Understand art in the context of when it was created.

Learn more >

Artist Interviews

Watch discussions between artists and students.

Learn more >

Good Question

Use these questions as a way to explore ArtPad.

Learn more >


The art world's lingo can date back to the old masters or come from today's pop culture. Here's a list.

Abstract or Abstract Art

The term abstract art can refer to forms that have been derived or abstracted from the real world. Abstract art is not interested in mimicking the natural world. Rather, artists will simplify or exaggerate natural forms to create new imagery. Abstract art can also refer to imagery that draws from internal sources as opposed to the external world and only references art itself like line, colour and form.

Abstract Expressionism

Also known as the New York School, Abstract Expressionism was an art movement that emerged in the early 1940s, primarily in New York, where a group of artists introduced a new approach to art-making. They used internal forces rather than the external world for inspiration and content. They believed that through spontaneous and improvisational gestures in the process of applying paint, an inner world of feelings and emotions would be revealed. Their approaches included gestural brushwork, and dripping and throwing paint. Stylistically, these artists created a diverse body of work ranging from highly expressive and dynamic work to contemplative fields of colour.


Appropriation is the act of taking possession of something and reusing it in a different way than it was originally intended. In art, it is the borrowing of text, images, styles, techniques, ideas or artworks to create new work or new meaning. Appropriation also refers to writing or speaking for another race, class or gender without their consent or participation.

Aquatint Etching

Aquatint etching is a printmaking technique that incorporates a tonal process where whole areas are exposed to acid to create different tones. The plate is first treated with a fine powdered rosin. When heated the rosin bonds to the plate and allows the acid to create a fine texture to hold the ink. Lighter areas are blocked off with an acid-resistant “stop-out.” Each time the plate is immersed in the acid bath, the surface becomes repeatedly darker. The end result is a print with a translucent quality like watercolour paintings.


In art, biomorphic describes curvy forms, shapes and images that, while never referencing anything specific, evoke shapes and forms that are found in nature such as plants, animals and the human body.


A brayer is a small hand roller, typically used in printmaking techniques to apply ink.


Broadly speaking, calligraphy ranges from formal and stylized handwriting to an artform such as brush calligraphy practiced by Chinese, Korean and Japanese cultures. It is both a mental exercise and creative expression. Brush calligraphy encourages spontaneity and is thought to reveal ones personality.

Casein Paint

Casein paint is a water-soluble paint in which casein, a white milk protein, binds the paint. When dry, the paint is opaque, smooth and highly water-resistant. Casein can be easily reworked, and produces intense colours. However its brittle nature requires a rigid painting surface and thin applications.


Ceramics or ceramic art is art and objects created from clay. It includes pottery, tableware and sculptures. The forms can be molded and modeled by hand or by machine, and are usually fired or baked at high temperatures in a kiln or oven to make them more durable. Types of ceramics include pottery (earthenware), porcelain, stoneware and terra cotta.

Chromogenic and C-Print

In photography, chromogenic refers to a process involving colour negative film, the most common of which is Kodak C-41. The "C" in C-41 means chromogenic and uses colour (chromatic) dyes. The film has several layers, three of which are sensitive to specific colours. One layer is sensitive to blue light, one to green and one to red. When you expose the film, the sensitive particles in each layer react to light and turn those areas to metallic silver. When the film is developed, the colour dyes react to the exposed colour layers removing the silver particles to produce a full-colour image.


Collage is a process of arranging and attaching various elements such as illustrations, images, text, fabric and other visual components to a flat support. Collages usually incorporate found items from everyday life, but can also include other media such as painting, drawing and three-dimensional elements.


Colonialism is the domination of one culture over another. The colonizer settles and establishes control over a territory that is beyond the colonizer's borders. Colonialism expands the economic and political power of the colonizer by suppressing the beliefs, values and political power of those who are colonized.

