(historical, social, cultural)

Refers to the time, purpose and place in which a 2D, 3D or 4D artwork has been created.


When subjects/forms are reduced to clearly defined elements within the composition or performance such as shape, colour, texture, movement. There can be varying degrees of abstraction.

acrylic paints

Ground pigment mixed with water and acrylic polymer resin to create paint.


Philosophical theory or set of principles governing the idea of beauty at a given time and place.

analogous colour

Colours that are side-by-side on the colour wheel such as yellow/orange, orange/red, red/violet.


Comparing, commenting on and making informed judgements about works of art, film, performance, focusing on particular aspects within the artwork.


Make notation, written comment or explanation.


Process of intentionally using, copying or changing of pre-existing source/s and objects (with or without permission) by an artist, photographer or performer who reworks them in their own art, giving them new meaning.

art terminology

Words and phrases which have meaning specific to the visual, digital or performance arts.


Creative activity that expresses personal ideas in 2D, 3D or 4D art forms, in all mediums.


Lacks symmetry, unequal arrangement of art elements/design principles either side of an axis.


Individuals or groups of people who experience the arts in a range of settings and contexts (formal, informal, virtual or interactive) through intellectual, emotional and social engagement.


Imaginary line/lines, about which artwork/s are visually or structurally organised (see asymmetric, symmetry).


The visual plane in a composition perceived furthest from the viewer.


See principles of design.

bas relief

Form which projects forward in low relief, with some sculptural detail.

bisque firing

Preliminary firing which changes clay properties such as silica into a non-soluble state or ceramic ware.

broken colour

Using short, thick strokes of paint to layer one on top of another, revealing vibrant colour effects and thick textures.


Act of suppressing 2D, 3D or 4D artwork deemed objectionable on moral, political, aesthetic or other grounds.


Purity of colour.


Raw material used to create ceramic objects, bricks and tiles; derived from earth, and containing, elements such as silica, water and humus. Types of clay include terra-cotta, porcelain, earthenware and paper clay. When glazed, ceramic ware becomes vitreous.


Adhering materials/objects such as paper, fabric, printed text to a 2D or 3D surface.


See visual art elements.

colour wheel

A visual representation, presented as a wheel, of various concepts relevant to understanding colour. See primary colours, secondary colours, tertiary colours, complementary colours.

complementary colours

Colours which are opposite each other on the colour wheel. The complementary pairs are red/green, blue/orange, yellow/violet. When placed next to each other, because they are contrasts, they look brighter and stronger.


Placement or arrangement of the visual art elements and design principles in a 2D, 3D or 4D artwork.


Emphasising ideas rather than objects or skills; may be part of the artist's planning without being expressed in a material form. context


Line that creates the illusion of mass and volume in space.


See principles of design.

cool colours

Colours/hues such as blue, green or violet, that create a cool/cold sensation, and recede or stay in the background.

critical analysis frameworks

Critical analysis frameworks provide scaffolds for analysis of artwork. The critical analysis frameworks recommended for use by the School Curriculum and Standards Authority are: STICI, Feldman, Taylor and Four Frames.


The values, attitudes, customs, practices, language and conventions commonly shared by a particular group that forms a part of their identity and contributes towards a sense of shared understanding.


Break down into parts, to dislocate.


Two-panelled artwork such as an alterpiece.


Changing the structure of an image or object to degrade form; such as stretching, deconstructing a drawing or surface.


Created by implementing contrasting visual art elements and/or design principles such as scale, space, colour, contrast, or shape. Where dominance is used to draw attention to the focal point in the composition, unity of the whole should be considered.


See principles of design.


Expression of forms from life or containing reference to a figure.


Relationship between the positive form/object and its background.

focal point

Part of a 2D, 3D or 4D artwork which attracts the most attention, generally designed to extend the viewer's interaction with the artwork.


In landscape; the area or visual plane closest to the viewer.


Construction device used to create the illusion of a form being altered because of its relationship to the viewer and its position in the picture plane. An example is; drawing the reclining figure to represent the pose, on a 2D surface.


See visual art elements.


Style or category of art, architecture, theatre or literature. Historical precedent has informed the categorising of artwork, buildings, films, books, plays into genres.


