Glossary of Art Phrases

Below you will find a description of each type of art style or edition.  You will notice the
phrase is linked to an example of this type of artwork sold on the current market.
Just click on the link a new page will open up for you to view what's available in this style.

Abstract - art that looks as if it contains little or no recognizable or realistic forms from the physical world. Focus is on formal elements such as colors, lines, or shapes. Artists often "abstract" objects by changing, simplifying, or exaggerating what they see.

Abstract Expressionism - art that rejects true visual representation. It has few recognizable images with great emphasis on line, color, shape, texture, value; putting the expression of the feelings or emotions of the artist above all else.

Achromatic -
Black, white and greys. Artwork that is executed without color.

Acrylic - Thicker and stronger than tempera or watercolor paint, Acrylic is a water-based "plastic" paint.

Albumen Print - This printing process is used in photography printing processes. Egg whites are used in the emulsion.

Aquatint - Printing technique capable of producing unlimited tonal gradations to re-create the broad flat tints of ink wash or watercolor drawings by etching microscopic crackles and pits into the image on a master plate, typically made of copper and zinc. The majority of Spanish artists Goya’s (1746-1828) graphic works were done using this technique.

Art Deco - a style of design and decoration popular in the 1920's and 1930's characterized by designs that are geometric and use highly intense colors, to reflect the rise of commerce, industry and mass production.

Art Nouveau - a decorative art movement that emerged in the late nineteenth century; art characterized by dense asymmetrical ornamentation in sinuous forms, it is often symbolic and of an erotic nature.

Artist's Proofs
- In offset reproductions, artist's proofs are additional prints not included in, but of the same quality as, the regular edition.  In original prints, artist's proofs are the first prints pulled, which are the truest prints in the edition because the plates or screens have not yet been worn down.  Artist's proofs are distinguished by the abbreviation AP and are numbered separately; they often represent 10 percent of an edition and are slightly more expensive than prints in the regular edition.

Artist Enhanced - A term used to describe prints to which an artist has added color or washes after the piece has been printed.

Blind - Printing using an uninked plate to produce the subtle embossed texture of a white-on-white image, highlighted by the shadow of the relief image on the uninked Paper. This technique is used in many Japanese prints.

Calligraphy - a distinctive style of artistic handwriting created by using special pen nibs that allow a calligrapher to vary the thickness of a letter's line elements; an elegant, decorative writing, developed to an artform itself, used to enhance the artistic appeal and visual beauty of handwritten papers and manuscripts.

Canvas Print - A reproduction in which an image is printed directly onto canvas.  These prints can be produced using offset lithography, digital printing or other methods.  Sometimes artists will add brush strokes directly onto the canvas after the piece has been printed.

Canvas Transfer - A reproduction in which inks are chemically lifted off a piece of paper and applied to a piece of canvas.  Some processes can replicate the texture and appearance of an original painting.

Certificate of Authenticity - A warranty card or statement of authenticity of a limited edition print that records the title of the work, the artist's name, the edition size and the print's number within the edition, the number of artist's proofs and the release date.  It is a guarantee that the edition is limited and that the image will not be published again in the same form.

Charcoal and Conte Crayon - In stick form, both give you a very strong, dark line. A disadvantage to these crayons is that they break easily and tend to smudge. Can be found is stick form as well.

Chiaroscuro - The term chiaroscuro refers to the fine art painting modeling effect of using a strong contrast between light and dark to give the illusion of depth or three-dimensionality. This comes from the Italian words meaning light (chiaro) and dark (scuro), a technique which came into wide use in the Baroque Period.; Sfumato is the opposite of chiaroscuro.

Chine colle - is a sort of collage technique used in intaglio printing whereby a (usually thinner) piece of paper is adhered to a heavier sheet and printed simultaneously.

Chromolithography - A color-printing process in which separate printing plates are used to apply each component color. Often called "four-color printing because the full range of color tones are achieved with only four plates - red, blue, yellow and black.

Coated Paper - Paper manufactured with a thin surface coating of clay. This coating produces an extremely sharp, finely detailed image because it prevents ink from penetrating the paper fibers.

Collage - Collage is from the French meaning "paste up". The combination of pieces of cloth, magazines and other found objects to create artwork.

Collograph - Printing technique in which proofs are pulled back from a block on which the artwork or design is built up like a collage, creating a relief.

Condottiere - Until the mid-fifteenth century, condottieri were mercenary leaders in the employ of Italian city-states.

