Fine Art Terminology and Definitions
The following is a list of some of the more common and uncommon Fine Art Terminology and Definitions use throughout my website and the art world in general as applicable to ARTWORK, PRINTS, PRINTING AND PRINTMAKING, FRAMING and Art Styles and Movement. Please bear in mind that there may be some variation between the various professionals, organizations and especially between different languages following translation to English:
Abstraction – The process of leaving out of consideration one or more properties of a complex object so as to attend to others.
Acrylic – A type of rapid drying and versatile synthetic paint that is an especially popular with artists working today. The term is also used as a generic term for any synthetic paint medium. Acrylics have good adhesive and elastic properties, they resist ultraviolet light and chemical degradation and are easy to remove with mineral spirits. They are often used in the restoration of damaged oil paintings. (I use these during ART EVENTS)
Adumbration – A sketchy, imperfect or faint representation.
Altarpiece – A painted or carved screen placed above and behind an altar or communion table.
Alkyd – Synthetic resin used in paints and mediums to work as a binder that encapsulates the pigment and speeds the drying time.
ALLA PRIMA – Technique in which the final surface of a painting is completed in one sitting, without under painting. Italian for “at the first”. (I use this technique)
Analogous Colours – Colours that are closely related, or near each other on the colour spectrum. Especially those in which we can see common hues.
Anonymous – An artwork not of a specific named person.
Applied Art – As distinct from fine art, refers to the application of decoration to useful objects (such as ceramics, furniture, jewelry, etc.)
Aquatint – A method of etching that imitates the broad washes of a watercolour.
ART – (Controversial one this…) Having a degree of human involvement — through manual skills or thought products of human creativity. The creation of beautiful or significant things, a superior skill that you learn by study and praise and observation or photographs or other representations in a publication. (I do this)
ARTIST – (Another controversial one…) One who makes Art. (Me!)
ARTIST’S AGENT – A third party who handles the business and promotional aspects of an artist’s career. Many artists’ agents are also gallery owners. Sales agents sell a completed product, whereas artists’ agents tend to also negotiate licensing and publishing deals, organize exhibitions, handle PR and promotion and have some influence on the direction in which an artist’s career develops. (I have one of these)
Batik – A painting or design that is applied to cotton using wax and dye. It often comes from the Far East or Africa. It is important to identify the correct way round for the image since the back is very similar to the front. Before stretching, batik should generally be placed between two sheets of brown paper or tissue and ironed; the heat will release any excess wax which will be absorbed by the paper. Batiks do not normally require squaring, as the weave is too close for this to be a problem.
Binder – The ingredient (such as oil, acrylic, egg tempera or gum arabic) in paints that causes the particles of pigment to adhere to one another and to a support.
BOX CANVAS – A deeper than usual canvas of closely woven cloth usually of cotton or linen that is used as a support (surface) for paintings that will be hung unframed for a more contemporary home décor. (I create these)
Brushwork – The characteristic way an artist applies (brushes) paint onto a support producing an individualistic texture as well as aesthetic appeal and value. One of any artists most powerful attributes.
Canvas – Closely woven cloth usually of cotton or linen that is used as a support (surface) for paintings. (I use these)
Catalogue – A list of works of art often associated with an exhibition or auction that provides information on the works themselves, the artist, the materials and provenance.
Certificate of Authenticity – Certifies the authenticity of an individual piece in an edition and can also state the current market value. (I provide these)
Charcoal – Pure carbon prepared from vegetable or animal substances. Finely prepared charcoal in small sticks used as a drawing implement.
CHIAROSCURO – In drawing, painting, and the graphic arts, chiaroscuro (ke-ära-skooro) refers to the rendering of forms through a balanced contrast between light and dark areas. The technique that was introduced during the Renaissance, is effective in creating an illusion of depth and space around the principal figures in a composition. Leonardo Da Vinci and Rembrandt were painters who excelled in the use of this technique. (I often use this technique)
Chroma – The relative intensity or purity of a hue when compared to grayness or lack of hue.
COMMISSION – To order an original, usually customized work of art from the artist. (I do these)
COMPOSITION – The placement or arrangement of the visual elements, such as figures, trees, and so on in a work of art, as distinct from the subject or the style with which it is depicted. It can also be thought of as the organization of the elements of art according to the principles of art. (I pay a tremendous amount of attention to this)
Consignment Note – Signed agreements between artists and galleries to confirm that a gallery has taken possession of a painting, but that it the artist’s property until paid for in full. A consignment note represents proof of ownership in the event of an insurance claim, so it should always make clear that the work is insured the gallery while in its possession, whether in transit, at a fair, at a client’s house etc. (I do these)
Copperplate – An engraving consisting of a smooth plate of copper that has been etched or engraved.
COPYRIGHT – The artist retains the copyright in a work regardless of whether the original has been sold. Copyright is separate from the painting itself, and the artist has the right to sell it. Legally, transfer of copyright has to be in writing. Within the EU copyright extends for 70 years after the artist’s death. (I adhere to and enforce this)
Crosshatching – Shading consisting of multiple crossing lines, typically usually used in pencil and ink drawings.
Diptych – A painting or carving consisting of two panels.
DISPLAY – Something shown to the public; a visual representation of something. (I love doing this)
Drawing – Depiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. (I do this)
Enamel – When painting, used upon a ground of metal, porcelain, the colours afterward being fixed by fire.
