Vocabulary Study Guide

  1. Contour – A line used to follow the edges of forms and thus describe their outlines.
  1. Volume – The appearance of height, width, and depth in a form.
  2. Negative Space – Unoccupied areas of empty space surrounding the objects or figures in a composition.
  3. Principles of Design – General guidelines for organizing a work of art.
  4. Focal Point/Emphasis – The design principle that focuses a viewers attention by accentuating certain elements through the use of contrast, placement, or by isolating an element.
  5. Secondary Color – A mixture of any two primary colors.
  6. Gesture – A line that does not stay at the edges but moves freely within forms. These lines record movement of the eye as well as implying motion in the form.
  7. Abstraction – A visual representation that may have little resemblance to the real world. It can occur through a process of simplification or distortion in an attempt to communicate an essential aspect of a form or concept.
  8. Proportion – Size measured against other elements or against a mental norm or standard.
  9. Iconography – Use of symbols to convey meaning.
  10. Subject Matter – The term used to describe aspects of the work: people, landforms, vase, etc.
  11. Realism – An approach to artwork based on the faithful reproduction of surface appearances with fidelity to visual perception.
  12. Media – Materials used to create an image or object.
  13. Unity – The presentation of an integrated image. An agreement that exists between the elements of design.
  14. Asymmetrical Balance – A design principle that is said to exist when the right and left sides of a composition bear visibly different shapes, colors, textures, or other elements, yet they are arranged or “weighted” in such a way that the impression, in total, is one of equal visual weight.
  15. Picture Plane – The two-dimensional surface on which shapes are organized into a composition.
  16. Monochromatic – A color scheme using only one hue with varying degrees of value or intensity.
  17. Repetition – Using the same visual element over again within the same composition.
  18. Value – A measure of relative lightness or darkness.
  19. Implied Line – An invisible line created by positioning a series of points so that the eye will connect them and thus creating movement across the picture plane.
  20. Complementary – A color scheme incorporating opposite hues on the color wheel. These colors accentuate each other in juxtaposition and neutralize each other in mixture.
  21. Expressionism – A type of art work that places emphasis on the emotions.
  22. Line – A path or mark made by a moving point.
  23. Positive Shape – Any shape or object distinguished from the background.
  24. Perspective – A system of representing three dimensional objects in space on a two dimensional surface.
  25. Composition – The organization of the visual elements and principles in a work of art.
  26. Content – An idea conveyed through the artwork that implies the subject matter, story, or information the artist communicates to the viewer.
  27. Nonobjective/Nonrepresentational – A type of artwork with absolutely no reference to, or representation of, the natural world. The artwork is the reality.
  28. Elements of Design – Basic structural components of a work of art.
  29. Radial Symmetry – Design elements radiate from a central point like the spokes of a wheel.
  30. Mass – A solid three-dimensional form.
  31. Space -The area within or around an area of substance.
  32. Mixed Media – Works of art made with more than one medium using a combination of different materials to create a visually and physically coherent whole.
  33. Scale – Refers to the size of a form when compared with human size.
  34. Grid – A visual or physical structure created from intersecting parallel lines.
  35. Graphic Design Working with words and pictures to enhance visual communication.
  36. Digital Art A broad term used to describe a large variety of art generated with digital technology.
  37. Aesthetics The study and philosophy of the quality and nature of sensory responses related to, but not limited by the concept of beauty.
  38. Analogous – Color schemes that are based on colors adjacent to one another on the color wheel, each containing the same pure hue such as yellow-green, green and blue-green.
  39. Texture – Texture can be implied through creating the illusion of texture or be an actual texture that can be touched.

Essay example:

Katsushika Hokusai’s, Under the Wave, employs many elements and principles of design that add to the meaning of the work and influence the viewer’s reception of it. One such principle is contrast. The stark contrast between the white of the breaking waves and the dark blue of the water beneath draws the viewers eye. The lines and direction of the waves then keep the viewers eye moving through the piece. This movement leads the viewers eye to the boats that seem very small in scale compared to the large waves. This dramatic piece has an almost monochromatic color scheme save for the yellow of the sky. This color scheme creates a sense of unity in the piece. Another element used in this piece is shape. The artist used organic and curly shapes to create the waves that threaten the boats. The boats themselves on the other hand are composed of straight rigid shapes that contrast with the waves.

The tension that the artist creates is accomplished by displaying the wave just as it is about to fall onto the boats. This leaves the viewer wondering what will happen to the people in the boat and makes contemplate the piece and the meaning behind it. The smaller details in the piece such as Mount Fuji in the background show the setting of this scene. Another small detail is the falling sea foam that breaks up the gradient background. This piece displays asymmetrical balance. This is achieved by placing the large wave on one side of the piece and the boat and Mount Fuji on the other. While these two sides are not identical, the content of each creates a balance.

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