Dictionary of Art Terms

  • Art Appreciation - is the introduction of basic principles of visual literacy -- especially the means to analyzing form without reference to subject matter, symbolism or historical context -- to general audiences for the purpose of enhancing their enjoyment of works of art.
  • Line - A mark with length and direction(s). An element of art which refers to the continuous mark made on some surface by a moving point. Types of line include: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, straight or ruled, curved, bent, angular, thick, thin, etc.
  • Negative space - Empty space in an artwork, a void. To some people, this term suggests unpleasant things. Sometimes when we say "negative" we mean "bad." Both "space" and "emptiness" suggest a lack, a shortage of something. This is unfortunate. The concept of negative space is one that deserves to be highly prized. In Japanese art tradition, what we call negative space is called ma. Relevant in every Japanese art form, from sumi-e to ikebana, ma is considered a particularly valuable sort of space, not seen as negative or empty.
  • Overlap - When one thing lies over, partly covering something else. Depicting this is one of the most important means of conveying an illusion of depth. (Other means include varying sizes and placement on a receding plane, along with linear and aerial perspective).
  • Picture plane - In perspective, the plane (a flat level) occupied by the surface of the picture -- its frontal boundary. When there is any illusion of depth in the picture, the picture plane is similar to a plate of glass behind which pictorial elements are arranged in depth. Artists indicate the supposed distance of subjects beyond the picture plane through the use of changes in the sizes of things, the ways they overlap each other, and (when subjects are placed on the depicted ground, as opposed to flying above it) by positioning them on the area taken up by the depicted floor, ground, or a body of water. Abstract Expressionists worked directly on the plane itself, unconcerned with recession in depth.
  • Positive space - Space in an artwork that is positive -- filled with something, such as lines, designs, color, or shapes. The opposite of negative space.
  • Repetition - Closely related to harmony, a principle of design, this term refers to a way of combining elements of art so that the same elements are used over and over again. Thus, a certain color or shape might be used several times in the same picture. Repetition also can contribute to movement and rhythm in a work of art.
  • Taste - A personal preference or liking. And, the capacity to tell what is aesthetically excellent or appropriate. Sometimes, the sense of what is proper, or least likely to give offense.
  • Texture - An element of art which refers to the surface quality or "feel" of an object, its smoothness, roughness, softness, etc. Textures may be actual or simulated.
  • Value - An element of art that refers to the lightness or darkness of a color.

Masterpiece Art Program of Flagstaff