ABSTRACT ART This usually refers to work which is not representational. The artist’s work is often concerned with the depiction of ideas which have no basis in everyday reality.

ACRYLIC Acrylic paint can be used thickly, like oil paint, or watered down to be like watercolour. It dries very quickly and once dry, it is waterproof. Brushes must be washed out immediately with water after use.

Acrylic Paint

ANALOGOUS In a colour wheel, colours which are next to each other, such as red and orange, are analogous. It is the opposite of complementary.

AERIAL VIEWPOINT Looking down as if from a tall building.

ARTEFACT This word comes from the Latin words ars meaning art and fact made. It is something made with skill by someone.

BATIK Batik is a method of printing on textiles which is based on using wax to resist dye.

BLENDING This is the merging and overlapping of different colours.

BRUSH-DRAWING This is painting in a linear style with the tip of a brush.

CANVAS Canvas is a heavy woven fabric, made of linen or heavy cotton. It is the preferred painting surface for many artists using oil or acrylic paint. It needs to be prepared by tacking it onto a frame (known as a stretcher) and primed.

CERAMICS Ceramics covers products and processes involving clay (and glass) which involve the use of a kiln.

CHARCOAL Charcoal is a piece of burnt twig, usually willow, used for drawing. It needs to be fixed to stop it smudging. Interesting effects can be achieved by using charcoal in conjunction with white chalk, to give a range of tonal values.


CHIAROSCURO This is the dramatic effect of light and dark in a painting to create atmosphere and depth.

CLAY Clay is a product from the earth that when heated becomes hard.  Clay comes from decomposed rock.  It is typically carried by water and settles together in a particular area where it is mined.  It is a combination of Alumina, Silica and water.  Physically clay’s structure is like tiny sheets with water between them.  They can slide past each other like a deck of wet playing cards.

CLIP ART Clip art is professionally-prepared graphics which are available for use with various computer programmes.

COLLAGE An image made up of cut paper pieces pasted on for a tonal or colour effect.

COLLAGRAPH A collagraph is a collage that you print.  You make a collagraph by gluing down paper and card of different textures and then inking it up and taking a print from it.

COLOUR WHEEL A colour wheel is a circular chart which is divided into segments, each showing the main primary and secondary colours. The colours which are least alike in terms of hue (complementary), such as blue and orange, are on opposite sides of the wheel. Colours which are similar (analogous), such as blue and violet, are next to each other.

COMPLEMENTARY Not to be confused with complimentary! Complementary colours are those which are least alike. They appear opposite each other in a colour wheel.

COMPOSITION An arrangement of different elements. In art, it is how visual elements (objects, lines, shapes, colour) are arranged on the page or canvas.

CONTINUOUS LINE This is a smooth unbroken line.

CONTEMPORARY ART Contemporary art is artwork which is currently being produced by living artists. It is often concerned with contemporary issues and can take many forms.

CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER is the arrangement of things following one after another in time. When adding facts to a research page they must be put in chronological order.

LINE DRAWING – A line drawing is made up of lines and marks but does not include any shading (tone).

TONE DRAWING – A tone drawing is a drawing which includes areas of light and dark often created through shading.

FORM Form is the three-dimensional aspect of an artwork, as opposed to shape, which is seen as referring to the two-dimensional aspect.

FOLK ART – Art produced in a traditional fashion by peasants, seamen, country artisans, or tradespeople with no formal training, or by members of a social or ethnic group that has preserved its traditional culture. It is predominantly functional, typically produced by hand for use by the maker or by a small group or community. Paintings are usually incorporated as decorative features on clock faces, chests, chairs, and interior and exterior walls. Sculptural objects in wood, stone, and metal include toys, spoons, candlesticks, and religious items.

FROTTAGE Frottage is where an artwork is made by taking rubbings from a surface.

Learn more about Frottage here.

GLAZE The word glaze is related to the word glass. It is a term used in ceramics which refers to the thin, shiny coating which is fused into fired clay.

GRADUATION This is a gradual change from one tone to the next.

HUE Hue is an aspect of colour which is concerned with the yellowness, redness or blueness of a particular colour. There are over 150 discernible hues.

INTAGLIO Intaglio is a type of print where the image comes from beneath the surface of the printing block (sometimes made of plastic, as in drypoint).

ILLUSTRATOR An illustrator is a narrative artist who specializes in enhancing writing by providing a visual representation that corresponds to the content of the associated text.

KILN A kiln is a kind of oven used to bake clay. It ‘fires’ at very high temperatures and causes clay to chemically change, so that, once fired, it cannot be made soft again.

