Things to Know

Purposes of Art

expressive – express emotions or ideas

narrative – tells a story

functional – decorative or useful objects

Subject Matter

self-portrait – a picture an artist creates of him or herself

portrait – a picture an artist creates of someone else

still life – a picture of objects

landscape – a picture of a place outside


medium – a material used to create an artwork (e.g. crayons, paint, fabric, etc.)

media – two or more different materials used to create an artwork (plural of medium).


ceramics – using clay to form an artwork that is usually later fired in a kiln (the surface may be glazed or painted)

papier-mâché – dipping paper strips into a glue solution and wrapping them around a form, allowing time for the artwork to dry and harden between coats (the surface is often later painted)

printing – using a carved stamp to create an image by applying paint or ink to its face and then pressing it to paper

etching – creating an artwork by scratching at the surface of a material to create lines in it.

Elements of Art

line – figure that connects two points (straight, curvy, zigzag)

shape – a two-dimensional figure that can be measured in two ways: length and height. Shapes can also be either organic (irregular shapes found in nature) or geometric (man-made shapes, e.g. square and triangle)

form – any object that can be measured in three ways: length, width, and depth (3-D)

value – the lightness or darkness of a color

texture – the element of art that refers to how things feel (tactile or actual texture) or how things appear to feel visually (simulated, imitated, or visual texture)

– the element of art that refers to the area between, around, above, below, and within objects. Space can be either positive (within an object) or negative (around an object)

color – the element of art that refers to the visual hue that is reflected from the surface of something

primary colors – red, yellow, and blue

secondary colors – green (yellow + blue), orange (red + yellow), and violet (red + blue)

tertiary/intermediate colors – yellow-green, blue-green, yellow-orange, red-orange, blue-violet, and red-violet

complementary colors – colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, which look brighter when placed side-by-side

monochromatic – a color scheme using one color and the tints and shades of that color
Achromatic – a color scheme consisting of only black, white, and gray

intensity – the brightness of dullness of a color

cool colors – colors that seem to recede away from the viewer: green, blue, and violet
warm colors – colors that seem to move toward the viewer, suggesting warmth and energy: red, yellow, and orange
neutral colors – colors that are neither warm nor cool: black, white, grey, and brown

tint – adding white to a color (e.g. white + red = pink)
shade – adding black to a color (e.g. black + blue = navy)

Principles of Design


balance – the principle of design that deals with the visual weight in a work of art

symmetrical – a type of formal balance created when two sides are mirror images of each other
asymmetrical – a type of informal balance created when unlike objects have equal visual weight
radial symmetry – when the image seems to come out from a center point

movement – creating the illusion of motion through visual rhythm

rhythm – a principle of design created by the repeating of shapes, colors, or lines

contrast/variety – the principle of design concerned with the differences among the elements of art

emphasis – the principle of design that stresses one area of an artwork (focal point is the place in the artwork where your eye is drawn)

pattern – the use of shapes, colors, or lines repeated in a planned way to create a regular pattern (repeating elements at equal intervals) or an irregular pattern (repeating elements in a seemingly random way)

unity/harmony – the principle of design concerned with similarities of separate but related parts, which are used to create a wholeness or oneness

proportion – elements within an artwork relate accurately to one another in size



realistic – an artwork that depicts people, places, or objects as they appear in real life

nonobjective – an artwork that may contain shapes, lines, and color, but does not represent objects, people, or places

abstract – an artwork that distorts but represents objects, people, or places


African – many African artworks are made out of shell, wood, ivory, and bone (masks are common)

Native American – some types of Native American artworks include weavings, baskets, pottery, and beadwork (geometrical designs on blankets, rugs, and pottery are common)

Folk Artists – Folk artists create artworks from things that are available to them such as wood and fabric (quilts, wood carvings, and sculptures are common) artworks are also usually somewhat rough looking, as these artists are untrained