Conservation Framing - Framing that aims to prevent warping, fading, tearing or any other kind or print deterioration.  Acid-free mats and glazing with UV protection are used in conservation framing.

Conservation stamp prints - Prints that have been reproduced from conservation stamps.  Sale of these stamps and prints often benefit conservation program.

Contour Drawing - Contour drawing shows the outline of the subject, and not the volume or mass of an object. Blind contour drawings are those created by looking only at the subject, and not the paper while drawing.

Countersignature - Signature of someone other than the artist that adds either additional authenticity or historical value to a limited edition print.

Cubism - art that uses two-dimensional geometric shapes to depict three-dimensional organic forms; a style of painting created by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in the early 20th century whereby the artist breaks down the natural forms of the subjects into geometric shapes and creates a new kind of pictorial space.

Dealers - Galleries, collectible shops or individuals who carry and sell artwork.  Authorized dealers are those who, by signed agreement, carry and sell the artwork represented by certain print publishers.

Decoupage - the Victorian craft of cutting out motifs from paper gluing them to a surface and covering with as many layers of varnish as is required to give a completely smooth finish.

Digital Print - A reproduction in which a digital file of an original painting is printed by a special ink-jet printer that sprays ink directly onto the surface of a substrate.  These prints, sometimes called giclees or iris prints, can match the colors of the original within millions of possible hues.

Diptych (dip'tik) - A painting done in two separate panels. Each part is a complete work in itself, but when presented together they form a larger fully integrated work.

Distemper - This painting technique involves the use of powdered colors that are mixed with glue size, or such things as egg yolk.

Dry Mount - Framing method in which a print is fastened to a stiff backing with non-liquid adhesive. Dry mounting is not recommended for prints of any value.

Dry Point - Printing technique of intaglio engraving in which a hard, steel needle incises lines on a metal plate, creating a burr that yields a characteristically soft and velvety line in the final print.

Edition size - The total number of prints printed, or pulled, of one particular image.  Separate edition sizes are recorded for the signed and numbered prints, artist's proofs and printer's proofs.

Encaustic - This ancient art uses colored wax for painting. This technique involves painting images onto walls with pigments that are blended with wax. When used with heat, such as an iron, the permanent color is burned into the wall, for good.

Engraving - Printing technique in which an intaglio image is produced by cutting a metal plate or box directly with a sharp engraving tool. The incised lines are linked and printed with the heavy pressure.

Enhanced - The artist goes over the edition repainting or touching up special areas.

Etching - A printing method popular during the 17th Century, in which a metal plate is covered with an acid resistant material and the artist scratches an image into the plate with an etching needle.  When the exposed metal is eaten away in an acid bath, it creates depressed lines that are later inked for printing.  Each etching is an original print because it is pulled directly from the plate on which the artist has created the image.

Expressionism - Post-World War I artistic movement, of German origin, that emphasized the expression of inner experience rather than solely realistic portrayal, seeking to depict not objective reality but the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events arouse in the artist.

Folk Art - Art of people who have had no formal, academic training, but whose works are part of an established tradition of style and craftsmanship.

Fresco - Pigment is applied directly to damp plaster making this wall painting medium one of the most permanent form of wall decoration.

Gesso - A mixture of plaster, chalk, or gypsum bound together with a glue which is applied as a ground or coating to surfaces in order to give them the correct properties to receive paint. Gesso can also be built up or molded into relief designs, or carved

Giclee - (zhee-clay) is a French term, in this case meaning "spray of ink", using an Iris Ink Jet printer on watercolor paper or canvas producing vibrant replicas of original paintings.   They have the look and feel of the original art.  The depth of color and the clarity achieved in the purity of color make the reproductions indeed remarkable.   This allows everyone to enjoy truly museum quality art.

The Iris digital ink jet printers use a continuous tone technology in which infinitely small pixels of color are capable of rendering an amazingly smooth and consistent image.  The substrate to be printed on is affixed to a drum and as the drum rotates at a high speed, individual droplets of colors are sprayed on to the surface at a rate of 4-5 million droplets per second.  Once completed, a 34" x 46" image is comprised of almost 20 billion droplets of ink, each one measuring no more than 15 microns in diameter.  In this process, the printers use the most archival water-based organic inks available in the world.  They then complete the print by applying UV light retardant and light stabilizer post coatings.  The results are museum quality prints.

