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Art Glossary

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Abaca
(fiber) An extremely strong fiber that comes from stalks of banana trees.
Abrasives
(metal) Coarse particles of natural sands and synthetic materials used to scrape away irregularities in a surface. The most common form is sandpaper, properly called coated stock.
Absorption
(ceramics) The capacity of a material to soak up liquid.
Abstract
(n) Nonrepresentational art. (v) Refers to the process of modifying what has been observed for expressive purposes.
Acid
A class of chemical compounds commonly used in printmaking and glass etching to eat away unprotected areas of the surface to create a design.
Acrylic
A water-soluble paint made with pigments and synthetic resin; used as a fast-drying alternative to oil paint.
Acrylic Paint
(painting) Made from pigments dispersed in a polymethyl methacrylate vehicle. Mostly soluble in water and fast drying. Less translucent than oil paint.
Additive
(ceramics) The creation of sculpture through the process of building and adding material.
Adsorption
(ceramics) The collecting of liquid on a surface by condensation.
Aerial Photography
Identifying a specialized branch of photography concerned with making photographs from aircraft for a variety of uses.
Aesthetic
A philosophical theory as to what is beautiful (esthetic). Concerning or characterized by an appreciation of beauty or good taste.
African Blackwood
(wood) A wood from eastern African that is dark purplish brown with black streaks.
Agate
A very hard, semiprecious stone with a striped or variegated pattern.
Airbrush
A method of spraying dyes or paints onto a surface using a brush device driven by an air compressor.
Alabaster
A fine-textured, usually white, gypsum that is easily carved and translucent when thin.
Albany Slip
(ceramics) A natural common surface clay which becomes a shiny brown or black glaze from cone 4 upwards.
Alkalies
(ceramics) Base compounds of sodium, potassium and alkaline earths which function as low-temperature fluxes for silica.
Alla Prima
(painting) The Italian term for at first, alla prima refers to a painting technique whereby an entire painting is completed in a single session, without allowing the paint layers to dry completely, so that the final effects of the painting are achieved in the initial application. Also known as direct painting.
Aluminum
(metal) A lightweight, silver-colored metal used extensively in commercial applications, and occasionally by metal artists. In a process called anodizing, aluminum is given a tough porous coating that can be colored with dyes.
Amboyna Burl
(wood) A dome-shaped growth on the trunk of a paduak tree, which are native to southeast Asia.
Ambrosia Maple
(wood) Ambrosia is a term applied to red maple wood when it has been infested by the ambrosia beetle. The beetle bores small holes into the tree that introduces a fungus which then grows. As the fungus spreades it causes streaks which produces a desirable pattern in the wood.
Amorphous
(ceramics) Without specific form.
Anagama
(ceramics) Tube-like single chamber hill kiln; predecessor noborigama, a multi-chamber hill kiln of Oriental style.
Analogous Colors
Colors that are closely related to each other and generally lie next to each other on the color wheel. Often used in groups of three or four, they are low in contrast and therefore blend well.
Anegre Wood
(wood) A light-tan wood native to Africa.
Aniline Dye
Coloring agent derived from coal tar that is used to color fabric, paper, leather and other materials.
Annealing
(glass) The gradual cooling of glass from higher working temperatures to room temperature, in order to reduce the amount of internal strain inherent in glass.
(metal) The process of rendering metal more malleable by heating it to a specific temperature.
Anodizing
(metal) Method of dyeing an aluminum surface by coating the metal with an anodic film of aluminum oxide while it is in an acid bath. The metal is then washed and immersed in organic dyes, allowing the oxide film to absorb the dye, followed by a final washing, drying and sealing with lanolin.
Anticlastic raising
(metal) The process of forging a piece of metal so that it has opposite curvature at a given point. The metal is worked in a way that stretches the outside areas of the metal and creates a concave curve, while the center section of the metal is compressed and forced into a convex curve.
Antique Finish (or Antiquing)
A technique or paint applied to the surface of an object to artificially create the appearance of age or wear through distressing, staining, glazing, or discoloring.
