a different direction so that the lines cross.

Design The plan, conception or organization of a work of art; the arrangement of independent parts (the elements of art) to form a coordinated whole.

Distortion The condition of being twisted or altered from a usual or regular shape. In visual art, distortion is often used as an expressive technique.

Dominance An emphasis of one aspect, characteristic or quality in an image in relation to all others.

Elements of art: line, color, shape/form, texture, value, space.

Emphasis – used to draw our attention to an area or areas. Position, contrast, size can be used to create this.

Expressive content Content expressive of ideas and moods in a work of art.

Figurative The representation of people, subjects, and scenes from everyday life.

Figure/ground relationship (or positive/negative shapes) figure or positive shape refers to the subject or dominant shapes. The ground or negative shape refers to background areas.

Focal point The place in a work of art at which attention becomes focused because of an element emphasized in some way.

Foreground: in a scene or artwork, the part that seems closest to you. Objects appear larger and more detailed.

Foreshortening – the representation of forms on a 2-dimensional surface by shortening the length in such a way that the long axis appears to project toward or recede away from the viewer.

Form (1) The particular characteristics of an artwork’s visual elements (as distinguished from its subject matter or content). (2) A three-dimensional volume or the illusion of three dimensions; related to shape (which is 2-D).

Full value range – use of values from lightest to darkest in a work.

Function: Purpose and use of a thing.

Gestural line – line that shows the movement inherent in the object or figure, usually very fluid looking.

Harmony The principle of design that creates unity within a work of art.

Hatching – lines are placed in parallel series to darken the value of an area.

High key - exclusive use of light or pale values in a work.

Highlight – where the light hits the object portrayed. It will be white of the paper.

Line - a mark with length and direction, created by a point that moves across a surface. Line qualities can vary in width, length, gesture, color, direction, etc.

Line-of-Action: designates the movement or action of a character in a drawing

Linear perspective – based on the fact that parallel lines or edges appear to converge and objects appear smaller as the distance between them and the viewer increases.

Low key – exclusive use of darkest values in a work.

Mass The outside size and bulk of an object, such as a building or a sculpture; the visual weight of an object.

Media (1) Plural of medium referring to materials used to make works of art. (2) Classifications of artworks, such as painting, printmaking, sculpture, film, etc.).

Middle Ground: part of a composition that appearing between the foreground and background.

Mixed media An artwork in which more than one type of art material is used

Mood: emotion portrayed within an artwork

Monochromatic: a work done in a single color and it's tints and shades

Motif A repeated pattern, often creating a sense of rhythm.

Negative Space: area around an object.

Neutral colors: Black, white, gray, and variations of brown. They are included in the color family called earth colors.

Nonrepresentational, nonobjective, nonfigurative – Having no recognizable object or subject; also, nonrepresentational.

One point perspective – a full side of the object is parallel with the picture plane and orthogonal (parallel lines that move away from the picture plane) recede to the fixed point on the eyelevel line.

Organic: Refers to shapes or forms not of geometric shape, having irregular edges, surfaces or objects similar to natural forms.

Pattern A design, image, or shape repeated in a predictable combination.

Perspective – a means for showing the illusion of 3-dimensional depth on a 2-dimensional surface.

Perspective Types:
Atmospheric or aerial perspective
Linear perspective
One point perspective
Two point perspective

Picture plane – the flat picture surface.

Point of view The angle from which a viewer sees the objects or scene in an image.

Positive / Positive Space: Shapes or spaces in an image that represent solid objects or forms.

Principles of design A design concept describing the ways in which the elements of an image are arranged (i.e. balance, contrast, dominance, emphasis, movement, repetition, rhythm, variation, unity).

Printmaking The transference of an image from one surface (plate or block) to another (usually paper) using ink.

Primary colors Red, yellow, and blue. From these all other colors are created.

Proportion – size relationships of parts to a whole within the composition.
Reflected light – light that bounces up from surrounding surfaces and on to the object in areas that are in shadow.

Representational, objective, figurative (naturalistic) – refers to art in which the artist presents again (re-presents) a particular subject, something you recognize: a tree, a person, a house, etc.

Rhythm Repetitive visual elements that achieve a specific effect.

Scale: Size relative to the viewer's size. Ex: life-size, miniature, etc.

Secondary colors Colors that are created by the mixture of two primary colors, i.e. red and yellow make orange, yellow and blue make green, blue and red make violet, etc.

Shade : a color mixed with black

Shading graded markings that indicate light or shaded areas in a drawing or painting

Shape A two-dimensional area or plane that may be open or closed, free form or geometric. It can be found in nature or created by humans.

Space The area between, around, above, below, or contained within objects. Spaces are areas defined by the shapes and forms around them and within them, just as shapes and forms are defined by the space around and within them.

Still life A specific type of visual artwork representing one or more inanimate object.

Structure The way parts are arranged or put together to form a whole.

Style A set of characteristics of the art of a culture, a period, or school of art; the characteristic expression of individual artists or groups.

Subordination – neutral areas of lesser interest in a composition that keep us from being distracted from the area of emphasis.

Subtractive Artistic method accomplished by removing or taking away from the original creative material, (the opposite of additive).