Fat – A term used to describe a high oil content in paints and mediums. (I use this technique when layering)
Fat-Over-Lean – A technique of applying higher oil content (fatter) paint layer/s on top of lower oil content (leaner) paint layer/s in order to help prevent cracking of the surface layer/s over time. Each subsequent layer should be fatter than it’s predecessor. (I use this technique when layering)
FINE ART – Generally used to describe art that has been created purely as an aesthetic expression to be enjoyed for its own sake (as opposed to applied arts or decorative arts or design). The viewer must first search for the intent of the artist in order to fully appreciate, identify or relate to the artwork. (I use this to define my artwork)
Fixative – A solution, usually of shellac and alcohol, sprayed onto drawings of pencil, chalk and pastels, to prevent their smudging or crumbling off the support. (I use this on my pastels)
Foreshortening – The diminishing of certain dimensions of an object or figure in order to depict it in a correct spatial relationship. In realistic depiction, foreshortening is necessary because although lines and planes that are perpendicular to the observer’s line of vision (central visual ray), and the extremities of which are equidistant from the eye, will be seen at their full size, when they are revolved away from the observer they will seem increasingly shorter. Thus for example, a figure’s arm outstretched toward the observer must be foreshortened–the dimension of lines, contours and angles adjusted–in order that it not appear hugely out of proportion. The term foreshortening is applied to the depiction of a single object, figure or part of an object or figure, whereas the term perspective refers to the depiction of an entire scene. (I use this technique)
Fresco – The art of painting on freshly spread plaster before it dries, or in any manner.
Gesso – A white ground material for preparing rigid supports for painting. made of a mixture of chalk, white pigment, and glue. Same name applied to acrylic bound chalk and pigment used on flexible supports as well as rigid.
Glaze – A very thin, transparent coloured paint or glossy finish applied over a previously painted surface to alter the appearance and colour of the surface. (I use this technique)
GOLD LEAF – Very thin leaves of real gold that are burnished onto an object such as a wooden frame that has been coated with several layers of other material in preparation. The process is expensive because of the use of precious metal. (I use this on my Ltd Edition Hand Embellished Prints)
Gouache – A watercolour executed by using opaque watercolours mainly for illustrations.
Grisaille – Chiaroscuro painting in shades of gray imitating the effect of relief.
Ground – A coating material, usually white, applied to a support to make it ready for painting.
Gum Arabic – The binder used in water-colour and which is made from the gum of the Acacia tree (in the past commonly associated with Arabia, in recent decades also found in the West).
Harmony – The unity of all the visual elements of a composition achieved by repetition of the same characteristics.
Hatching – A technique of modelling, indicating tone and suggesting light and shade in drawing or tempera painting, using closely set parallel lines.
Hue – Colour or shade of a colour. (I am aware of this)
Iconography – Loosely, the “story” depicted in a work of art; people, places, events, and other images in a work, as well as the symbolism and conventions attached to those images by a particular religion or culture.
Idiom – The style of a particular artist, school or movement. (I have extensively developed my own)
Illustration – A general term used for a drawing or an original work of art.
Image – A visual representation of an object, scene or person produced on a surface. (all of my artwork has at least one)
Image Size – The size of the work reproduced on a print, not the overall paper size. (I can adjust this in my prints as required)
Knife – A painting knife may be utilized for the application of paint, whereas a palette knife is primarily utilized for mixing and blending the paint on the palette. (I extensively use these)
Lacquer – A varnish consisting of a solution of shella in alcohol, often used for varnishing metals.
Lean – A term used to describe the low oil content in paints and mediums. Thinning with solvent results in a lower oil content. (I use this technique)
LICENSING – The act of selling a license to reproduce an artist’s work for a specific purpose. There are licensing agents who specialize in negotiating deals with makers of porcelain, giftware, stationery etc. Artists should be aware of the difference between selling a license and selling their copyright in a work. (I do this)
Linear Perspective – A method of depicting three-dimensional depth on a flat or two-dimensional surface. Linear perspective has two main precepts: 1. Forms that are meant to be perceived as far away from the viewer are made smaller than those meant to be seen as close 2. Parallel lines receding into the distance converge at a point on the horizon line known as the vanishing point. (I occasionally use this technique)
Mannerism – A deliberate simulation or exaggerated display.
Matte – Flat, non-glossy; having a dull surface appearance. (I use varnish to alleviate this appearance on my oil paintings)
Medium – Used to describe either the material used to create a work of art (such as oil, acrylic, pencil, water-colour, charcoal, stone, cloth or other material); the liquid with which pigment or an existing oil paint is mixed to create or modify the paint, or an expressive art form (such as painting, drawing or sculpture). (I use these)
Mixed Media – Used to describe art that uses more than one medium (such as a work that combines paint, natural materials and man-made materials) to create a single work of art.
Model – The act of representing something, or the subject of a figurative artwork.
Monochrome – Painting done in a range of tints and tones of a single colour.
Montage (Collage) – An artwork comprising portions of various existing images such as photographs or prints and arranged so that they join, overlap or blend together to create a new image or artwork in its own right.
Mural – A painting that is applied to a wall surface. (I did one a long time ago aged 21)
Museum – A building, place or institution devoted to the acquisition, conservation, study, exhibition and educational interpretation of objects having scientific, historical or artistic value. The word Museum is derived from the Latin muses, meaning “a source of inspiration,” or “to be absorbed in one’s thoughts.”
Neutral – Having no hue – black, white, or gray; sometimes a tannish colour achieved by mixing two complementary colours.