Glazing - Glass or acrylic set or made to be set in a frame that protects the artwork from light, dust and other environmental hazards.  There are different levels of glazing, from lightweight acrylic and regular glass to more expensive specialty products like anti-glare and anti-reflective glazing.

Gold Leaf - Used for gilding, gold or silver (for silver leafing) is beaten to extremely thin sheets.

Gouache (gwash) - A medium in which opaque pigments are mixed with water and a preparation of gum. Gouache is also used to describe a painting made with such pigments.

Grisaille - A style of monochromatic painting in shades of gray, used especially for the representation of relief sculpture.

Ground - The surface upon which a painting is done - canvas, Masonite, and so on.

Hand-embellished - A term used to describe prints which an artist has added color or washes after the piece has been printed.

Ilfochrome Classic (Cibachrome) Print - Ilfochrome Classic (Cibachrome) is indisputably the best fine art color print process available today. Its archival qualities make it suitable for gallery and museum exhibits. Image sharpness and color fidelity are unsurpassed.  Constructed on a polyester base that is durable, chemically inert and will not yellow with age.  Only pure Azo organic image forming dyes are used.  These dyes yield an image with richer color saturation and more accurate hue rendition.  This product has unexcelled archival stability, offering extremely high fade resistance and life expectancy.

Illustration - a visualization such as drawing, painting, photograph or other work of art that stresses subject more than form. The aim of an Illustration is to elucidate or decorate a story, poem or piece of textual information (such as a newspaper article) by providing a visual representation of something described in the text.

Image Size - The physical dimensions of an image, not counting the white border around the image.

Impasto - A manner of painting where the paint is laid on thickly so texture stands out in relief.

Impressionism - Impressionism is referred to as the most important art movement of the 19th century. The term impressionism came from a painting by Claude Monet. His painting was titled Impression Sunrise. Impressionism is about capturing fast fleeting moments with color, light, and surface.

Intensity - This term is used to describe the brightness, or the dullness of a color.

International Editions- A series of prints/canvas that are distributed outside the country where the artist resides.

Issue Price - The original price of a limited edition print when first offered for retail sale.

Landscape - a painting, drawing or photograph which depicts outdoor scenery. They typically include trees, streams, buildings, crops, mountains, wildlife, rivers and forests.

Life Drawing - drawings of a human figure. Usually of nude figures so that the artist can understand how the muscles look and how light, tone and shadow reflect around the body.

Limited Edition - The size of a limited edition is determined in advance by the publisher.  Each print in the edition is signed by the artist and then individually numbered (s/n).

Linocut - An image cut into the surface of linoleum, usually, mounted on a block of wood. The surface is then inked, wiped, and the image transferred to paper by pressure.

Masterpiece - a work done with extraordinary skill, especially a work of art, craft or intellect that is an exceptionally great achievement.

Matting - Decorative board used in framing that provides contrast between the image and the molding.

Medallion - Cast-metal medallions sometimes are issued in conjunction with the publication of prints, especially stamp prints. Design of the medallion artwork usually duplicates some portion of the print. Such medallions can be gold-plated, silver, bronze or even pewter.

Medium - Both the mode of expression (painting, sculpting, etceteras) employed by an artist and the actual material the artist used to create the art (oil paints, watercolors, etceteras).

Mezzotint - (mezzo = half and tinta = tone), a reverse engraving process used on a copper or steel plate to produce illustrations in relief with effects of light and shadow. The surface of a master plate is roughened with a tool called a rocker so that if inked, it will print solid black. The areas to be white or gray in the print are rubbed down so as not to take ink. It was widely used in the 18th and 19th centuries to reproduce portraits and other paintings, but became obsolete with the introduction of photoengraving.

Minimalism - a movement and style of art from the 20th century which attempts to reduce art to the basic geometric shapes with the fewest colors, lines, and textures. Minimal art does not seek to be representational of any object. Also known as ABC art.

Mint Stamp - An unsigned stamp framed with a copy of the print from which the stamp was made.

Mixed Media - An artwork combing two or more artistic media - for example, scratchboard and paint, pencil and watercolor - bronze and wood.

Monotype - One-of-a-kind print made by painting on a sheet of metal or glass and transferring the still-wet-painting to a sheet of paper by hand or with an etching press. If enough paint remains on the master plate, additional prints can be made, however, the reprint will have substantial variations from the original image. Monotype printing is not a multiple-replica process since each print is unique.

