MOF | Glossary of Art Terms
This perpetually growing glossary is for those who dare try to communicate by or understand artspeak, which just about adds up to a whole other language.
2D Art | Two-dimensional visual art that is largely produced in a flattened medium (e.g. drawings, paintings, photography). Despite its nomenclature 3D or three-dimensional digital illustration and graphics (often confused with 3D art) are associated with 2D art when produced, typically through printing, in flattened physical medium.
3D Art | Three-dimensional visual art that is rendered with three-dimensional physical structure (e.g. pottery, sculpture, models, machines, toys, woodwork, etc.).
Aesthetic | An individual perception of beauty and “taste” which may be shared by a social group that happens to also share the same or similar social mores and cultural preferences (i.e. in the late 1930’s, Nazi Germany instituted a social and intellectual attack on and ban of modern art; perceived to be “degenerate art”, as modern art was created by and inspired free individual thinking and experimentation).
Applied Art | Visual art that includes industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, interior design and decorative art.
Archival Print | A museum quality fine art reproduction of 2D art. Such prints use the finest quality papers and inks designed to resist color fading. Drawings and paintings are reproduced using a fine art printer with exceptionally high resolution (see Giclée Print).
Art Collector | Any person or faction who buys art for aesthetic appreciation and/or investment reasons; regardless of actual or perceived social or economic stature.
Art Community | A social group of people, potential businesses and other associations of any size sharing an avid intellectual and potentially business interest in the creation and promotion of art.
Art Elements | The seven fundamental units of design used in the overall composition of visual artwork that include colour, value, line, shape, form, texture and space.
Art Form | Either the physical representation of a creatively expressed idea through a medium (e.g. a bronze sculpture or choreographed modern jazz dance) or a non-physical representation (e.g. a song or electronic game).
Art Genre | A set of similar or clearly differing artistic styles that are loosely relied on to plan and arrange the aesthetic elements in imagery.
Artist | Any novice or master, amateur or professional person (as opposed to the term “creative”) who engages in one or more activities involved with creating, practicing or demonstrating an art.
Artistic Expression | The conscious use of the imagination in the production of artwork.
Artist’s Portfolio | A collection of an artist’s best work that is used to show employers art galleries, although the latter less commonly, an artist’s creative versatility or depth in a specific area of work (e.g. fields of illustration, fine art painting, fine art photography, etc.). Portfolios are sometimes mistakenly referred to as artists’ bodies of work (see Body of Work) which are even more edited collections featuring pieces of artwork that are unified in aesthetics and or subject matter. Although rarely, portfolios are also confused with oeuvres (see Oeuvre) which are collections of artists’ lifetimes of work. Artist’s portfolios were originally examples of original or reproduced artwork contained in a booklet or a specially designed briefcase. As artwork is often digitized or originally digital in the modern computer era for displaying online or other means of communication and advertising, they are often added to what are called electronic portfolios or online portfolios. Within the arts industry, there are varied portfolios with specific names for various types of artists and designers, and there are other types of portfolios that are commonly used outside of the arts industry.
Art Movement | A fine art style or propensity to create work with a specific passionate philosophy or aim that is shared by a group of artists who have collectively published a written manifesto (published to a relatively wide audience through a reputable art journal or news carrier), and acquired considerable public recognition within a limited time period, (potentially spanning from as short as a few months [e.g. Vorticism] to as long as a few decades [e.g. Expressionism]) or during a period of years in which the movement is historically and socially viewed as most inspiring or influential (the official names of art movements are always spelled with a capitalized first letter in literature).
Art Principles | The use or arrangement of art elements through perspective, proportion (scale), pattern, rhythm (movement), balance, unity or emphasis.
Art Program | An arrangement and process of instructing, managing or promoting a group of artists and their artwork.
Art Project | An artistically creative endeavor like the production of an art series.
Art Series | An art project generally consisting of 8 to 12 associated pieces of fine art but not (there are no restrictions in size; a series can include more or less pieces of artwork).
Artspeak | An obscure, esoteric and even pretentious jargon used to discuss art and artistic things. Memorizing every term in this glossary, and needlessly regurgitating a lot of them in common dialogue at a moment’s notice with just about anyone victimized into hearing it is using artspeak.
Art Style | The values ascribed or aesthetics achieved in imagery as a result of using specific techniques.
Artsy | Someone, usually, or something that may be genuinely or pretentiously interested in or connected to the arts or art life, or even is art but also makes an exagerated display of showing their artistic connection or importance. Such people and things are also sometimes refered to as “artsy-fartsy”. An example of an artsy person is someone who may genuinely draw, paint or play a musical instrument but tries too hard to show that they are an artist or part of some artistic social entity by speaking and dressing in ways that are stereotypical of that group or community of artists and collectors but aren’t necessarily true of that faction. An example of an artsy thing is artwork that is made in a style that is far too closely copied off of a popular artist. An example of an artsy thing to do is going to an exhibition or auction of the late David Bowie’s visual art collection while dressing the same as or similar to how Bowie had been seen dressed in public. Artsy people and things are often also arty (see Arty).