Numbered – A numbered print is designed to show the limit or size of a print edition. The number is generally placed over the size of the edition. For example 12/500 indicates that the print is number twelve out of an edition of 500. (I do this for my ltd editions)
Oil paint – A paint made by grinding a colouring substance in oil. Oil is probably the most common pigment binder used by professional artists. Oil paintings can be protected with a layer of varnish instead of glazing. Oil paint actually takes around 40 years to dry thoroughly and should be allowed to harden for a few months before varnishing, though the surface oxidizes and feels dry to the touch usually after a few days. Cleaning oil paintings can be complicated if ‘touching up’ has been added on top of the varnish, as the ‘touching up’ will come away when the layer of varnish is removed. (I use these)
OIL PAINTING – A painting executed with pigments mixed with oil. Technique for painting on board or canvas. Because of the flexibility and variety of results that can be obtained using oils, oil painting has been popular for centuries and continues to be a primary medium for artists working today. (I create these)
Oiling out – The application of an oil medium to a painting that has sunk (become dull) or lost its oil to the layer underneath. Artist’s painting medium should be rubbed sparingly into any sunken areas with a clean cloth, wiping off any residue, allowing to dry for a few days and repeating as necessary until an even sheen is obtained throughout. (I prefer to varnish the painting for protection)
Optical Colour Mixture – The tendency of the eyes to blend patches of individual colours placed near one another so as to perceive a different, combined colour. Also, any art style that exploits this tendency, especially the pointillism of Georges Seurat.
Organic – An image that shows a relationship to nature as opposed to man-made images. Any shape that resembles a naturally occurring form or that suggests a natural growing or expanding process.
ORIGINAL ARTWORK – A a one-off handmade piece by an artist. It is not part of a print run or limited edition print run. (I create these)
Painted Edges – Not all canvasses are framed. Instead, some are intended to be hung without frames. If this is the artist’s intention, the artist will often paint over the edges of the canvas onto the sides. This not only allows the painting to be hung unframed, but also creates the interesting effect of extending the painting into three dimensions. (I use this technique for certain original paintings)
PAINTING – The work of a painter; a painted representation of any object or scene; a picture. (I do this)
Palette – The range of colours used by a particular artist, in a particular painting, or by a school of art. (I mostly paint using a limited palette)
Pastel – A coloured crayon that consists of pigment mixed with just enough of an aqueous binder to hold it together; a work of art produced by pastel crayons; the technique itself. Pastels vary according to the volume of chalk contained and the deepest in tone are pure pigment. Pastel is the simplest and purest method of painting, since pure colour is used without a fluid medium and the crayons are applied directly to the pastel paper or card. (I used to use these)
Pencil – A slender cylinder or strip of black lead, coloured chalk, slate or graphite used for drawing. (I use these occasionally)
Pentimento – A condition of old paintings where lead-containing pigments have become more transparent over time, revealing earlier layers.
Perspective – The representation of three-dimensional objects on a flat surface so as to produce the same impression of distance and relative size as that received by the human eye. In one-point linear perspective, developed during the fifteenth century, all parallel lines in a given visual field converge at a single vanishing point on the horizon. In aerial or atmospheric perspective, the relative distance of objects is indicated by gradations of tone and colour and by variations in the clarity of outlines. (I use this technique)
Pictorial Space – The illusory space in a painting or other work of two-dimensional art that seems to recede backward into depth from the picture plane, giving the illusion of distance.
Picture Plane – An imaginary flat surface that is assumed to be identical to the surface of a painting. Forms in a painting meant to be perceived in deep three-dimensional space are said to be “behind” the picture plane. The picture plane is commonly associated with the foreground of a painting. (I occasionally use this technique)
Pigment – Dry colouring matter, usually an insoluble powder to be mixed with a liquid to produce paint.
Pochoir – A stencil and stencil-brush process for making muti-coloured prints, and for tinting black-and-white prints, and for colouring reproductions and book illustrations, especially fine and limited editions. Pochoir, which is the French word for stencil, is sometimes called hand-colouring or hand-illustration. Pochoir, as distinguished from ordinary stencil work, is a highly refined technique, skilfully executed in a specialized workshop.
Portfolio – A portable carrying case for flat works of art. Also used to describe a selection of an artists work. (I use these)
Positive Space – The space in a painting occupied by the object depicted (not the spaces in-between objects). (I emphasise this)
Primary Colours – Any hue that, in theory, cannot be created by a mixture of any other hues. Varying combinations of the primary hues can be used to create all the other hues of the spectrum. In pigment the primaries are red, yellow, and blue.
Provenance – The record of ownership for a work of art, ideally from the time it left the artists studio to its present location. French for source or origin.
Replica – An exact copy of an original work of art that is made by, or under the supervision of, the original artist. (I never create these or allow them to be created as I consider it unethical)
Repoussoire – From the French verb meaning to push back. A means of achieving perspective or spacial contrasts by the use of illusionistic devices such as the placement of a large figure or object in the immediate foreground of a painting to increase the illusion of depth in the rest of the picture.
Reproduction – A mechanically produced copy of an original work of art (as distinct from replicas which are one-offs). (I create prints)
Rigid Support – A non-flexible painting surface. Most commonly a wooden panel.
Semblance – A picture consisting of a graphic image of a person or thing.
SCAN – Means of making a high quality two dimensional electronic reproduction image of an original document, graphic or artwork. (I do this)
SCRAPING BACK – Painting knives are used to push the paint into the weave of the canvas and build up series of translucent stains. Alternatively, they are used to scrape some of the pain off the canvas while still wet, leaving behind a thin layer of colour to partially reveal the colours beneath. (I do this)
Sculpture – A three-dimensional work of art that is modelled, carved or assembled from a variety of materials (such as stone, metal, glass or arbitrary materials).
