additive colors: Colors made by lights which, when mixed, become lighter in value. The three additive primary colors are Red, Green, and Blue (typically found in color television and video).

additive process: Any method in which material is "added" together to create a sculptural form, e.g., clay coil pots, wooden blocks glued together, steel sculpture welded from multiple steel plates, etc.

Anderson, Laurie: A performance artist/musician known for her installations, albums, and multi media performances. Anderson works in a variety of media, including film, electronic and acoustic music, slides, costumes, and other effects. Read some text to one of her songs. See also Performance Art. Video available from ASU Media Services

after-image: The illusion of color and shape produced in the visual apparatus after staring at a stong color (hue) for some time. A positive after-image is the same color as the original; a negative after-image is its complement. See successive contrast.

analogous hues: Colors lying next to one another on the color wheel. Normally analogous colors are three adjacent colors--such as red, red-orange, and orange. Some textbooks use four or even more.

aniline dyes: A family of colorants synthesized from coal-tar, including reds, black, greens, and blue-reds.

atmospheric perspective: The optical illusion that areas closer to the viewer are sharper in detail, color intensity, and value contrast than areas farther away. "In many atmospheres, everything will take on a blue cast" (Zelanski).

azo dyes: A large family of colorfast, highly saturated, synthetic colorants developed from petroleum (Zelanski).


balance: In 2D art, the equal distribution of "visual weight" across the picture plane. In 3D art, physical and visual equilibrium.

bas-relief: A french term meaning literally "low relief". In a low relief the image projects only slightly from the background plane.

bauhaus: Influential German art and design school that was founded in Dessau between the two world wars, 1919 - 1933. Industrial potentials were to be applied to satisfactory design standards, regarding both functional and aesthetic aspects. The Bauhaus workshops produced prototypes for mass production: from a single lamp to a complete dwelling. The Bauhaus faculty included Josef Albers, Hinnerk Scheper, Georg Muche, László Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer, Joost Schmidt, Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Vassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger, Gunta Stölzl and Oskar Schlemmer, among others. For the history of the Bauhaus, go to the following URL:

Benjamin, Walter: Important writer/theorist associated with the Frankfurt School. Wrote many influential essays including "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" in 1936.

Bezold Effect: The possibility of changing a design considerably by simply changing one of its colors (for example, changing a white background thread to a black thread). The effect was discovered by a rugmaker named Wilhelm von Bezold in the nineteenth century.

broken color: Layers of different colors applied to a painting so that they show through one another (in contrast to colors physically blended on the palette or on the canvas).

Boccioni, Umberto: Italian Futurist, 1882-1916. See


calligraphy: 1) beautiful handwriting, fine penmanship. 2) a script, usually cursive, esp. Chinese, Japanese, or Arabic writing of high aesthetic value. 3) a line or a group of lines that either are derived from or resemble cursive letter forms produced with a brush.

casting: see also "substitution" method. Any molding technique that allows a sculptural form to be translated from one material into another. Molds are taken off of an original sculpture and the resulting "negative space" can be filled with another "castable medium" such as plaster or wax. More sophisticated casting methods require metal foundry equipment such as furnaces and crucibles in order to heat metal up to its liquid state for pouring into specially constructed molds made of "refractory" materials (sand and plaster mixed together is one such traditional material).

chiaroscuro: The use of light and dark values to imply depth and volume in a two-dimensional work of art (Lauer).

chromatic hue: Any color other than black, grays, and white.

chromaticity: In lights, a measure of the combination of hue and saturation in a color (Zelanski).

Chromaticity Diagram: The plotting of bue and saturation coordinates on a two-dimensional grid (Zelanski).

chrominance: In television and video, a signal indicating both hue and saturation (Zelanski, Collins).

chromotherapy: The use of colored lights for healing purposes (Zelanski).

CMYK: The four-color screen system or process colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) commonly used in reproducing "four color images" such as color photographs and color silkscreens (serigraphs) (Zelanski, Collins).

coherent light: Theoretically, light in which the waves are all of the same length and in unchanging relationship to each other, as approximated by a laser beam (Zelanski).

collage: A two-dimensional work of art in which found objects, generally 2D, are glued to a flat surface (Zelanski, Collins).

collodion: A transparent syrupy solution of pyroxylin (a nitrocelluose) dissolved in ether and alcohol. The collodion process was used as the basis for photographic emulsions in the wet-plate process starting in 1851. It was popular until the development of the gelatin dry-plate some 30 years later. It was more light sensitive than either the daguerreotype or the calotype allowing for exposure times as short as five seconds. (Upton, Collins)

color constancy: The psychology tendency to see colors as we think they are rather than as we actually perceive them (Zelanski).

