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Glossary of Art Terms: 'C'

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camera obscura

An early precursor of the modern-day camera. The camera obscura (French: dark room) began as a crude device where a tiny hole in a wall would function as a lens, having a very small aperture, projecting an inverted image on the opposite wall of a darkened room. First mentioned by Aristotle in the fourth century BC, it was eventually developed as a projection method used by artist as a drawing aid.


A commonly used support for oil and acrylic paintings. Artist's canvas is a woven fabric made of linen, cotton, hemp or other fibers. Its surface is typically prepared for painting by priming with a ground. This protects the fibers and prevents the absorption of oils from the paint. Linen, produced from flax fibers was first used for artist's canvas. Later, alternatives to linen became popular, such as cotton and hemp. For use as a painting support, canvas is usually stretched over a stretcher, a wooden frame specially made for stretching artist's canvas, and then tacked or stapled. Since canvases constructed in this way, paintings are susceptible to tears or punctures as well as expansion and contraction. For this reason, many artists choose to mount the canvas to a rigid panel, made of either hardwood or some composite material. This way the artist has both the textural qualities of the canvas in his painting and the strength, safety and stability of a rigid panel.


A drawing, cartoon or other method of representation in which certain select features of the subject are carefully exemplified to create an image that often parodies the subject. Caricatures, when well done, have a strong, undeniable but comical resemblance to the subject. The purpose of a caricature is to "loudly" convey the subject's unique character. See portrait for a similar term.


The original term was used by fresco painters and referred to a preliminary line drawing made the same size of the final work. Michelangelo used cartoon images for his works on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.Today it more often refers to drawings, usually with simple lines, either to be amusing or to make a statement. It also can be used to tell a story in one or several "frames" as in a comic strip or an animated motion picture.


A type of sculpture using various techniques of cutting, abrading or otherwise wearing the surface of a material to shape it into a particular form. Among the materials appropriate for carving include wood, sandstone, soap, plastic and wax.


To form a three-dimensional sculpture by pouring a molten or liquid material into a mold. The term is also used to refer to a work created by this means.


A list of works representing the inventory of a Fine Art gallery, museum, or other collection. It provides descriptions and pertinent information of the works, and may also contain articles discussing their origin and history.


A term (Italian: "light" and "dark") referring to the modeling of mass by carefully arranging the tones from dark to light creating a dramatic three-dimensional realism. Originally, chiaroscuro referred to works on paper during the Italian Renaissance.


This term has come to have several meanings. Originally it was used when referring to the art of ancient Greece produced during the fifth and fourth centuries BC. Later it included all works of art created from 600 BC until the fall of Rome. Today, classical is used to describe perfection of form, with an emphasis on harmony and unity and the restraint of emotion. Often, it is applied to works that are idealistically represented.

cold-pressed paper

A relatively smooth watercolor paper. Cold-pressed paper offers more "tooth" which is often preferred by artist working in watercolor and pastel.


The act of contracting an artist to produce a certain work or set of works. The terms of the contract are usually set forth in writing; specifying prices, fees, deposits, delivery, copyright and other legal issues. The term also refers to the fee earned by an artist representative, agent or gallery.


The arrangement of the visual elements of an artwork. The structural elements can have a significant impact on the way we perceive and respond to the image. Often referring to the objects in an image, composition can also refer to the selection and arrangement of colors, tones and textures in a painting or image.


A person, amateur or professional, who through experience, has become highly sensitive to beauty in art. One who professes to be well versed in the Fine Arts.


An artist's exclusive right to reproduce, publish, or sell his or her original work of art. The artist's copyright to a particular work is not normally transferred with the sale of the work, as some might assume. The artist retains his copyright even when works are sold. It is only transferred when specifically done so in writing.


A regular solid body, with six equal square sides. The outline of an isometric view of a cube forms a regular hexagon. This phenomenon allows a three-dimensional cube to be represented on a hexagon canvas, as those painted by one of our featured artist, Curtis Verdun.


One of the most influential art movements (1907-1914) of the twentieth century, Cubism was started by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. The movement was groundbreaking and was both celebrated by some and ridiculed by others.