Secondary Colours – A hue created by combining two primary colours, as yellow and blue mixed together yield green. In pigment the secondary colours are orange, green, and violet.
Shading – Showing change from light to dark or dark to light in a picture by darkening areas that would be shadowed and leaving other areas light. Shading is often used to produce illusions of dimension and depth. (I extensively use this technique)
Signature – An artists name physically signed (or carved) on a work of art usually providing evidence that the work is entirely by the hand of the artist who signs the work. The Signing of prints is usually done using a soft base pencil in order that it’s dark, clearly visible and does not fade over time. (I do this)
Silhouette – The outer shape of an object. An outline, often filled in with colour. (I have created several)
Simultaneous Contrast – The tendency of complementary colours to seem brighter and more intense when placed side by side.
Size – A glue put on a fabric or paper before priming to seal the cellulose and protect it from the oil in the ground and paint. It’s also used to seal wood panels before painting.
Sketch – A preliminary drawing usually intended for a later elaboration. (I create these)
Study – A detailed drawing or painting made of one or more parts of a final composition, but not the whole work. (I occasionally create these)
Style – A characteristic or a number of characteristics that can be identified as being embodied in a work of art. Typically associated with a specific artist, group of artists, culture, or a specific artists work during a particular time period. “In the style of …. ” means that the work resembles a particular artists style but is not actually created by that artist. “In the studio of …. ” means that the work was created by a student, apprentice or colleague of a particular artist whose style it resembles and possibly supervised by that artist.
Support – The surface, or material, on which an artist creates two-dimensional art. Can be canvas, paper, cardboard or wood panel. The surface often has to be treated before the paint is applied so as to neutralize any natural acidities and protect the work from discolouration or deterioration. (I use these)
Tempera – Medium, typically egg yolk which was used in the Renaissance prior to the advent of oil and has benefited from a recent revival.
Tertiary Colours – Six colours positioned between the primary and secondary colours on the colour wheel.
Tint – A tint is any hue (colour) that has been mixed with white. (I create these on the canvas, not on my palette)
Tonality – The overall colour effect in terms of hue and value. Often one dominating hue is employed in various shades and values. (I often do this)
Tone – A colour mixed with grey.
Triptych – A painting or carving consisting of three panels.
Underpainting – The traditional stage in oil painting of using a monochrome or dead colour as a base for composition. Also known as laying in.
Vanishing Point – In linear perspective, the point on the horizon line where parallel lines appear to converge.
Varnish – A final layer that can be applied over a finished painting. A varnish protects a painting from environmental dirt and dust and is removable for cleaning and conservation purposes. (I do this)
Vignette – A small illustrative sketch or painting that appears to float suspended on a surface.
Wash – Used in watercolour painting, brush drawing, and occasionally in oil painting and sculpture to describe a broad thin layer of diluted pigment, ink, glaze or patina. Also refers to a drawing made in this technique.
Watercolour – A painting medium in which the binder is gum Arabic. Water is used for thinning, lightening or mixing the paint.
Yellowing – This effect on oil paintings is usually caused by one of three reasons: excessive use of linseed oil medium; applying any of the varnishes that are prone to yellow with age; or most often – an accumulation of dirt embedded into the varnish.
Acid – Attacks cellulose fibres by shortening them, causing paper to discolour, become brittle and eventually turn to dust. Exposure to light and damp accelerate this process. Acid is generated by the lignin (tree sap) in paper. It can also be introduced by chemicals used in paper manufacture, framing materials and atmospheric pollution.
Acid-free Paper or Canvas – Paper or canvas treated to neutralize it’s acidity in order to protect fine art and photographic prints from discoloration and deterioration.
Alkaline – The opposite to acidic. Alkaline materials are used in conservation framing and have a pH greater than 7. Calcium carbonate is commonly added to paper as an alkaline reserve, to counteract the paper’s natural degradation, acidic inks and acid in the atmosphere. Alkaline reserves added to paper are often called ‘buffers’.
Aquatint – Printing technique capable of producing unlimited tonal gradations to re-create the broad flat tints of ink wash or watercolour drawings by etching microscopic cracks and pits into the image on a master plate, typically made of copper or zinc. Spanish artist Goya used this technique.
Artists’ Prints – A print for which the artist created the matrix (eg engraved the plate) and made impressions from it. If collaborators are involved in the printmaking process, the resulting prints are not artists’ prints in the true sense.
Artist’s Proof – Print intended for the artist’s personal use. It is common practice to reserve approximately ten percent of an edition as artist’s proofs, although this figure can be higher. The artist’s proof is sometimes referred to by it’s French épreuve d’artist (abbreviation E.A.). Artist’s proofs can be distinguished by the abbreviation AP or E.A., commonly on the lower left of the work.
C-Type Print – A c-type print, such as Ektachrome, is a colour print in which the print material has at least three emulsion layers of light sensitive silver salts. Each layer is sensitized to a different primary colour – either red, blue or green – and so records different information about the colour make-up of the image. During printing, chemicals are added which form dyes of the appropriate colour in the emulsion layers. It is the most common type of colour photograph.
Cancellation Proof – Final print made once an edition series has been finished to show that the plate has been marred/mutilated by the artist, and will never be used again to make more prints of the edition.
Dry point – Printing technique of intaglio engraving in which a hard, steel needle incises lines on a metal plate, creating a burr that yields a characteristically soft and velvety line in the final print.
Engraving – Printing technique in which an intaglio image is produced by cutting a metal plate or box directly with a sharp engraving tool. The incised lines are inked and printed with heavy pressure.