Conceptual Art

Conceptual art emerged in the 1960s and introduced art that focuses on presenting ideas rather than objects. Artists moved beyond traditional media to bring form to their ideas and, consequently, changed traditional ideas about what art could be. Reacting against the commercialization of art, artists rejected the notion that art had to result in a "collectible" object. Instead, conceptual art showed that art could be something written or performed and not necessarily tangible or permanent. Conceptual art extended the boundaries of art to include new art forms such as performance art , land art and installation art .

Cubist or Cubism

Cubism was a revolutionary art movement in the twentieth century that developed its own visual art language. Begun by artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Cubism presented the external world as fragmented and comprised of multiple perspectives. It rejected traditional pictorial techniques that described forms in nature as static and as experienced from one vantage point. Cubism's fragmented space introduced a sense of time and movement to the picture plane. The term was coined by the French art critic Louis Vauxcelles who described the geometric forms in Braque's paintings in 1908 as "cubes."


A picture or object made of two flat panels hinged together or any picture consisting of two sections.


Efflorescence generally refers to a whitish crystalline or chalk-like appearance on the surface of an object. The efflorescence of oil stick is due to the presence of free fatty acids found in oil stick (drying oil mixed with wax). Excess fatty acids can migrate to the surface and form a velvety coat of white crystals that scatter the light differently than the surrounding coloured areas.

Embossed or Embossing

Embossing is the process that creates a raised or three-dimensional image or design in paper and other flexible materials.

Etching and Engraving

Etchings and engravings are also known as intaglio prints. The artist uses a metal plate into which he cuts an image with a tool known as a burin or graver. In an engraving, the artist cuts directly on the plate. With an etching, a waxy acid-resistant substance is applied to the surface before an image is etched or scratched with a needle.

Ink is forced into the recesses that have been cut away through the etching or engraving process, and the ink sitting above the grooves is wiped away. A sheet of damp paper is laid over the inked plate, and pressure is applied to transfer the image onto the paper.

Eurocentric and Eurocentricism

Eurocentricism is based on the Eurocentric belief that Western cultures, specifically Europeans, are superior to all other cultures in the world. Eurocentricism is a tendency to interpret, measure and understand others through this worldview.

Forced Perspective

Forced perspective is the manipulation of the appearance of something in space. Optical tricks are used to make an object appear larger, smaller, wider, deeper or closer than it is.

Formalist or Formalism

In the visual arts, formalism is a school of thought that emphasizes form over content. The focus of formalism is on the visual elements of art such as colour, line, shape and texture, and how those elements have been created, organized or composed. Formalism as a critical concept surfaced in the late 1800s and dominated the art world until the 1960s when a new breed of artist began to challenge its limited and rigid principles.

Fresco Painting

Fresco is a painting technique on either wet or dry plaster. Typically thin coats of paint are applied to a freshly plastered wall. This allows the paint to be absorbed into the plaster as it dries, securing the paint to the surface of the wall. Fresco paintings have been found in prehistoric caves, Egyptian tombs and fifteenth and sixteenth century Italian architecture.


Gouache is a heavy water-based paint made up of pigment and white chalk filler that makes the paint more opaque than traditional watercolour paint. Many graphic designers and illustrators prefer gouache because of its inflexible nature in terms of colour range and quick drying time.


Globalization is the increasing social, economic, cultural and technological interaction among societies around the world. This rapid rate of interaction was made easier through technological advances in travel and telecommunication systems like radio, television and the Internet.


Haloing commonly occurs when oil based media are applied directly to highly absorbent surfaces. If oil stick is applied to an unprimed canvas, there is the potential for the un-polymerized oils to diffuse outward into unpainted areas. Diffusion would result in an oil-stained region that encircles the original coloured area. Haloing is less likely to occur if the canvas is primed or sealed.


Happenings are theatrical events, performances or situations designed as a form of artistic expression that often blur the distinctions between art and life, performer and spectator. Happenings are loosely structured and often multi-disciplinary, and rely on an element of chance and randomness. The events likely originated in the 1950s and 1960s in New York, but some claim happenings may have began much earlier and existed elsewhere in the world. Artist Allan Kaprow first introduced the term in 1959 when he titled his work 18 Happenings in 6 Parts.

