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Definitions in the Art World - for beginners

Build your art vocabulary

Definitions of style

Landscape - just what it says
Figure in landscape - when you don't know who the figure is
Figurative - when you don't know who the figure is but you can't see the landscape
Portrait - when you do know who the figure is or there is just a face
Still Life - objects that cannot move on there own
Floral - close up of a flower or flowers
Illustration - tells a story
Fantasy - tells a fairy tale or sci-fi story
Realism - all of the above
Objective - when you don't have to ask
Abstract - when it's something rearranged in an unnatural way but sometimes you have to ask. These usually have definable form.
Non-objective - when it has no object, form and is hard to figure out, actually there never was a form so stop looking for one and enjoy the show.
Installation Stuff, objects, junk or nothing at all put together in a conceptual way. created to reside in a specific site, or built on site as a temporary work of art.
Performance Art: A short theatrical work expressing a abstract concept created by the artist


Art movements:

All art movements have names that describe a style of art and should not be confused with style.

an example:

French Impressionism - made popular by artists such as Cezanne, Van Gough, and Monet all painted different styles including landscape, portrait etc. Their main desire was to present their own sensations and feelings. The work carried forward intuitions. Some would call them Romantics. 

to learn more about art movements pick up a copy of

The HarperCollins Dictionary Art Terms & Techniques


Painters Definitions

Medium: All paints begin with the same essential powdered sources, know as pigments.
To allow the dry powders to be spread easily and to adhere to the surface they are put on, a chemical is added.  Officially the chemical used as a binder for the pigments is the medium. Example: gum-arabic is used as a binder in watercolor paint is the medium.

When asked which medium they use painters usually respond with the general term such as watercolor, oil etc.

Painting mediums include:
Watercolor, Oil, Pastel, Acrylic, Tempera, Ink, Graphite, Mixed Media-(all or some listed) Collage, Encaustic-(any paint with wax used to bind it to surface).

The Painters Ground

The surfaces painted on is referred to as ground. The following is a list of the most common grounds for each medium.

Watercolor - acid free cotton papers, watercolor board

Oil- canvas, watercolor board, canvas papers, walls, treated board.

Acrylic- see watercolor and Oil

Pastel- soft drawing paper with textured surface.

Collage - any flat surface.


Terms of the Watercolor/media Artist

Watercolor - Transparent watercolor. Mixes with water. All watercolorists know that all transparent watercolor is not equal nor is the pigment always really transparent. But it's still transparent watercolor if it is in a tube of paint that has a gum-arabic binder.
       Art pigments used in professional watercolor is the same pigment used in oil or acrylic. It starts out in powder form then is mixed with different binders to create different mediums. Some pigments are made from earth minerals and contain a lot of opaque sediments making even 'transparent watercolors' that are thick enough to use as opaque.

Acrylic - Mixes with water, is also transparent. Use enough water with acrylic and it can be a transparent as watercolor. The difference is in the binder. When Acrylics dry they dry fast and hard, no lifting. And used with little water very opaque.

Full-Sheet/Half-Sheet/Quarter sheet
The standard size watercolor sheet or paper is 22" x 30". This is a full-sheet. Tear it in half  it's 15" x 22", now it's a half sheet. Tear a half sheet in half, it's 9" x 11", now it's a quarter sheet.

Elephant- 29-1/2" x 41"

Watercolor Techniques-Terms

 Wash- used mainly for large areas and backgrounds, skies and such. It refers to an area where the paint is kept uniform in value.

A graded wash, also used as background, but the values of the pigment is changed without a line or break in the paint. sometimes there is a color change.

For information on how to paint washes and for other techniques visit our book store.