Arty | Someone or something that is all about pretending to have or show artistic significance. An example of an arty person is someone who doesn’t create, collect, spend quality time regarding or truly promote anything artistic but is always ready to engage others in artspeak (see Artspeak) and namedropping of notables in art communities, in order to test others to see and reveal how disconnected or unknowledgeable about the artworld others may be. An example of an arty thing is a framed sheet of paper on which a single miniscule drop of ink or paint was deliberately (which requires extremely little, if any, applied artistic conceptualization and skill in its creation) or accidentally dropped on, and displayed as though it is artwork. An example of an arty thing to do is buying artwork just because it was once owned by at least one other famous person instead of purchasing the artwork because of a genuinely deep appreciation for the artwork.
Avant-Garde Art | Artwork that is the result of experimentation and unconventional social, cultural, intellectual and creative thinking (often preferred in high-end fine art).
Body of Work | Multiple pieces of cohesive artwork; a collection of 20 to 30 works of art from an artist which bear an overall signature style, medium, colours and subject matter that is instantly recognizable to most appreciators of art. It is art galleries that are mainly interested in the bodies of work of fine artists for potential gallery representation. Despite common misconceptions, a body of art usually isn’t representative of an artist’s oeuvre (see Oeuvre). The term is also occasionally mistakenly used to refer to a portfolio (see Artist’s Portfolio).
Commercial Art | Art forms that are usually, not necessarily, visual but are developed primarily for utility (see Fine Art).
Composition (visual art) | The organization of visual art elements, and design principles of perspective and proportion in ways that bring about deliberate visual effects.
Contemporary Art | Art produced at this present point in time — specifically, since World War II.
Creative (as opposed to artist) | Any person who regularly generates effective solutions to problems. A term that has been used needlessly on the Internet and by certain art experts to unnecessarily distinguish artists from creative people who aren’t regarded as artists by themselves or other people. With that consideration, the simplest understanding of a creative person is a person because all reasonably thinking and functioning people create solutions to problems on a daily basis (see Artist).
Creative Vision | The ability to recognize a person, place, event or other thing as not only what it actually is but, in a way, that amplifies or intensifies its existence and/or meaning on the human psyche. Creative vision may also involve the adding of one or more profound meanings to that person, place, event or other thing, and it is needed before that person, place, event or other thing is presented or expressed through some artistic means.
Design | Traditionally, artwork bearing visual art elements that can be reproduced exactly in every way by hand, as opposed to an image which can only be produced once by hand (blueprints are designs while pencil drawings, oil paintings, other illustrations and photographs are images); keep in mind that most designs by contemporary considerations are not handmade but are computer generated (e.g. graphic design), as are many contemporary images, and both can be reproduced exactly by technological means.
Emerging Artist | A beginning or experienced professional visual artist that has typically created a relatively small body of work, has achieved some local recognition and/or has limited experience exhibiting their work in public.
Established Artist | A professional visual artist who has produced an extensive body of work – from a dozen to a couple dozen series, and has achieved national or international recognition.
Figurative Illustration | (a.k.a. “figurative art”) A genre of illustration that depicts an object derived from a real source to represent something or someone but is not to be mistaken for figure drawing or figure painting which exclusively involves depictions of the human form.
Fine Art | Art forms that are not necessarily visual but are developed primarily for aesthetics and/or conveying and analyzing ideas rather than practical application (see Commercial Art).
Giclée Print | A fine art reproduction of 2D art that is marketed as being of archival (museum) quality. It is the French word giclée (meaning; a spray or a spurt of liquid) that is used to indicate the likely museum quality of a print to prospective art collectors. As such reproductions are typically made by large format digital inkjet printers with expectedly, not guaranteed, exceptionally high resolution (digital photographs as low as 72 dpi can be acceptable but continuous tone and line art [paintings and drawings] are usually best to be photographed or scanned as digital files at a minimum of 300 dpi) it is not an official industry term (see Archival Print). Other high-quality fine art reproductions could be made through offset, lithographic and other printing processes.
Graphic | A visual image or design used to convey information, illustrate or entertain.
Illustration | Any visual art that is created to enhance, explain, or beautify something. Illustration is also frequently created for utility; hence illustration is also a commercial art.
Image | Traditionally, artwork bearing visual art elements that can only be produced once by hand, as opposed to a design which features visual art elements that can be reproduced exactly in every way by hand (pencil drawings, oil paintings, other illustrations and photographs are images while schematics are designs); keep in mind that most designs by contemporary considerations are not handmade but are computer generated (e.g. graphic design), as are many contemporary images, and both can be reproduced exactly by technological means.
Kitsch | Artwork, objects or designs considered by most to be in poor taste or quality because of excessive garishness or sentimentality but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way. Neon signs, hardcore pornography are all well-known and highly admired examples of kitsch or “kitschy art” even though many are unlikely to openly state their attraction to such things. Kitsch is the true opposite of fine art, and is often also commercial art although commercial art usually is not kitsch. The word is originally an old German expression for something regarded as tacky or trashy.