Symmetry (formal)or bilateral symmetry – Near or exact matching of left and right sides of a composition.

Texture The surface quality of materials, either actual (tactile) or implied (visual). It is one of the elements of art.

Theme A subject or topic of discourse or of artistic representation

Thumbnail Sketch: a small, quick drawing used to get your ideas on paper

Tint: a color mixed with white

Tone: a color mixed with grey

Two point perspective – one edge (usually vertical) of the object is parallel with the picture plane. Orthogonals (parallel lines that move away from the picture plane) recede to two vanishing points one on either side of the fixed point and on the eyelevel line.

Unity/variety – unity provides oneness. Variety shows diversity

Value (or tone)– transition from light to dark across the surface of the artwork. White is the lightest value, black is the darkest. The value halfway between the two is called middle gray.

Value Ranges:
High key - exclusive use of light or pale values in a work.
Low key – exclusive use of darkest values in a work.
Full range – use of values from lightest to darkest in a work.

Vanishing point In perspective drawing, a point at which receding lines seem to converge.

Variety A principle of art concerned with combining one or more elements of art in different ways to create interest.

Volume Describes the space within a form, such as that of a container or building.

Warm colors Colors suggesting warmth, such as reds, yellows, and oranges.

Wash – a thin transparent layer of ink, watercolor, acrylic, oil paint.

Watercolor A transparent pigment used with water. Paintings done with this medium are known as watercolors.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

About This course

The first thing is to establish what this course is. It is not is an Art History course. And it's not a studio art course. Although an Art Appreciation course involves content from those kinds of courses it is a somewhat different thing. Mainly Art Appreciation is about developing an ability to understand and empathise with what an artist is trying to do and to contextualize that work within the range of human activities. It is also about some secondary yet equally important things including writing, drawing connections between things, developing a conceptual position, making things with your hands and learning to have a meaningful discussion.

I think it's helpful to understand where the instructor is coming from as early as possible in the course.  So, here are some explanations of these ideas as I see them.

Art History, like any other historical study, is about understanding what went on at any given point in human history. The art world is a subculture within our broader culture, like baseball fans, people who go to dog shows or Star Trek fans who learn to speak Klingon. Not everyone is interested in those things or even knows they exist but they are all parts of our culture. So, when you study art history you look at both the art being made at a specific time and the cultural events that took place at the same time in an effort to understand how they influence each other. At the same time one compares various artists of a given period and preceding periods in order to develop an understanding of the goings on and the long term evolution of the sub-culture that is the art world.

Studio Art is about both making and ideas. While that sounds very simple, it is not. In order to make anything you must have a deep understanding of your materials and how to work them with your hands. And if you are making things in an academic setting you must also have at least one idea. For students the hard part of a studio practice seems to be making meaningful connections between the activity of making, the nature of your materials and your ideas.

Understanding a work of art is a many layered beast and can be very hard to get your head around. The first layer is easy, at least with representational art. You immediately understand that a picture of an apple is a picture of an apple. The fun begins when you move beyond the first layer. Yes, it's an apple, but does it represent good or evil? Exactly how is it an apple. Down the rabbit hole you go and it all becomes very subtle and complicated and the difference between representational art work and abstract art work sometimes becomes hard to determine.

Empathy is tightly associated with understanding. Where I've described understanding as being primarily about what a thing is an how a thing is made empathy is primarily about why. If you can look at a work of art and think through how the artist made it you should be able to extrapolate some reasons why they made it in the particular way that they did. This is where the deeper meaning begins. Cezanne said something like A work of art that did not begin with emotion is not art at all.  While that might be true of his work it may not exactly be true of others. Some art work can be emotion-less. Many times art is simply about visual stimulation. Yet there is often still something there to empathise with intellectually if you dig deep enough.

Contextualizing a work of art within the range of human activities is an often overlooked aspect of art appreciation. But, it is very important. Think about all of the paintings or all of the sculptures or whatever kinds of art that already exist in the world. Why do we need any more of them? Why do we keep making and collecting new ones? Or if we simply need some stuff to decorate our homes and public spaces, why make them the way artists do, in long, involved and expensive processes that often give results that are less neat and tidy than industrially made objects? There must be some reason. Actually, there are lots of reasons. They range from artists who just have to spend time making things in order to be happy to artists who are interested in the direct communication of ideas in order to influence others.

Writing is very important for many reasons. One is that when you have an idea in your head it is too easy to treat that idea lightly and think you have an understanding. Think, for example, about birds.  If the first thing that pops into your head is that birds fly, maybe you don't care that you've left out the flightless ones. But, if I asked you to write about birds there's something about the act of committing words to paper that makes a difference. You've suddenly brought something into the world. Other people can see it and interact with it. You have to think thoroughly and do research in order to justify your ideas and defend them. Otherwise you'll look like a fool saying that all birds fly.

Another similar aspect of writing is that you have to put your words and ideas in a logical order. It's actually a lot of hard work to make a good, clear point in writing. You might write and essay that's full of all sorts of great ideas but if the reader can't understand them you look like a fool again. While you work on communicating more clearly as a writer you develop better thinking, reading and analytical skills. And you usually become a better verbal communicator too.