Basic Must-Know Art Terminology

In every ArtEye lesson, you as your instructor use art terminology to describe various concepts, styles, methods, strategies, and processes. At times the terminology is self-evident, and in other times it may not always be so clear to you just because you watch the entire ArtEye lesson. You must learn to listen to the instructor and his or her explanation of the different terms. The purpose of the lesson is for you to gain an understanding of the various elements of art and how each one can be related to others. Let’s take a look at a few examples below.


The term toning refers to the use of colors in your work. It often refers to using blues and whites with black as the dominant color. A less common term is referred to as contrast and toning are one of those. Another term is known as white space. This refers to the area between the colors used in the picture or sculpture. It is the space that makes the picture look more complete.


The term drawing is usually used when referring to the art of creating a picture in the form of a three-dimensional object. For instance, if you are making a portrait of a person you would use the term portrait paintings. Another term is known as composition and refers to the way in which the picture is made. In painting, there are many types of components such as layering, visual distortion, light effects, vertical perspective, horizontal perspective, and other elements. To give a specific example let’s say you are making a landscape painting, then you could call that style realistic or abstract.


The term painting itself refers to the act of applying paint to a surface. The paint used is determined by the medium that is being used. There are different types of media and each one has its own purpose. For instance, watercolors have oil and acrylic mediums. In sculpture terms, art vocabulary can also refer to paints or other materials. A common term is referred to as the canvas and it is used to describe canvases used for art paintings.

The term painting is used to describe the process of creating an image on a surface. There are different types of painting such as impressionism, modern, and others. The term refers to the creative process and not the medium used for the artwork. For instance, a modern piece of art would be created using a digital camera to traditional paintings would be done with a brush or other tools.


The sculpture is also another term. It refers to the act of building an actual statue from actual clay or other materials. Clay can be milled to the shape statues but there are limitations to this. Other materials can also be used but they are chosen based on their longevity and functionality.


Art terms are generally defined according to the culture and region in which an art piece is created. Each culture has its own terms and if you want to learn more about them you can consult an art dictionary or search online for art terminology. It is very important to do your research and know the meaning of art terminology because the meaning of some art terms may not clear up until you know the context in which they are used. For instance, some artists might comment on color and its relation to feeling, and other artists would use color in the painting to add extra dimension. The context will define the exact meaning of art terminology.

Artists do not always use the same terms to discuss their work. Some artists will choose to talk about their art in terms similar to a scientist would when discussing their discoveries. Others would not even consider discussing their art in these terms at all. It is interesting to see the various approaches that different artists take to art terminology and art appreciation.