Limited Edition Print | A reproduction (referred to by print makers as an “impression”) of 2D artwork that is of a fixed number ensuring that no other reproduction will be produced later. Making a limited edition (a.k.a.: “LE”) that is collectible by art collectors requires 1) making all impressions from a single printing plate or electronic file (i.e. when making giclée prints), 2) destroying the plate, and 3) ensuring that the original artwork is never traded or sold even if it means destroying the art. LE prints are typically — not always, hand signed and numbered in graphite (pencil) by the artist who created the original artwork. The number of a print is often conspicuously displayed as a fraction on a white boarder in the lower left corner. For example, if 237 impression are made in a print run, the first impression to come off of the press would be numbered 1/237 (see Open Edition Print).
Marketing Communications | The way a business entity conveys a message to a target market or the overall market through one or more viable tactics and strategies such as networking, personal selling, direct marketing, advertising, exhibiting, sponsorship, communication, promotion and public relations.
Mid-Career Artist | A professional visual artist who has completed a couple to a dozen art series (usually a project of 8 to 12 pieces), and have received recognition outside of his or her local arts community.
Multidisciplinary Art | Art forms that heavily incorporate other art forms and fields, that are related or even unrelated to the arts, into their overall creation such as visual art, performance art, literary art, acrobatics, athletics, martial arts, etc.
Motif | (pl. motifs and motives) A graphic that is or is meant to be repeated in a pattern or design.
Modern Art | Artwork produced between the 1860s and 1970s, although the term sounds like it means the same thing as contemporary art, and made with that era’s popular philosophies of artistry — free thinking and experimentation as opposed to applying strong traditional considerations of narrative and realism.
Narrative Art | Artwork that tells a story either through a single piece of artwork or a series of pieces — either an entire story, more than one story or part of one story.
Oeuvre | A French word typically referring to all of the artwork created by an artist in his or her lifetime. This word is often misused to mean a body of work or a portfolio (see Body of Work and Artist’s Portfolio).
Open Edition Print | A reproduction (referred to by printmakers as an “impression”) of 2D artwork that is of a number of quality reproductions made by a single printing plate before the plate becomes unusable or however many quality copies made from the same plate that are sellable. Making an open edition (a.k.a.: “OE”) that is collectable by art collectors requires 1) making all impressions from a single printing plate (reproducing the same image from any additional plates is called reprinting, and reprints are of extremely less value, if any, to collectors) or electronic file (i.e. when making giclée prints) and 2) saving and protecting the original plate for future printing until it wears out (see Limited Edition Print). OE’s typically — not always, have a much greater number of impressions produced than limited editions (LE’s). Whereas LE’s rarely number greater than a thousand copies, OE’s can range from a few thousand reproductions to tens of thousands of reproductions — considered virtually limitless. As OE prints are so common, theoretically, they have to be marketed at significantly lower price values than LE prints.
Performance Art | Art forms that create works which rely most heavily on some manner of kinetic involvement in their production, and are produced for an audience (e.g. music, drama, oral art and dance are the performance arts).
Photographic Vision | Profound foresight on the creative presentation of an image of a person, place, event or other thing through the recording of light or other electromagnetic radiation.
Photorealism | A genre ad attempt to push visual art aesthetics to the point of creating literal and photographically accurate representations of subject matter, and an art movement (always spelled with a capital P when specifically referring to the movement) that has endured since the 1960’s.
Realism | A genre and effort to create visual art that realistically or “truthfully” represents something as it likely would be seen to the unaided eye, and a 19th century art movement (always spelled with a capital R when specifically referring to the movement).
Rendering | The process of illustrating objects or scenes in artwork by including shading, colour and texture as opposed to only basic lines and curves.
Representational Art | Artwork created to signify something else (i.e. a portrait photograph is a representation of someone’s physical likeness).
SMM | Social Media Marketing the use of SMMP’s and blogs in self-promotion.
SMMP | Social Media Management Platform (e,g. Facebook, Instagram, Tumbler, Twitter and Google+).
Technical Illustration | A genre of illustration used to visually and expressively communicate technical information of how something appears or functions, more often than not to a non-technical observer.
Tear Sheet | A cover or page that is torn or sliced from a publication featuring the work of an artist (tear sheets are not exclusive to artists or the arts industry), that can be used by the artist as part of his or her portfolio or other means of self-promotion (e.g. online artist’s portfolio, website, blog, etc.). As tear sheets are often digitized or originally digital in the modern computer era for displaying online or other means of communication and advertising, they are sometimes referred to as electronic tear sheets or virtual tear sheets.
Visual Art | Art forms that create works which are primarily visual in nature, such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, and often modern visual arts (photography, video, and film-making [new media art]) and architecture.
Voice | An artistic style that is distinct and usually recognizable in the work of a specific artist as a result of the artist having unique life and creative experiences, inspirations, adhering to certain materials, techniques, themes and color palette, and using most or all of them together most or all of the time to create art — because of the impact of personal experiences, an artistic voice may change over time.