Etching – Printing technique in which a metal plate is first covered with an acid-resistant material, then worked with an etching needle to create an intaglio image. The exposed metal is eaten away in an acid bath, creating depressed lines that are later inked for printing.
GICLEE PRINTS – (From the French term meaning ‘little squirt’) Inkjet prints printed from a computer where the image has been stored as a digital file, and is then outputted onto paper or canvas with a high-resolution wide format printer. The image may have been created on-screen or may have been scanned in to the computer. This relatively new printing technique is rapidly gaining market share. Usually pigment based inks which are lightfast and hence do not fade.
HAND EMBELLISHED – A way of embellishing a printed giclée edition by means of adding, colour, metallic leaf and / or texture to enhance the appearance and create an individual edition with an amount of originality. this may also reproduce the appearance of the original artwork.
Hors d’Commerce (Before Commerce) Proof – Print identical to the edition print intended to be used as samples to exhibit or show to dealers and galleries. Hors d’Commerce (abbreviated to H.C.) proofs may or may not be signed by the artist.
Impression – Art made by any printing stamping process.
Inkjet Prints – There are many types of desktop and commercial printers producing inkjet prints of varying quality. An image is created by tiny drops of ink. Giclée’s are top of the range inkjet prints. The inks can be dye or pigment-based, though most dye based inks are not lightfast and will fade over time.
Intaglio – The process of incising a design beneath the surface of a metal or stone. Plates are inked only in the etched depressions on the plates and then the plate surface is wiped clean. The ink is then transferred onto the paper through an etching press. The reverse of this process is known as relief printing.
Lightfast – The lightfastness of a paint or ink pigment is how permanent it is, or how unaffected it is by light.
LIMITED EDITION– A set of identical, often hand produced prints numbered in succession and signed by the artist. The total number of prints is fixed or “limited” by the artist who makes, supervises or commissions the prints from a Publisher. The numbers of print in a run can vary. The artwork image may however appear on other objects under license and if this would be a concern, it’s best to specifically check with the Artist or Publisher.
Lithography – Printing technique using a planographic process in which prints are pulled on a special press from a flat stone or metal surface that has been chemically sensitized so that the ink sticks only to the design areas and is repelled by the non-image areas. The original painting is photographed and the image is burned into four plates for a full color printing process. The ink comes from a roller on a printing press. High quality lithographs use a very fine dot screen on acid free paper with fade resistant inks.
Mezzotint – A reverse engraving process used on a copper or steel plate to produce illustrations in relief with effects of light and shadow. The surface of a master plate is roughened with a tool called a rocker so that if inked, it will print solid black. The areas to be white or gray in the print are rubbed down so as not to take ink. It was widely used in the 18th and 19th centuries to reproduce portraits and other paintings, but became obsolete with the introduction of photo-engraving.
Monotype – One of a kind print made by painting on a sheet of metal or glass and transferring the still-wet painting onto a sheet of paper by hand or with an etching press. If enough paint remains on the master plate, additional prints can be made, however, the reprint will have substantial variations from the original image. Monotype printing is not a multiple-replica process since each print is unique.
Montage (Collage) – An artwork comprising of portions of various existing images such as from photographs or prints and arranged so that they join, overlap or blend to create a new image.
Multiple Originals – A set of identical fine prints in which the artist personally conceived the image, created the master plates and executed or supervised the entire printing process. Example: etching.
OPEN EDITION – A print for which the print run has no limit, also referred to as ‘Signed Only’. Though the prints may be signed by the Artist, they are not usually numbered. As with Limited Edition Prints, the Artist may himself make, supervise or commission the prints from a Publisher. The image may also be seen in other forms (greeting cards, T-shirts etc).
Original Print – One-of-a-kind print in which the artist personally conceived the image, created the master plates and executed the entire printing process.
Planographic – The process to print impressions from a smooth surface rather than creating incised or relief areas on the plate. The term was devised to describe lithography.
Polychrome – Having or exhibiting many colours.
Poster – Advertising and promotional vehicles bearing slogans, exhibition details or the logos/names of products or brands. The term is now almost synonymous with open edition prints.
PRINT – An image of an original work of art produced from a wood block, stone, plate, screen or digital image (the master) onto either paper or canvas. As a rule, many identical or similar impressions are made from the same printing surface, the number of impressions being called an edition. An edition limited to a specific number of impressions is a limited edition. After the specific number of impressions are made the master is destroyed or scoured. Prints are usually signed and numbered by the artist. There are a variety of print making processes and techniques.
Printer’s Proof – Print retained by the printer as a reference. Artists often sign these prints as a gesture of appreciation.
Proofs – Prints authorized by the artist in addition to the limited signed and numbered edition. The total size of an art edition consists of the signed and numbered prints plus all outstanding proofs. If a set of proofs consists of more than one print, numbers are inscribed to indicate the number of the prints within the total number of the particular type of proof, (e.g., AP 5/20 means the fifth print in a set of twenty identical prints authorized as artist proofs). Proofs are generally signed by the artist as validation of the prints.
Provenance – Record of ownership for a work of art, ideally from the time it left the artist’s studio to it’s present location, thus creating an unbroken ownership history.
Relief – All printing processes in which the non-printing areas of the block or plate are carved, engraved or etched away. Inks are applied onto the projected surface and transferred onto the paper. The reverse process is known as intaglio printing.
Remarque – Small original sketch in the margin of an art print or additional enhancements by the artist on some or all of the final prints within an edition. It may be in pencil, watercolor or pen and ink. A remarqued print is more desirable to many serious art collectors as it adds value to a print in that it then becomes one of a kind with the addition of the original artwork by the artist.