Color-Field painting: A style of painting originating from the mid-twentieth-century New York School featuring large, nonobjective areas of color (Zelanski).

colorimeter: A computerized instrument that measures the amount of power in each wavelength in a light source. See spectrophotometer (Zelanski).

color management: In computerized processes, attempting to hold colors the same no matter in what medium they are displayed or printed (Zelanski).

color negative process: In color print photography, the activation of dyes in the film to release colors that are complementary to those in the original scene. A positive print in the original colors of the scene is then printed from this color negative (Zelanski).

color positive (reversal) process: In the creation of color transparencies, a series of steps which culminates in the release of magenta, cyan, and yellow dyes in the film's three layers. These mix to form the colors of the original when the developed film is seen in the light (Zelanski).

color separation: In printing, colored images are broken down into screens of certain primaries (in a four-color process they are magenta, cyan, yellow, and black) which when superimposed and printed will yield an approximation of the original colors (Zelanski).

color wheel: A circular, two-dimensional model showing color relationships, originating from Sir Isaac Newton's bending of the straight array of spectral hues into a circle (Zelanski).

compositing: Compositing is the combining of visual elements from separate sources into single images, often to create the illusion that all those elements are parts of the same scene. Live-action shooting for compositing is variously called “blue screen,” “green screen,” “chroma key,” and other names. Today, most though not all compositing is achieved through digital image manipulation. Pre-digital compositing techniques, however, go back as far as the trick films of Georges Méličs in the late 19th century; and some are still in use. (Wikipedia).

cones: Special cells in the retina at the back of the eye which enable us to distinguish hues in the daylight (Zelanski).

continuous tone: In printing, referring to any image with a range of gradually changing values (Zelanski).

critical color matching: The precise mixing of pigments or ink dyes to match a given sample (Zelanski).

cross-hatch: to "hatch" or shade by using overlapping, roughly perpendicular sets of parallel lines (Collins).

crow-quill: a very fine nibbed ink pen (Collins).


depth cues: visual devices that suggest the illusion of space within the two-dimensional picture plane. Examples include overlap, relative size, vertical location and others.

diagonal: suggesting an oblique direction--neither horizontal nor vertical.

Duchamp, Marcel: French artist, 1887-1968. Considered by many to be the father of conceptual art. Invented the "ready made." Two of Duchamp's most famous works include Nude Descending a Staircase, #2 (1912) and The Bride Stripped Bare of Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915-23).


Eisenstein, Sergei (1898-1948): Russian film director and film theorist. He directed the all time great film on the Russian revolution, Potemkin (1927).

entropy: the theory that closed systems tend towards disorganization. All organized systems--be they sand castles or solar systems--tend to become less ordered and have less available energy over time.


figure: the primary or positive shape in a design; a shape which is noticeably separated from the surrounding ground or negative shape. The figure is the dominant, advancing shape in a figure-ground relationship.(Mary Stewart, University of Northern Illinois)

figure/ground reversal: an arrangement in which positive and negative shapes alternatively command attention. Also known as positive and negative interchange.(Mary Stewart, University of Northern Illinois)

Finley, Karen: Performance artist who was defunded by the NEA for the objectionable content of her work. Subsequently she sued the government.

format: 1) the orientation of the picture plane (horizontal--"landscape", or vertical--"portrait"). 2) in photography, the type of film used (e.g., 35mm, 4 x 5, etc.). 3) In film and video, the "aspect ratio" (proportion of height to width) of the frame. 4) In computers, the way in which information is encoded on a given storage medium. 5) In book arts, the shape and size of the book depending on the number of times the original sheet has been folded (e.g., octavo, quarto, etc.).

found object: an object that is literally "found" and not manipulated in any way.

frame: the borders that define the edges of a composition.

Futurists: Futurism is a style of fine arts developed originally by a group of Italian artists about 1910 in which forms derived chiefly from Cubism were used to represent rapid movement and dynamic motion.


geologic time: the succession of eras, periods, and epochs as considered in historical geology. Geologic processes--with the exception of climactic events such as volcanoes and earthquakes--generally occur so slowly as to be imperceptible to humans.

gesture: a movement of the body, head, arms, hands, or face that is expressive of an idea, opinion, emotion, etc.

graffiti: words or phrases written on public sidewalks, on the walls of buildings, public restrooms etc. or the like.

graffiti art: highly expressive painting that uses the vocabulary of street graffiti for aesthetic or expressive effect. Graffiti art often quotes the techniques of the street artist by using spray paint and highly personal signatures called "tags."


hatching: a series of lines, generally parallel, used in shading or modeling, as in drawing or cartography.

haut-relief: a French term meaning literally "high relief." A high relief is a sculptural relief in which deep cuts or three-dimensional forms project significantly from the background plane.

horizon: eye level.

horizontal: Lines parallel to the horizon.


icon: a picture, image, or other represenation. In art history, an icon is often a representation in painting or some other medium of some sacred personage, as Christ or a saint or angel, itself venerated as sacred.

iconoclast: literally, a breaker or destoyer of images. Also has come to mean one who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions, etc., as being based on error or superstition.

iconography: symbolic representation, esp. the conventional meanings attached to an image or images. Also, subject matter in the visual arts, esp. with reference to the conventions regarding the treatment of a subject in artistic representation.

implied line: a series of points or other visual elements that suggest a continuous linear connection. Example: a dotted line is an "implied line."

inkblot: a symmetrical but otherwise abstract pattern of shapes created by folding liquid ink into the vertical fold of a piece of paper. The Rorschach ink blot test is a psychological projective test of personality in which a subject's interpretations of ten standard abstract designs are analyzed as a measure of emotional and intellectual functioning and integration. The test is named after Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922) who developed the ink blots, although he did not use them for personality analysis.