Montage - an artwork comprising of seemingly unrelated shots or scenes which, when combined of various existing images such as from photographs or prints and arranged so that they join, overlap or blend to create a new image which achieve meaning.

Moulding – A piece of wood, plastic, metal, or other material used to frame a piece of art.

Mural - a large wall painting, often executed in fresco.

Naive Art - art created by untrained artists. It is characterized by simplicity and a lack of the elements or qualities found in the art of formally trained artists.

Offset Lithographic Print - (or offset photomechanical reproduction). The original image or a photograph of the image is scanned into a computer to produce color separations, one for each color used in the printing process: cyan, yellow, magenta and black.  These separations are then output to film with dot patterns that represent the values of each of the four process colors.  the films are exposed to printing plates, one for each color.  On a printing press, the plates transfer the ink to a rubber blanket, which in turn offsets the ink onto paper or canvas.

Oil - Paint made of pigment mixed with oil usually linseed. The oil serves to keep the paint fluid for a period of time and then as a drying and hardening agent.

Open Edition Print - A reproduction of an original work of art that is sometimes signed by the artist.  The number of prints published is not predetermined.

Original Lithographic Print - Not a reproduction; each is an original and unique work of art.  The artist makes separate drawings, one for each color to be printed, directly on the working surface (commonly stone or Mylar film) to create individual plates.  An original lithograph must pass through the press one time for each color.  Hand coloring may also be added later.

Original Painting - A one-of-a-kind image created by an artist that often sell for several thousands of dollars.

Original Prints - Prints, such as serigraphs or original lithographs, that are created without the use of photography.  They are original because every print in an edition is created directly by the artist and may vary slightly from the other prints in the edition.

Outsider Art - refers to works by those outside of mainstream society. Outsider art broadly includes folk art and ethnic art as well as by prisoners, the mentally ill and others neither trained in art nor making their works to sell them.

Paper Mache' - Papier maché is an ancient art consisting of paper and a binder, such as wallpaper paste or glue.

Papyrus - the predecessor of modern paper made from the pith of the papyrus plant used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

Parchment - an early paper material highly valued during the middle ages. Originally made from goat or sheep skin, parchment today is made from organic fibers and affords artists such as calligraphers a crisp, smooth, high quality surface on which to write.

Pastel - Ground-up pigment mixed with gum and formed into crayons used for drawing. Also denotes a soft, pale shade of any color and additionally, any work of art made with pastels.

Photorealism - a style of painting in which an image is created in such exact detail that it looks like a photograph; uses everyday subject matter, and often is larger than life.

Pop Art - a style of art which seeks its inspiration from commercial art and items of mass culture (such as comic strips, popular foods and brand name packaging). Certain works of art created by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein are examples of pop art.

Portfolio - Prints by one artist that are grouped together and sold as a set.

Portrait - a painting, photograph, or other artistic representation of a person.

Poster - A reproduction that is usually printed in unlimited quantities with a lower grade of paper and inks than a limited or open edition prints.  Poster often include graphics.

Primitive Art - Art that has imagery of folk art , it places emphasis on form and expression and often looks child like.

Printer's Proofs - Prints created over and above the regular signed and numbered limited edition that are not available for retail sale.  they are retained by the printer as a reference; artists often sign them as a gesture of appreciation.

Publisher - A person or company responsible for producing prints of an original work of art for public showing and sale.

Rabbet - in art, the "L" cut all around the perimeter of the frame, against which glass, mat, or picture panels are installed.

Rag Paper - Paper containing a certain proportion of cotton fiber in its physical structure used for prints. The higher the cotton content the higher quality the paper.

Realism - a style of painting which depicts subject matter (form, color, space) as it appears in actuality or ordinary visual experience without distortion or stylization.

Remarque - Small sketches, painted drawing or additional enhancements made by the artist, usually in the margin of some or all of the final prints within an edition.

Scratchboard – Cardboard coated with chalk forms a smooth, glossy surface and is used as a ground for drawing or painting in ink. Parts of the image may then be scratched off with a pointed tool to create a variety of effects.

Seascape - a painting or work of pictorial art that depicts the sea or a scene that includes the sea; a painting representing an expansive view of the ocean or sea; picture or painting depicting life around the sea.

Secondary Market - An unofficial network of dealers and individual who buy and sell prints above the issue price after an image is sold out at the publisher.