Plaster mixed with a bonding solution such as glue, to create a surface (or ground) on the support, upon which to apply other media.


Introduction of small degrees of tone to create form, or the reduction of scale to imply distance as in aerial or atmospheric perspective.


Coating applied to a support that prepares the surface for media such as paint or collage.


See principles of design.


Significance of the parts that contribute to the whole. In art movements, the artists whose artwork defines the movement would be considered to rank highly in the hierarchy of the movement.


The name of a pure colour; not altered by adding white (tint) or black (tone).


Thick application of media such as paint or modelling compound, to give a textured surface.


New, or adaptation of, a convention or idea to create new ideas, inventions or conventions.


Site-specific 2D, 3D or 4D artwork which is planned to have a short-term life either through decay or removal.


One of the principal subjects, or genre, used by artists, craftspeople, designers, filmmakers as a vehicle for personal expression, awareness or appreciation of nature.


See visual art elements.


Non-shiny, dull surface; can be created by scoring, frosting or applying a coating of art medium.


Materials used in making an artwork.


Progressive change in the form of a subject, object or visual representation.


In landscape; the visual plane, which is located in proximity to the horizon line.

modelling compound

Substance which has been bulked up with thickener, to enable building a surface for texture or dimension.


Different tints and shades of a single hue or tonal scale.


Combining or superimposing multiple images into one unit.


See principles of design.


Generally 'large scale' painting applied directly to a wall in a public place.


Ideas or stories which have been created over time and often as a consequence of cultural expression, storytelling, societal values.


Tells a story through a series of connected events or actions.


Partly obscuring an object, image or film sequence, with another object, image or film sequence; such as, repeating an image, or part thereof, so that some of the previous layer can still be seen.


Flat surface on which an artist places and mixes colour.


Finely ground pigment mixed with glue and formed into sticks or pencils.


See principles of design.

perspective - atmospheric/aerial

See principles of design - second definition.

perspective - linear

See principles of design.


Finely ground coloured substance which, when added to a liquid base, becomes a form of stain or paint.


Representation of a human or animal subject. Portraiture has been explored from ancient through to contemporary times.


Refers to the conceptual and physical processes of making 2D, 3D and 4D artwork. Relates to how ideas, concepts and themes are developed into art forms.

primary colours

Red, yellow and blue; cannot be produced by mixing other colours; however, it is possible to mix the full colour spectrum from these three colours.

principles of design

Accepted conventions associated with organising the visual art elements into more complex units. Includes: - balance: art elements that are arranged to create the impression of equality in weight or importance. Balance can be described as symmetrical or asymmetrical - contrast: juxtaposition of different visual art elements and/or design principles in order to highlight their differences; to create visual interest or a focal point - emphasis: positioning of visual art elements and/or design principles which are considered important in creating a focal point within the composition - harmony: relates to the organisation of the visual art elements or design principles into a unified composition. Harmony can be achieved by combining similar shapes, textures or colours, within an artwork - movement: illusion of motion created in 2D and 3D artwork, or incorporated into 3D or 4D artwork. Diagonal lines, expressive colour or diminishing scale of art elements or design principles can imply movement. - pattern: a regular arrangement of repeated or alternated visual art elements or design motifs, derived from combining visual elements such as shape, line, colour - perspective: artistic device for creating the illusion of distance (or a third dimension) on a 2D surface; such as parallel lines appearing to meet at a single point on the horizon, known as the vanishing point. Also, creating the illusion of distance by reducing the intensity of colour, the amount of detail and the size or scale of the subject/object, so as to imply its distance from the viewer - proportion: relationship of scale between the parts of a group within, or beyond the parameters of the composition of an artwork. Using the relative size of visual art elements against each other can attract attention to a focal point - repetition: repeated use of certain visual art elements multiple times to create pattern or emphasis; incorporating repeated sequences into an art form to emphasise aspects of production - scale: scale relates to size or proportion. In a composition, the differences in scale can draw attention to a focal point or emphasise particular aspects of the artwork - unity: unity means the organisation of the composition into a meaningful visual arrangement and can be achieved through such means as re-use of imagery, visual art elements or design principles. Unity does not mean uniformity.


See principles of design.


See principles of design.

resolved artwork

Artwork that has been completed through a process of lengthy determination and would generally be considered display or exhibition ready (refer to VAR Practical production examination requirements booklet).