Hard Edge Abstraction

The term was coined in 1959 by art critic Jules Langster to describe a group of artists in California who had embraced an impersonal painting process with clean hard lines. This style developed as a reaction to the Abstract Expressionist trends to paint with expressive content and advocated for a more pure visual experience.


Impasto is an area of thick paint on a painting. It also refers to a thick application of paint where the impression of the brush or palette knife used stays visible, creating texture on the surface of the painting.

Impressionists or Impressionism

Impressionism was an art movement that originated in France in the late nineteenth century as a reaction to the academic traditions of nineteenth century art. Artists began to explore the visual elements of painting to reflect the optical properties of light, colour and movement. They set out to record the transient qualities of visual experiences and the effects of light and atmosphere that alter the texture, shape and colour of objects. Paint was applied more loosely through a variety of brushstrokes and with more vibrant colours. Impressionist painters also turned their interests to the more informal subject matter of everyday life.

Installation or Installation Art

Installation art refers to a work of art that has been arranged within a space rather than hung on a wall or placed on a platform. The space where the work is installed can be specific, inside or outside. Installations can be temporary or permanent and can include many component parts and media. Space becomes a stage, a three-dimensional pictorial surface and a medium for expressing ideas. The arrangement can either create an environment in which the viewer engages, or it can be a visual statement through the use of space.


A kiln is an oven or heating chamber designed to reach very high temperatures; it may be electric, gas or wood-fired. A kiln is most commonly used in ceramics to bake and harden clay and glazes.

Land Art

Also called environmental art or earth art, land art refers to a movement that emerged in the 1960s where artists created art directly in nature. While the goals of the artists were wide-ranging, the works often commented on our relationship with nature or helped us understand nature. The works ranged in scale from the size of a gallery space to monumental pieces that required heavy machinery.

Large Format or 4 x 5 View Cameras

Large format cameras are big cameras that use large sheets of film. The most common large format cameras are 4 x 5 or 8 x 10 inches, referring to the size of the sheets of film used. Since the size of the image captured is so large, large format photographs capture an amazing amount of detail at very high resolutions. Large format cameras are usually large and awkward and require the photographer to put his or her head under a cloth or cape in order to see the image.


Lithography is a printmaking process using a flat stone or metal or plastic plate. A drawing is made on the stone or plate with a greasy crayon and then washed with water. When ink is applied to the plate, it adheres to the greasy drawing. The inked image is then transferred to paper by covering the plate with a sheet of paper and applying pressure, often by a press.

Mail Art and Correspondence Art

Mail art is a network of thousands of participants all over the world who use the postal system to share ideas and artwork. Mail art can consist of letters, illustrated envelopes and letters or three-dimensional objects.


Miminalism first emerged in the 1950s as a reaction to Abstract Expressionism. It can be described as artworks that have been simplified in both form and content. The aim of Minimalism was to remove the distractions such as composition, gestural marks and any direct meaning to allow the viewer to experience the work for its visual impact rather than its content. They rejected the notion that art should be a reflection of personal expression. Instead, they avoided politics, narrative and personal expression to allow for a pure visual experience.


Modernism is a range of movements and styles in art, architecture and design that largely rejected history and tradition to explore radical new forms of expression. Modernism surfaced around 1850, and was a response to the changing political, social and economic character of contemporary life. Modernism encompasses a broad range of ideas and a succession of art movements such as Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, and peaked with Abstract Expressionism until the 1960s.


Neo-expressionism was a term that emerged in the 1980s and was used to describe a painting style that dominated the art world in the early to mid-80s. It was characterized as a reaction to the intellectualism of conceptual art and minimalism. Neo-expressionists gravitated to recognizable forms such as figurative work and typically incorporated a raw, gestural and expressive approach to painting.

Oil Stick

An oil stick is oil paint in solid form. Similar pigments and oils used in the making of tube paint are combined with wax and then rolled into a crayon.