LEATHER HARD This is unfired clay that has dried out to a leather-like consistency, but which is still workable.

LINO-PRINT A lino-print is a print taken off the raised, inked-up surface of a piece of linoleum.

MIXED MEDIA A combination of different materials, e.g. crayon with watercolour

MEDIA In art it refers to the substance or process you use to produce an artwork. For example, an oil painting is painted using the medium of oil paint. Paint, ink and clay are different media.

MONOPRINT Sometimes called a monotype print, a monoprint is a process whereby one print at a time is taken. Using a piece of paper lying face down on an inked-up surface, an image is drawn on the back; the pressure of the drawing picks up ink on the front with a resulting image.

MONTAGE This term is from the French monter meaning to fix objects onto or into something. A montage is a two-dimensional artwork made up from overlapping images; in photomontage, only photographs are used.

MOTIF Motif usually refers to a repeated visual element or combination of elements found in a pattern or composition. It can also refer to the dominant theme or idea in an artwork.

NEGATIVE SPACE, in art, is the space around or between the subject of an image. If you notice these shapes it can help you get things in place and draw accurately.

OBSERVATIONAL DRAWING  Drawing what we see, not what we think we see.  Translating what one observes about a three-dimensional object into lines and shapes on a flat piece of paper.

PAINT Paint is made up from three main things: pigment, to give it colour; a medium (such as oil), which is used to support the pigment; and something to think it down, such as water or turpentine.

PALETTE A palette is a portable tray which artists use for mixing colours. The term ‘artist’s palette’ refers also to the range of colours which an artist uses. A palette knife is a flexible, blunt knife used for both mixing and applying paint.

PAPIER MÂCHĖ Papier mâché is a material made from torn-up paper (often newspaper) soaked in water with the addition of glue or paste.

PATTERN This is a repeating motif or quality.

PERSPECTIVE Perspective is the illusion of objects appearing smaller at a distance.

PIGMENT Pigment is the substance in paint and ink which gives it colour.

PORTRAIT A portrait is an artwork which represents a particular person (or sometimes an animal), often showing just the head and shoulders. A picture or piece of paper which is ‘portrait way up’ has a height longer than its width.

PRIMARY COLOUR Red, blue and yellow are the primary colours in art; they cannot be mixed from other colours. When two of them are mixed together, a secondary colour is formed.

PROCESS The procedures that one goes through in creating an artwork are known as the process, for example, the process of printmaking.

PUG/PUGMILL To pug, which is usually done in a machine called a pugmill, is to squash clay in readiness for use.

RELIEF This is a part of a design which stands ‘proud’.

RELIEF PRINT A relief print is one that is taken from the surface of an image, either gouged out as in a linoprint, or built up, as in a string print (where string is glued onto a piece of card).

SCULPTURE A sculpture is a three-dimensional artwork (produced by a sculptor). Sculptures can be carved or modelled, using a wide range of materials.

SECONDARY COLOURS These are colours mixed by combining two primary colours: orange, purple and green.

SLAB TECHNIQUE Slab technique is a structure built up by flat layers of rolled-out clay.

SLIP The word slip is derived from the Old English word slipa which meant ‘slime’. It is very fine clay mixed with water. It can be used for decorative effects or, more commonly, as a kind of glue to fix two pieces of clay together (the surfaces should be scratched or scored first).

STENCIL A stencil is a thin sheet of metal, cardboard or plastic in which a design (or letters and numbers) is cut. The uncut areas act as a mask. Stencils can be used in screen printing, where the masked part prevents the printing ink from going through the screen.

STILL LIFE Still life is a painting or drawing of a group of objects, which have been selected by the artist.

TERTIARY COLOURS These are colour mixed by combining adjacent secondary and primary colours.
TEXTURE Texture is the surface quality of an object. In art, it can refer to an illusion of texture, for example, in a painting which shows the smoothness of a child’s face and rough surface of a tree. It can also refer to actual texture, as in a collage.

TONE Tone is normally seen as one aspect of colour, concerned with its lightness or darkness.

VIEWFINDER A viewfinder is a piece of card with a small rectangular shape cut in the centre, used to isolate parts of a scene or picture.

WATERCOLOUR Watercolour is kind of paint which is mixed with water, either from a tube or a hard slab. It is usually applied onto heavy paper in translucent washes (that is, you can see the paper through it).

WET ON WET This is painting colour next to a wet area or on an area you have wetted to encourage the colour to bleed.

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