Art / History / Culture & Curious Habits

Mini Glossary in Art for people who ‘doesn’t understand art.’

I don’t understand art, is a common phrase I heard from people who aren’t in the arts. It took me a while to understand what that means, because even though I work in the arts, I wouldn’t refer my self as a person who fully understand what art is. At the same time, art is also not exactly rocket science.

It dawned on me slowly that when people say’ I don’t understand art ‘meant: I don’t really have words to converse about art besides ‘beautiful’ or ‘ugly’ or ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it’. So, let me attempt to curate a glossary in Art for people who “doesn’t understand art” in the hope to expand skills in conversing about art and artworks.


So, here it is folks :

Balance a feeling of equal weight, attention, or attraction of visual elements within an artwork 1. the hidden structure and relationship of elements within a work, giving it stability, tension, excitement, or equilibrium. Individual relationships may be unbalanced but balance may exist within the total structure. 2. a feeling of equality in weight, attention, or attraction of the various elements within the pictorial field

Chiaroscuro effect of blending light and shade on objects to create the illusion of 3D (three-dimensionality), or volume

Cliché 1. originally, a stereotype printing plate 2. an expression or idea that has become trite, or worn out by constant use

Broken color – Broken color was first used by Manet and the Impressionists in 19th century French painting, where color was applied in small “dabs,” as opposed to the traditional method of smoothly blending colors and values (lights and darks) together. This method results in more of a “patchwork” effect, where the dabs render the facets of light on forms, and/or the planes of the forms’ volume, by means of color and value. Broken color has continued to be used in much modern and contemporary painting.

Collage – (pronounced col-laj) – French word for cut and pasted scraps of materials, such as paper, cardboard, chair caning, playing cards, etc., to a painting or drawing surface; sometimes also combined with painting or drawing.

Composition – The process of arranging the forms of two- and three-dimensional visual art into a unified whole, by means of elements and principles of design, such as line, shape, color, balance, contrast, space, etc., for purposes of formal clarity and artistic expression.

FOCAL POINT (or center of interest)-The part of an artwork you look at first. MEDIUM-The kind of material from which an artwork is made.

Kitsch – mass-produced vulgar craftwork articles of the kind manufactured for souvenirs; the word has now become a pejorative term for whatever is thought to be in flamboyant bad taste.

Multi-media – The term multi-media describes artworks made from a range of materials and include an electronic element such as audio or video

Plinth – A plinth is a heavy base or box on which a sculpture stands or is presented

Monochromatic – having only one hue, but varying in value and/or chroma Movement an implied visual sensation through repetition of an element or through a progressive change of an element

Organic Shape – free-flowing, curvilinear shapes frequently occurring in nature

Painterly – 1. having the quality of expertly brushed workmanship 2. a term applied to the dominance of tonal masses over line as a means of defining form in architecture, painting and sculpture. Edvard Munch’s The Scream is an example of a painterly style

Pattern – repetition of an element or a motif, and/or the emphasis of directional movements

Perspective – Depiction of three-dimensional objects and spatial relationships on a two-dimensional plane. In Western art, illusions of volume and space are generally created by use of the linear perspective system, based on the observation that objects appear to shrink and parallel lines to converge at an infinitely distant vanishing point as they recede in space from the viewer.

Picture Plane – The surface area of a drawing, painting, print, etc.

Recto/Verso – The front or face of a single sheet of paper, or the right-hand page of an open book is called the recto. The back or underside of a single sheet of paper, or the left-hand page of an open book is known as the verso.

Self portrait – A self-portrait is a portrait of the artist by the artist

Theme – A subject or topic of discourse or of artistic representation

Reproduction– A print or process made without the artist hand being involved directly.

Warm colors – In color theory, colors which contain a large amount of yellow, as opposed to cool colors, which contain more blue. For example, a yellow-orange color would be warm; a greenish-blue would be cool. Warm colors are thought to appear to be closer to the viewer, while cool colors are thought to recede into the distance.


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