Antique Glass
Glass which is mouth-blown into a cylinder, scored along its length, reheated and allowed to flatten into a sheet. The term antique describes the method by which it was made, not its age.
Apothecary Chest
A simple, low chest with small drawers, originally used to store herbs for medicinal or cooking purposes.
Appliqué
A form of decoration in which pieces of a material are fastened to a surface of the same or another material to form a design. It is most common in sewing.
Aquatint
(prints & drawings) An etching process used to create areas of solid color as well as gradations of white through black tones. Usually has the appearance of transparent watercolor.
Archival Quality
Designation for paper or inks of high permanence and durability. A non-technical term used to denote material that will last over long periods (several decades) with minimal deterioration because of its chemical stability and physical durability.
Armature
(ceramics) A framework around which clay can be modeled.
Armoire
A tall wardrobe with doors and shelves for clothing, often carved or ornately painted.
Art Deco
A streamlined, geometric style popular in the 1920s and 1930s, which derived from various avant-garde painitng styles of the early twentieth-century.
Art Moderne
Extreme modernistic French style of design that started with the Paris Exposition in 1925. This style is characterized by straight lines, angles and geometric decorations.
Art Nouveau
A decorative style that developed in France between 1890 and 1910. The style is inspired by organic forms in the entire design (as opposed to just in the ornamentation), and is characterized by s-shaped curves, flowing lines that end in a whip-like tail, and subtle transitions.
Artblocked
(prints & drawings) Artblocked frames have a simple narrow border and deep profile, setting the artwork distinctly off the wall.
Artifact
A product of human workmanship of archeological and/or historical significance.
Artist Proofs
(prints & drawings) Prints created by a print publisher for the artist to review and work with the publisher to make any necessary adjustments to coloring, tone, darkness, etc., before the numbered edition prints are printed. Approved artist proofs are signed, numbered and inscribed as artist proofs (AP). Artist proofs that are not approved by the artist are destroyed. Artist proofs are considered of higher value than the proofs in the numbered edition because of their limited quantity.
Arts and Crafts
Also known as Mission style, this decorative style was a rustic answer to the mass-produced and ornamental forms that dominated the Victorian style. Popular between the 1860s and 1939, this form appears blocky and rectangular and often uses quartersawn (see quartersawing) oak.
Ash
(ceramics) The residue ash made by burning tree, plant, or vegetable material; can be used alone or with other materials for glaze at stoneware temperatures; it is traditional in Asia where wood has been a common fuel; volcanic ash can also be used.
Ash Glaze
(ceramics) A ceramic glaze utilizing wood or vegetable ashes as the fluxing ingredient.
Assemblage
The technique of combining various elements, especially found objects, into a three-dimensional work of art.
Atmosphere
(glass) In lampworking, this refers specifically to the conditions within the torch flame. The atmosphere of the flame can be "oxidizing" (high in oxygen) or "reducing" (low in oxygen). A reducing atmosphere will affect some colored glasses, turning the surface black or otherwise discoloring it. A flame that is reducing is generally softer and cooler that a flame that is oxidizing. Glass color is also sometimes affected by the atmosphere within the kiln during annealing.
Autochrome
(photography) A practical, additive photo process perfected in 1907 using a glass plate dusted with transparent grains of potato starch dyed red, green and blue. These starch grains act as tiny color filters, allowing light to affect a piece of film sandwiched behind the glass plate. Film is then reverse processed into a positive transparency. Graininess and spots often appear in the finished image because starch grains could not be evenly mixed.
Aventurine
Adventurine, or aventurine, is a form of quartz characterized by translucence and shimmer caused by mica inclusions. Sometimes mistaken for jade, adventurine is primarily green but may also be orange, brown, yellow, blue, or gray. Besides its uses in jewelry, aventurine is also used for ornamental purposes in vases or bowls.
Avodire Wood
(wood) An African wood compared in strength and figure to mahogany, but with a color range from pale lemon yellow to golden yellow.

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