Art Glossary

Anytime we’re learning a new subject, it’s important to learn the vocabulary of that subject. I like to include a few new vocabulary terms in every art lesson. Here are the art related terms we’ve learned in our lessons, in alphabetical order. You can refer back to this art glossary if you ever forget a term.


  • Abstract Art: Art that does not try to represent reality
  • Abstraction: an art movement where artists rejected realism and instead created art apart from reality, experimenting with form and color
  • Architects:  a person who designs buildings
  • Art colony: a place where artists live and work
  • Authentic: real to life
  • Bauhaus: German art/architect school
  • Botanical Illustration: scientifically accurate art, depicting the form, color, and details of plant species
  • Botanical: of or relating to plants


  • Candid:  not posed
  • Caricatures: funny drawings of people or things
  • Color Harmony: The pleasing arrangement of color leading to a visual balance. At one extreme, bland colors tend to look boring. At the other extreme, too much color complexity will feel chaotic. Harmony is the balance between the two extremes.
  • Color Wheel: a color circle based on red, yellow, and blue, but also including secondary and sometimes tertiary colors
  • Context of Color: how multiple colors appear relative to each other. (Red appears vibrant next to black but dull next to orange.)
  • Commission: payment for the creation of a work- often before the art is created


  • Embroidery: art created with needle and thread
  • Etching: using strong acid to cut into a design IN TO a metal surface. Prints were often made from etchings.
  • Folk Art:  a style of art that cultural, utilitarian (meaning, it has a use in addition to its beauty) and usually created by artist without a formal art education. Folk Art is disconnected from the fine art movements
  • Gouache: an opaque watercolor thickened with a glue-like gum.
  • Horizontal line: a line lying flat (like the horizon)
  • Horizontal line: a line lying flat (like the horizon)
  • Horizontal: side to side


  • Idealistic:  unrealistically aiming for perfection
  • Illustration: a picture that tells a story, often found in books and magazines.
  • Impressionism: a movement and style of painting that focuses on capturing the feeling or experience of the subject, uses bold colors to depict light, leaves visible brush strokes, and looks out-of-focus up close.
  • Landscape: a single view of a large area of land.
  • Licensing art: When someone pays for the right to reproduce someone else’s art
  • Line of Symmetry: the imaginary line where you could fold the image and have both halves match exactly.
  • Modernism: a group of art movements including Post-impressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism, Constructivism…
  • Optical Illusion:  something that tricks the eye by appearing to be different than it is


  • Pastels:  similar to chalk crayons, but made from colored powder and gum.
  • Perspective: the appearance of depth in a two-dimensional picture
  • Plein-air:  French for “open Air” – Painting outside.
  • Point of view:  the position from which something or someone is observed.
  • Pose: stand very still in a specific position, often for a photograph or painting.
  • Proportion: the size of one part of the drawing in comparison to (relative to) the size of the whole drawing
  • Props: physical items, separate from the people, used to set the stage or add visual interest. (Short for Theatrical Property.)


  • Realism: an art movement where artists tried to represent their subjects truthfully and accurately.
  • Sculptures: three-dimensional art that has been carved or shaped.
  • Self-portrait: a drawing or painting made by the artist him/herself
  • Still Life: Art with a subject matter of inanimate (not-alive) objects. (Not people, animals, or landscapes.)
  • Studio:  a room or building where an artist works.
  • Symmetry: when one side of a shape becomes exactly like the other side if you flip or turn it. The simplest type of symmetry is Reflection symmetry, also known as Mirror symmetry or Line symmetry. (Rotational Symmetry and Point Symmetry are a little different.)


  • Tone: the result of mixing a color with grey (producing a darker ‘shade’) or white (producing a lighter ‘tint’).
  • Vertical line: a line standing up
  • Vertical line: a line standing up
  • Vertical: up and down

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This