Reproduction Right – The owner of a copyright, usually an Artist, can sell the Reproduction Right, or a license to print, while still retaining copyright. The Reproduction Right might be sold for a specific project, such as a run of 20,000 calendars, but the copyright in the work remains with the original copyright holder who can go on to sell it for other specific purposes.
RESIN PRINT – A giclée edition print, usually stretched on wooden stretcher bars, that’s coated in a layer of resin giving it a smooth and resilient glass like surface.
Restrike – Additional prints made from a master plate, block, lithograph stone, etc. after the original edition has been exhausted.
Serigraphy (Silk-screen) – A printing technique that makes use of a squeegee to force ink directly onto a piece of paper or canvas through a stencil creating an image on a screen of silk or other fine fabric with an impermeable substance. Serigraphy differs from most other printing in that its color areas are paint films rather than printing ink stains.
Tirage – Document that provides background information on the graphic edition such as edition size, printer, technique, year of execution.
Trial Proof – Pre-cursor to a limited edition series, these initial prints are pulled so that the artist may examine, refine and perfect the prints to the desired final state. Trial proofs are generally not signed.
Woodcut – Printing technique in which the printing surface has been carved from a block of wood. The traditional wood block is seasoned hardwood such as apple, beech or sycamore. Woodcut is one of the oldest forms of printing dating back to the 12th century.
Acrylic Glazing – A plastic alternative to glass.
Anti-Bandit Glazing – Glazing that will not shatter if broken.
Archival – Refers to materials that meet certain criteria for permanence such as lignin-free, pH neutral, alkaline-buffered, stable in light, etc.
Anti-Reflective Glass – (Also referred to as Non-Reflective) Reduces reflection and minimizes light transmission, giving maximum clarity.
Bespoke – Made to the customer’s specific requirements.
Conservation Framing – Using materials and techniques in the framing process to ensure that the framing does not damage the artwork. Hinging the artwork instead of mounting it, using high-quality acid-free boards and mats, using no staining paste, and glazing with conservation glass or acrylic are generally accepted procedures used to help preserve artwork. The same procedures are sometimes referred to as “preservation framing.”
Conservation Glass – Refers to glass with both a UV filter and anti-reflective qualities.
Dry mount – The process of using dry adhesive substances to mount paper artwork or photographs to a board, using high heat and a dry mount press.
Fillet – A thin moulding used as an accent in framing inside another moulding, liner or mat.
Float Mounting – The process whereby artwork is framed with all four edges showing. The artwork is adhered to board with a reverse-cut bevel, which is in turn secured to an undermount, so it appears to ‘float’ above the undermount. Art on hand-made paper is often float-mounted.
Rabbet – The groove under the lip of the moulding that allows space for the mat, glass, art and mounting board.
Stretcher Bars – The framework over which oil paintings on canvas and some types of fabric art are stretched. These can be bought in standard sizes and some types can be bought by the length for self-assembly. The cross section of a stretcher bar is tapered, so that the inner edges do not touch the back of the canvas. Wedges are tapped into the corners to keep the stretcher frame square. Depending on the level of framing, the bars can be covered with a tightly wound fabric (e.g. cotton) or covered with a barrier board.
Art Styles and Movements:
Abstract – A 20th century style of Art in which nonrepresentational lines, colours, shapes, and forms replace accurate visual depiction of objects, landscape, and figures. The subjects often stylized, blurred, repeated or broken down into basic forms so that it becomes unrecognizable and does not represent reality as seen by the human eye. Intangible subjects such as thoughts, emotions, and time are often expressed in abstract art form. Abstract art attempts to express reality without depicting it.
Abstract Expressionism – Perhaps America’s greatest contribution to the history of modern art is Abstract Expressionism, which dominated the New York scene for a decade and a half subsequent to World War II. Though less cohesive as an art movement, its common thread centred around an opposition to the strict formalism characteristic of much of abstract art at the time. The movement, which owed its existence to a new evaluation of the individual, spread quickly following the defeat of totalitarianism in the Second World War. The founders of Abstract Expressionism include Arshile Gorky, Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko.
Art Nouveau – A painting, printmaking, decorative design, and architectural style developed in England in the 1880s. Art Nouveau, primarily an ornamental style, was not only a protest against the sterile Realism, but against the whole drift toward industrialization and mechanization and the unnatural artefacts they produced. The style is characterized by the usage of sinuous, graceful, cursive lines, interlaced patterns, flowers, plants, insects and other motifs inspired by nature.
Avant Garde – A group active in the invention and application of new ideas and techniques in an original or experimental way. A group of practitioners and/or advocates of a new art form may also be called avant-garde. Some avant-garde works are intended to shock those who are accustomed to traditional, established styles.
Baroque – An elaborate theatrical style gaudily ornate ornamentation in decorative art & architecture that flourished in Europe in the 16th to 18th century characterized by curved rather than straight lines.
Contemporary – Generally used to describe art that has been created since the second half of the 20th century.
Contrapposto – Literally, “counterpoise.” A method of portraying the human figure, especially in sculpture, often achieved by placing the weight on one foot and turning the shoulder so the figure appears relaxed and mobile. The result is often a graceful S-curve.
Classical – In Greek art, the style of the 5th century B.C. Loosely, the term “classical” is often applied to all the art of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as to any art based on logical, rational principles and deliberate composition with an emphasis on proportion and harmony.
Colour Field Painting – A style of painting prominent from the 1950’s through the 1970’s, featuring large “fields” or areas of colour, meant to evoke an aesthetic or emotional response through the colour alone.