Janus:In Roman mythology Janus was the god of good beginnings, which, his followers believed, ensured good endings. He was also the god of doors and gateways. His principal temple in the Forum had doors facing east and west to greet the beginning and ending of the day, between which stood his statue with two faces gazing in opposite directions. As the god of good beginnings he was publicly invoked on the first day of January, the month that bears his name, as it marks the beginning of a new year.


Klett, Mark: American photographer (1952 - ) noted for his "rephotographic surveys" of the American West. See illustration from his "Third View" project comparing landscape images from the past 100 years. Klett is on the photo faculty at Arizona State University and is a Regents Professor.


line: a moving point or mark. Geometry: an infinite number of connected points length, but without breadth or thickness.

lost wax process: a casting process in which an original wax sculpture, having been "invested" in a refractory mold material, is "lost" or evacuated from the interior cavities of the mold by heating the mold. Generally, the cavity is then filled with molten metal such as bronze or silver.


mark: the most fundamental element of visual construction.

medium: the material or technique with which an artist works. In painting, the liquid vehicle or "binder" in which pigment is mixed.

mold, n.: a hollow form or matrix for giving a particular shape to something in a molten or plastic state. A "waste-mold" is a mold used one time in casting an object. Re-usable, flexible molds can be made from natural rubber (latex) or synthetics such as Room Temperature Vulcanizing Silicon (RTV Silicone).

Muybridge, Edwaerd: Photographer know for his stop animation photography.


non-objective style: a method of making art that favors abstract, non-representational approaches. No "objective" reality is depicted.


orthogonal: pertaining to or involving right angles (90 degree angles).


performance art: A work of art where the live presence is necessary; either to witness or perform the piece.

photomontage: a two-dimensional work created from multiple photographic images or printed using multiple photographic negatives. Photomontage is the process (and result) of making a composite photograph by cutting and joining a number of other photographs. The composite picture is sometimes photographed so that the final image is converted back into a seamless photographic print. A similar method, although one that does not use film, is realized today through digital image-editing software. This latter technique is referred to by professionals as "compositing," and in casual usage is often called "photoshopping."

process art: artwork that emphasizes process over product.

proportion: a comparative relationship--a ratio--between things or parts of things. We can speak of the "proportions" of an object as distinct from its "scale."

psychic line: a mental connection between two points or visual elements in which no "actual line" or intermittent points is used. Example: the line between an archer's eye and the bulls-eye of a target.



ratio: a comparison often expressed as a proportional relation. The relative magnitude (scale, size, length, etc.) of the parts making up a larger whole. For example, the "ratio" of height to width of a rectangle measuring 1"h x 2"w could be expressed as 1:2.

representational style: a method of creating art that depicts external reality.


sampler: a collection of samples, or selections.

scale: generally used in art to refer to the "size" of something in relationship to some system of measurement.

selective framing: a type of compositional framing that is "selective" in what it includes or does not include.

silverpoint: a technique of drawing with a silver stylus on a specially prepared paper.

site-specific: a work that derives its meaning or inspiration from the context in which it is placed.

size: how big or extensive something is. We understand size by virtue of its relationship to something else through a process of comparison.

stippling: to paint, engrave, or draw by means of dots or small touches of the brush, pen, or other tool.

style: a particular, distinctive, or characteristic mode or form of construction or execution in any art or work.

stylus: any of various pointed, pen-shaped instruments used in drawing, artwork, etc. Also, the needle on various mechanical devices such as photographs and seismographs.

substitution method: any casting method in which one material is "substituted" for another.

substractive process: any method in which material is "subtracted" or removed from a sculptural form, e.g., carving, flame-cutting, sand-blasting, etc.

Sullivan, Louis: Turn of the century (19/20th c) architect credited with the dictum "form follows function." Teacher of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Sumi-e: Japanese brush painting. "Sumi" means "ink"; "e" means "painting."


thumb-nail (sketch): a small, quick drawing (not too much bigger than a thumb nail!) that explores an idea visually.

Tobey, Mark: American painter (1890 - 1976). Tobey's style blends a calligraphic, "Zen-like" paint handling with the vocabulary of Abstract Expressionism.

tokonoma: In a traditional Japanese house, a niche decorated to reflect the changing seasons


unity: a feature of good composition in which visual elements co-exist in a pleasing tension or harmony.

unity principles: grouping principles (direction, similar shape, gestalt, etc.) for achieving visual unity.


vanishing point(s): in linear perspective, the point or points on which all construction lines converge. In one and two point perspective, the vanishing points fall on the horizon line. In perspectival systems involving three or more vanishing points, the v.p's may fall off the horizon line. In a 3 point perspective rendering of a tall building, for example, the third point is often high above the horizon line.

vantage point: the position of the viewer/observer.

vertical: perpendicular to the horizon. Up and down.

virtual reality: An artificial environment created with computer hardware and software and presented to the user in such a way that it appears and feels like a real environment.





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