Friday, September 20, 2019

Art Terminology

For several years I wrote art-related articles for a local monthly newspaper. A number of readers found this one rather helpful. So even though most of you reading this blog are into art in one way or another, I thought I'd share it here, slightly edited.


Would you visit an art gallery if you knew what the heck they were talking about half the time? Here’s a beginner’s glossary to get you started.

The color spectrum is the whole band of visible color. A rainbow. A hue is the actual color name, like orange or blue. Most of us just say “color”.

If a color has white added to it, it‘s called a tint. ‘Pastel’ colors are all tints.  If a color has been darkened it is called a shade. A color’s value has to do with its lightness or darkness – its tinting or shading. Intensity refers to the color’s brightness.

The picture plane is the two-dimensional flat surface on which the image is placed.

Paintings and drawings are generally done on a flat surface. If artists want to imply depth or distance, they use perspective. Perspective can be created in a variety of ways. 

An early method of trying to imply depth of space was to place distant objects high on the picture plane, and nearby objects at the bottom, even though they were all the same size. Objects can be overlapped; objects behind are missing parts because they're blocked out by those in front. Near objects can be shown larger than distant ones and/or in greater detail. Distant objects can be depicted in muted or grayed colors. In school you may have learned about converging lines and a vanishing point.

Texture can have two similar meanings. It may refer to patterning or other visual aspects which give an implied texture to a flat surface. Or it may refer to actual tactile texture - one you could feel if you touched it.

Impasto is a particularly thick application of paint. It can be done with a brush, but often a palette knife is used. This creates one kind of texture.

A patina (pa-TEEN-a) is the surface appearance and texture of an object. It is usually acquired over time, through contact with elements in the air or soil or human hands. Copper roofs acquire a green patina called verdigris. Wooden handrails become exceptionally smooth, even glossy. It is possible now to speed up or duplicate these finishes to some extent. 

Hatching is shading using a series of fine parallel lines. When a second or third set of lines overlaps the first at a different angle, it is called cross-hatching.

Here’s a good one: chiaroscuro (kee-AR-o-SKOOR-o). It’s Italian. ‘Chiaro’ means clear; ‘oscuro’ means obscure. Mediterranean light is strong, and strong light produces deep shadows. In art, chiaroscuro means pronounced lighted and shaded areas, and using these to show the form of an object.

Collage comes from the French verb coller which means ‘to stick’ or ‘to glue’. Collage simply means gluing things onto the picture plane. An entire picture may be made this way, or only one or two elements may be collaged.

Abstract has become somewhat of a catch-all term for any art that looks sort of weird and “modern” and hard to identify. True abstract art - while it may be difficult to recognize even if you have a good look at it - is nonetheless inspired by, and derived from, recognizable objects. 

If the representation of real objects is completely absent it's called non-objective or non-representational. It is not an abstracted image, but springs entirely from the artist's imagination.

So choose a friend, choose a gallery, and throw a few words around. Have fun!

And because there are no pictures this time, I share this with you. I assumed it was done by an adult with some art training, but no. The artist is five or six years old, accessing her inner compositional genius without even thinking about it!  :)

1 comment:

  1. A good article. I love the painting too. Children are amazing little people.