Conceptual Art – An art form in which the underlying idea or concept and the process by which it is achieved are more important than any tangible product.
Cubism – An art style developed in 1908 by Picasso and Braque whereby the artist breaks down the natural forms of the subjects into geometric shapes and creates a new kind of pictorial space. In contrast to traditional painting styles where the perspective of subjects is fixed and complete, cubist work can portray the subject from multiple perspectives.
Dada – A movement that emerged during World War I in Europe that purported to be anti-everything, even anti-art. Dada poked fun at all the established traditions and tastes in art with works that were deliberately shocking, vulgar, and nonsensical.
Expressionism – An art movement of the early 20th century in which traditional adherence to realism and proportion was replaced by the artist’s emotional connection to the subject. These paintings are often abstract, the subject matter distorted in colour and form to emphasize and express the intense emotion of the artist.
Fauvism – An art movement launched in 1905 with work characteristic of bright, non-natural colours and simple forms. This influenced Impressionists.
FIGURATIVE – Often used to describe works of art that depict nature in some way, as distinct from abstracting from it. In its most limited (and useful) sense, used to describe art works based on the human figure or animals.
Folk Art – Primitive art, by an untrained artist who paints in the common tradition of his community and reflects the life style of the people. Also called ‘Outsider art’ & ‘Art brut’.
Futurism – Art movement founded in Italy in 1909 and lasting only a few years. Futurism concentrated on the dynamic quality of modern technological life, emphasizing speed and movement.
Genre – Art that depicts the casual moments of everyday life and its surroundings or a class of art having a characteristic form or technique.
Gothic – A style of architecture and art dominant in Europe from the 12th to the 15th century. Gothic architecture features pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and often large areas of stained glass.
Hard Edge Painting – A recent innovation that originated in New York and was adopted by certain contemporary painters. Forms are depicted with precise, geometric lines and edges.
High Renaissance – The artist style of early 16th century painting in Florence and Rome; characterized by technical mastery, heroic composition and humanistic content.
Impasto – An artistic technique most commonly used in oil painting. Paint is applied onto the canvas very thickly, often in layers, usually so that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible. Paint is also sometimes mixed directly on the canvas. Impasto cannot easily be used in watercolour works due to the thin quality of the paint.
Impressionism – An art movement founded in France in the last thirty years of the 19th century. Impressionist artists sought to break up light into its component colours and capture the sense of its play on various objects. The artist’s vision was intensely centred on light and the ways it transforms the visible world. This style of painting is characterized by short brush strokes of bright colours used to recreate visual impressions of the subject and to capture the light, climate and atmosphere of the subject at a specific moment in time. The chosen colours represent light which is broken down into its spectrum components and recombined by the eyes into another colour when viewed at a distance.
Landscape – A generalization for any artists depiction of natural scenery, sea, sky or vegetation as its primary subject matter. Any figurative elements are of secondary importance or incidental to the artwork. Originally emerged from Holland and France in the 17th century.
Magical Realism – An art movement of the 20th century ( 1940’s – 1950’s ) characterized by depictions of everyday reality, but with the element of fantasy or wonder greatly accentuated ( in use of color, clarity of perspective or in treatment of the subject ). In painting, this movement combines fantastic or dreamlike elements with realism. A few artists known for this style are Paul Cadmus, Andrew Wyeth and Emile Deschler.
Mannerism – A term sometimes applied to art of late 16th early 17th century Europe, characterized by a dramatic use of space and light and a tendency toward elongated figures.
Medieval Art – The art of the Middle Ages ca. 500 A.D. through the 14th century. The art produced immediately prior to the Renaissance.
Minimalism – A style of painting and sculpture in the mid 20th century in which the art elements are rendered with a minimum of lines, shapes, and sometimes colour. The works may look and feel sparse, spare, restricted or empty.
Modern / Modernism – Genre of art and literature that makes a self-conscious break with previous genres.
Naturalistic – Descriptive of an artwork that closely resembles forms in the natural world. Synonymous with representational.
Neo-classicism – “New” classicism – a style in 19th century Western art that referred back to the classical styles of Greece and Rome. Neoclassical paintings have sharp outlines, reserved emotions, deliberate (often mathematical) composition, and cool colours.
Neo-expressionism – “New” expressionism – a term originally applied to works done primarily by German and Italian, who came to maturity in the post-WWII era; and later expanded (in the 1980’s) to include certain American artists. Neo- Expressionist works depict intense emotions and symbolism, sometimes using unconventional media and intense colours with turbulent compositions and subject matter.
Non Objective – Completely non-representational; pure design; fully abstract.
NUDE – An unclothed live model, or a work of art representing a person without clothing. The nude is classic, timeless, elemental, primal, and universal. Because we are all creatures of our own nakedness, it is the subject of ultimate empathy. And yet in the hands of an artist, that fleeting, imperfect, and fragile package that carries all of our souls gains a noble immortality and perfection that transcends its mere physicality.
Op Art – Short for Optical Art, a style popular in the 1960s that was based on optical principles and optical illusion. Op Art deals in complex colour interactions, to the point where colours and lines seem to vibrate before the eyes.
Painterly – Descriptive of paintings in which forms are defined principally by colour areas, not by lines or edges. Where the artist’s brushstrokes are noticeable. Any image that looks as though it may have been created with the style or techniques used by a painter.
Photo Realism / Hyper Realism – A painting and drawing style of the mid 20th century in which people, objects, and scenes are depicted with such naturalism that the paintings resemble photographs – an almost exact visual duplication of the subject.