One-point Perspective and Linear Perspective

Based on a mathematical system, linear perspective is a technique used to create the illusion of three-dimensional space and distance on a flat surface. To represent a composition in space straight on, artists use one-point perspective where space appears to recede into one vanishing point. The size of objects decreases the closer they move towards the vanishing point. This tricks our eyes into seeing depth on a flat piece of paper.

Performance Art

Performance art originated in the 1960s and was developed through the philosophies of conceptual art. Rather than making art objects through painting or sculpture, performance art creates temporary experiences, primarily using the human body as a medium. It may incorporate props, sound or lighting and can include more than one artist or performer. Performance art ranges from the theatrical to the tedious and explores the sublime to the ridiculous. Generally, performance art requires an audience and often invites their participation as part of the work, changing the audience's role from passive spectators to active co-creators. Performance art challenges traditional notions about art - how it should be created and experienced, where it can be presented and how it relates to our every day lives.

Photo-Realist and Photo-Realism Art

The term is synonymous with Super-Realism and Hyper-Realism. Photo-Realism emerged in the late 1960s and early 70s when artists began creating paintings and sculptures with a high attention to detail. In painting, they often looked like photographs.

Pop Art

Pop art was a style of art that developed in the 1950s and 60s in England and the United States. Pop artists drew inspiration from familiar images and objects found in popular culture such as comic books, advertisements, consumer products and movies.

Populuxe Decade

The decade from 1954 to 1964 was described as the Populuxe decade by American writer, Thomas Hine. The name is derived from the words populism, popularity and luxury. This post-war decade embraced a spirit for consuming goods and luxuries as affirmations of a better life. The joy was not in having material goods but in having things that were new and improved, things that looked to the future such as cars with fins and power lawnmowers.

Portrait or Portraiture

Portraiture is a form of art that focuses on the creation of images that, traditionally, represent an individual or a group of people. Over the years, portraiture has grown to include animals, places and beyond. Portraiture was traditionally rendered in painting, sculpture or photography, but today it can be created in whatever way or material the artist deems appropriate. In the past, portraits mainly focused on the physical attributes of the subject; their personality or status was gleaned from their dress or the environment they inhabited.

Postmodernist or Postmodernism

Postmodernism is a complex term that describes a set of ideas, movements and styles among a wide variety of disciplines. It is not clear when it began. The term was put in use in the 1970s but the ideas may have their roots in 1960s pop art. Some argue that postmodernism is both an extension and a reaction to modernism, continuing the modernist challenge to the boundaries between art and non-art, and yet opposing dominant beliefs and ideas that were restrictive and limiting. Artists broke away from following one school of thought and were free to explore any style or medium they wanted to. Insisting on notions of difference and multiple perspectives, voices and narratives have emerged in the works of many artists.

Prints and Printmaking

Printmaking is the process of making prints by transferring ink from one surface to another. Unlike painting or drawing, printmaking can produce multiple copies of the same image. There are many different methods used in printmaking such as stencil, serigraphy or silkscreen, engraving or etching, lithography, and relief.

Public Art

The term public art generally refers to works of art commissioned and designed specifically for a public space (outside or within a publicly accessible building) where the general public can have access to the work. Public art includes statues, monuments, memorials and sculptures, but are not limited to any specific media.

Realism or the Realist School

Realism, also known as the realist school, refers to a nineteenth-century art movement and style. Artists wanted to depict the every day world naturally, without idealizing form or embellishing details. This more "truthful" reflection of the world did not attempt to hide the ugliness and social problems in the lives of ordinary people.

Relief Print

Relief prints include stonecut, woodcut and linocut. The artist carves out the image on the stone, wood or linoleum by cutting away all the portions of the design that are not to be printed and the design is left in relief (raised surface). The ink will appear from the shapes created by the raised surfaces only. Paper is laid over the block and the ink is transferred to the paper by pressure.


The word "Renaissance" is a French word meaning rebirth and is used to describe a period in art which began in Italy in the 14th century and spread to other parts of Europe until the 16th century. This period was marked by a renewed interest in the arts and culture of ancient Greece and Rome. Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael are the three most notable Renaissance artists.