Secondary Market Value - The reported price for a sold out limited edition, set by supply and demand.  Unlike retail prices, secondary market prices can vary from one source to another.

Serigraph - The serigraphic process incorporates the use of fine mesh screens to hand separate the colors of the image.  Originally, these screens were made of silk, hence the name by which this process is also known - silk-screening.  To produce a serigraphic print, a separate stencil-like screen is made for each area that is to be printed in one color of ink.  The ink is then squeegeed through the screen onto the paper.  The inks sit on top of the heavy paper on which the final serigraph is produced.  Because the ink is not absorbed by the paper as in other processes, the final serigraphic print actually looks like a painting on paper.

Serlith - As the name suggest, the combination of serigraphy and lithography.

Seriset - A seriset is similar to a serigraph. A serigraph is normally called a hand pulled serigraph in that each silk screen is hand pulled. A seriset is the same process but the screens are mechanically pulled.

ShowStoppers - Limited editions that reflect both the dimensions of a large painting as well as the magnitude of the artist's original vision.  Printed directly on oversized canvas, ShowStoppers honor the power, impact and presence of the original paintings, in highly collectible editions of 50 and fewer.  One stunning example if Right of Way by John Banovich, which measures 74" x 49".

Signed and Numbered - Limited edition prints that have been signed sequentially numbered by the artist.  the artist's signature is usually found in one of the lower corners of the print and is accompanied by a number that looks like a fraction; the top number indicates the number of the print and the bottom number indicates the total number prints in the edition.

Signed in the Plate - Refers to the artist’s signature on an original work as it appears in a print.

Signed Only - A print signed by the artist but not numbered.

Silver Print - This generic term covers all prints made on paper that is coated with silver salts. Black and white photographs are usually silver prints.

Sold Out - Said of a limited edition print once it is no longer available at issue price and is being sold instead at secondary market prices.

Still Life - a painting or other two-dimensional work of art representing inanimate objects such as bottles, fruit, and flowers. Also, the arrangement of these objects from which a drawing, painting, or other art work is made.

Stone Lithography - The process starts with drawing the image on the stone by using a greasy black lithographic pencil. These usually take three to twelve days, depending on the size and complexity of the image. The main problem is that mistakes cannot be erased. Small corrections can be made with a sharp knife, but major corrections are needed, it is necessary to start again on a new stone.

Stamp Print - Limited edition print made from a work originally created as the design for a conservation stamp. Print and stamp customarily are framed together.

Stencil - The process in which an area is cut out of paper, or material such as cardboard to enable paint or ink to be applied to a piece of paper, or canvas through the cutout.

Stretcher bars - a wooden frame over which the canvas of a painting is stretched.

Substrate - The canvas, paper or other material on which the image is printed.

Surrealism - an art style developed in Europe in the 1920's, characterized by using the subconscious as a source of creativity to liberate pictorial subjects and ideas. Surrealist paintings often depict unexpected or irrational objects in an atmosphere of fantasy, creating a dreamlike scenario; An art movement in which one's dreams, nightmares, subconsciousness and fantasy inspired the final works.

Tempera - Pigments mixed with a water-soluble base such as casein, size, or egg yolk. Tempera dries with a flat, dull finish.

Textured Canvas - A limited edition canvas which has been embellished to represent the artist's brush strokes of the original painting.  Framed without glass, textured canvas has added dimension and luster, and the appearance of an artist's original painting.

Time-limited Edition - An edition whose size is established by the number of orders a publisher receives during a set period of time.

Triptych (trip-tik) - A work of art done in three separate panels

Watercolor – Pigments dissolved in water. Watercolor painting typically is done on relatively rough-surfaced, absorbent paper.

Watermark - a watermark is a design embossed into a piece of paper during its production and used for identification of the paper and papermaker. The watermark can be seen when the paper is held up to light.

Waterscape - A painting of or including a body of water. It might otherwise be called a marine picture, a seascape, or a riverscape, etc.

Wet on Wet - a painting technique that is well-known as being the primary method of painting used by Bob Ross. Since lighter colors will usually mix with darker colors if laid over top of them while wet, the technique relies on painting from light colors up. This gives the painting a soft look, and allows the colors to be blended to the painter's desire.

WOODCUT - Print made from an image carved into the surface of a wooden block. Blocks used for woodcuts normally are sawn parallel to the grain of the wood. A woodcut made from a block sawn across the grain - providing a hard, dense surface into which very fine lines may be cut - is often called a wood engraving.