Pizza Art – A genre of unskilled, extortionately expensive artwork, highly favoured by auction houses who are expert in chandelier bidding, city galleries who’s managers quaff Dom Perignon by the bucket, agents having several lavish apartments and unwitting collectors in receipt of large bonus’s. Created using a palette of colourful paint resembling a fresh ‘pizza’, applied violently to the canvas or wall in a 1/4 rotation whilst blowing a loud raspberry and raising one leg. Lauded for the ability to rotate the final creation until the artist and collector achieves satisfaction and can relate it with conviction to his / her inner emotions and troubled upbringing, often whilst high on something mind altering. The creation has the benefit that it’s initially edible and tastes yummy the morning after if refrigerated. Viewed with much amusement by my partner and I during exhibitions. AKA ‘Bish-Bash-Bosh’ by those on the inside. Art? – Fine! You decide, but invest with caution… 🙂
Plein Air – A painting done outside rather than in a studio. The term comes from the French en plein air, meaning ‘in the open air’.
Pointillism – A branch of French Impressionism in which the principle of optical mixture or broken colour was carried to the extreme of applying colour in tiny dots or small, isolated strokes. Forms are visible in a pointillist painting only from a distance, when the viewer’s eye blends the colours to create visual masses and outlines. The inventor and chief exponent of pointillism was George Seurat (1859-1891); the other leading figure was Paul Signac (1863-1935).
Pop Art – An American style of art which seeks its inspiration from commercial art and items of mass culture (such as comic strips, popular foods and brand name packaging). This style evolved in the late 1950s and was characterized in the 1960s by such artists as Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Claus Oldenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Larry Rivers, Robert Rauschenberg, George Segal, and Robert Indiana.
Portrait – Any likeness of a person; a painting of a person’s face and sometimes their body.
Post Modernism – Genre of art, literature and architecture in reaction against principles and practices of established modernism. A term applied to the work of several artists – French or living in France – from about 1885 to 1900. Although they all painted in highly personal styles, the Post-Impressionists were united in rejecting the relative absence of form characteristic of Impressionism and stressed more formal qualities and the significance of subject matter.
Pre-Historic Art – Art forms predating recorded history, such as Old, Middle, and New Stone Ages.
Pre-Raphaelite – The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was created in 1848 by seven artists: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, James Collinson, John Everett Millais, Frederic George Stephens, and Thomas Woolner. Their goal was to develop a naturalistic style of art, throwing away the rules and conventions drilled into students’ heads at the Academies. Raphael was the artist considered to have attained the highest degree of perfection, so much so that students were encouraged to draw from his examples rather than from nature itself; thus they became the “Pre-Raphaelites”. The group popularized a theatrically romantic style, marked by great beauty, an intricate realism, and a fondness for Greek and Arthurian legend. The movement itself did not last past the 1850’s but the style remained popular for decades, and influenced the Arts and Crafts Movement, the Symbolists, and even the Classicists.
Quattrocentro – Italian Renaissance art & literature in the 15th century.
Realism – A style of painting which depicts subject matter (form, color, space) as it appears in actuality or ordinary visual experience without distortion or stylization.
Renaissance – The period of European history at the close of the Middle Ages and the rise of the modern world; a cultural rebirth from the 14th century through the 17th century. In art, it is most closely associated with Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael.
Rococo – A fanciful asymmetric ornamentation in art and architecture that originated in France in the 18th century.
Romanticism – An art style developed in the late 18th to the mid 19th centuries which was a reaction against Classicism, to celebrate nature rather than civilization. Emphasizing the personal, emotional and dramatic through the use of exotic, literary or historical subject matter. A dominant European style for many years, and was the pre-cursor to the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
Scumbling – A painting technique where a thin or broken layer of colour is brushed over another so that patches of the color beneath show through. It can be done with a dry brush, or by removing bits of paint with a cloth.
Sfumato – From the Italian work for “smoke,” a technique of painting in thin glazes to achieve a hazy, cloudy atmosphere, often to represent objects or landscape meant to be perceived as distant from the picture plane.
Still Life – A painting or other two-dimensional work of art in which the subject matter is an arrangement of tangible objects (such as fruit, flowers, vases, etc.) brought together for their complementary contrasts of shape, colour or texture. A flower arrangement of cut stems by a Avas Flowers type service or a bowl of fruit is usually the most common still life that artists will experiment with when they first start working with the art form.
Stippling – A pattern of closely spaced dots or small marks used to create a sense of three-dimensionally on a flat surface, especially in drawing and printmaking. See also hatching, cross-hatching.
Surrealism – An art style developed in Europe in the 1920’s, characterized by the use of the subconscious as a source of creativity to liberate pictorial subjects and ideas. Surrealist paintings often depict unexpected or irrational objects in an atmosphere of fantasy, creating the sense of being in a dream.
Symbolism – An art style developed in the late 19th century characterized by the inclusion of symbols and ideas, usually spiritual or mystical in nature, which can represent the inner beliefs and traditions of people.
Synthetism – A genre of French painting characterized by bright flat shapes and symbolic treatments of abstract ideas.
Traditional – An art style handed down from generation to generation.
Trompe l’oeil (To Fool the Eye) – A style of painting in which architectural details are rendered in extremely fine detail in order to create the illusion of dimensional reality. This form of painting was first used by the Romans thousands of years ago in frescoes and murals and was extremely popular during the Renaissance and continues today.
Well Wicked – Term used by my children when they were younger to describe the graphics on their PlayStation and occasionally my artwork.
My Facebook Page contains many examples of this terminology in use.