Sculpture refers to three-dimensional works of art, but can also include works made in relief. Sculpture is made with a variety of materials and can be created through various techniques. Traditionally, a sculpture can be carved, modeled, constructed or cast. Today, sculpture has expanded to include objects made through non-conventional methods and can include other types of work such as land art, performance art, installation art and video.

Serigraphy or Silkscreen Prints

The serigraphy or silkscreen technique is an extension of the stencil print. The screen is a piece of silk or synthetic open-mesh fabric stretched over a wooden frame. The artist applies a photograph, cuts a stencil out of a special film and then attaches it to a screen, or paints on the screen with opaque glue or lacquer in the areas not to be printed. Paint is applied on the screen and then forced through the open-mesh areas with a squeegee onto paper below the screen.


Sinking is likely due to the presence of some fluid components in the medium. These may be un-polymerized oils or free fatty acids that migrate or bleed into the underlying layers such as the ground or canvas. This can result in an apparent change in the overall thickness of the oil stick.

Stencil Prints

The stencil process is used by Inuit artists who cut out a design on a piece of sealskin. The sealskin is then placed on top of paper and used as a stencil. Paint is brushed on or rolled over, and when the stencil is removed a design is created from the cut-away parts that took the paint.

Still Life

Still life refers to a tradition in painting that depicts a grouping of inanimate objects such as flowers, fruit and tableware.


Stonecut is a form of relief printing which is the oldest printing method. The artist carves out the image on a stone by cutting away all the portions of the design that are not to be printed; the design is left in relief (raised surface). The ink will appear from the shapes created by the raised surfaces only. Paper is laid over the block and the ink is transferred to the paper by pressure.

Surreal or Surrealism

Surrealism was a twentieth-century art movement that originated in the writings of French poet André Breton. The movement began in 1924 when Breton published his Manifesto of Surrealism. Influenced by the theories of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, surrealists set out to explore the hidden layers of the human mind known as the unconscious. By doing so they believed that we might gain an understanding about the motivations for our actions in our conscious lives. In art, two general styles have loosely been used to characterize the varied work of the surrealists: dreamlike and automatic. Strange compositions with unexpected juxtapositions in unrecognizable landscapes are reminiscent of dreams and memories. Automatic works were more abstract and occurred from allowing the mind to free associate rather than consciously render an image.


The term thrown is an Old English term meaning "spin" and refers to the action of the potter's fingers and hands against the clay as it spins on the wheel.


A picture or object made of three flat panels hinged together side-by-side or a picture consisting of three parts. Traditional Renaissance triptychs were composed of three hinged panels with the outer two designed to fold towards the central one.

Viscosity Printing

Viscosity printing is a printmaking technique that combines the intaglio process and the relief process. The image is created by cutting into the plate, inked and wiped clean just as a normal intaglio print but multiple colours are applied using inks of different viscosities or thickness. Thicker inks adhere to lower levels while runnier inks adhere to the top levels of the plate. The hardness of the rollers and the direction and strength of pressure applied will also make the ink rolled adhere to different levels. This process produces more painterly effects and requires only one plate to produce a colour print.

Water Based Oil Paint

Water based oil paint is oil paint which has been manufactured to be mixable with water. Rather than using harsh chemicals such as turpentine, this paint can be thinned and cleaned with water.

Wax Bloom

Wax Bloom is a white haze that results when excess wax medium rises to the surface. Wax bloom can occur in various media that have a wax component such as oil stick. Over time, wax bloom may occur in heavily worked areas.

Wet on Wet

Wet on wet is a painting technique in which layers of wet paint are applied to previous layers of wet paint. Adding paint to areas still wet produces softer changes in colour. The process requires a quicker application of paint because the painting needs to be finished before the first layers have dried.

Woodland School

The Woodland School of Art is also known as legend or medicine painting, and refers to a painting style developed by Norval Morrisseau. He was the first artist to paint the legends and myths of his culture, traditionally passed down orally or incised on birch bark scrolls or rocks. Heavy black lines, bold and bright colours, x-ray views and a system of interconnecting lines characterize the style.