Arrangement of the visual art elements or design principles, either regularly or irregularly, to give the visual sensation of movement.


Purity of a colour; the quantity and quality of the pigment determines the saturation of a colour.


See principles of design.

secondary colour

Formed by the combination of any two primary colours.


When black is added to a colour (in differing amounts) it creates a shade of that colour. Shades can also be created by mixing the primary colours in varying strengths to allow the dominance of one hue.


See visual art elements.


Having many qualities in common, such as analogous colours, geometric shapes.


Artwork or film projects that are designed to interrelate to a particular place for a period of time. Site-specific artwork generally enhance the viewer's understanding of aspects of the environment in which they are placed or produced.

slip or slurry

Clay mixed to a creamy consistency; used to join clay parts or to pour into a mould when casting a clay, or when firing a ceramic object.


See visual art elements.

still life

Style or genre of art which has been used by artists for centuries. Still life representation consists of an object/group of objects which are inanimate such as flowers, vessels, fruit and books.


Distinctive or characteristic manner of expression that is influenced by context or time frame such as Impressionism, Postmodernism, 21st century contemporary art, animation.


Composition (or section of the composition) is built equally on each side of a central axis to create a sense of complete order or balance.


Practical skills used to produce a 2D, 3D or 4D artwork. Each art form requires a particular application of technique to achieve an outcome.

tertiary colours

Formed by the combination of any mixture of the three primary colours in different quantities.


See visual art elements.


White added to a colour makes it a tint of that colour.


Artwork created in a circular format such as a painting or sculpture.


See visual art elements.


Three-panelled artwork.


See principles of design.


Value is the lightness reflected in a colour; the more light, the higher the value.

vanishing point

In linear perspective, parallel lines appear to meet at a point on the horizon. The size of objects within the composition reduced in relation to their position in space, as determined by the converging lines.

visual art elements

Basic structural units an artist, craftsperson, designer, filmmaker incorporates into a 2D, 3D, 4D artwork: - colour: light, as seen through the spectrum which is composed of 6 basic colours; red, orange yellow, green, blue, violet. Terms to classify colour are hue (the name of a colour) intensity (the brightness of a colour) and chroma (purity of a colour) - form: structure of the work, giving it a distinctive character defined by light and shadow and is therefore, 3D. In 4D art forms, there is consideration of time and space - line: mark or path, made by a tool or implement often to create boundaries and define where one thing starts or ends - shape: when lines close on themselves, they form shapes. A shape is 2D, having height and width. Shapes are either geometric or organic. A positive shape on a flat surface automatically creates a negative shape in the surrounding space - space: 2D, 3D and 4D space refers to the area around, within, or between parts of an artwork or action. There is both positive and negative space - texture: describes how the real surface quality of matter looks or feels to the touch. Implied texture is created by replicating a visual sensation using media such as pencil, charcoal or paint - tone: lightness or darkness of a colour. It is achieved by adding black to a colour, or mixing quantities of the three primary colours together. Tone can be utilised to imply form, texture or weight.

visual conventions

Traditional or culturally accepted ways of doing things. Visual conventions are determined by agreed expectations, such as the numbering of a set of prints in an edition, developing a story board for a digital production.

visual devices

Visual art elements and design principles, and symbols that are used to communicate the ideas of the artist, designer or producer of an artwork.

visual language

Use of visual art elements and design principles to express, communicate and arrive at artistic solutions in arts practice.

visual literacy

Ability to perceive, understand, interpret and evaluate visual information.

visual symbol systems

Non-verbal modes of communication - e.g. signs, symbols, perspective.

warm colours

Colours such as red, yellow and orange, that create a warm/hot visual sensation. These colours stand out in artwork and come forward to the eye.


Transparent film of water or colour (as in watercolour painting) applied to the surface of a support such as paper or canvas.

watercolour paint

Colour pigments combined with a binding agent such as water-soluble gum, which are floated in water or liquid medium.


Artwork that exists on a flat surface, that have height and width, such as paintings, prints, photographs and drawings.


Artwork that has depth as well as height and width, such as sculpture and installations.


Artwork that has depth, height, width, time and spatial dimensions. For example, time-based installations, or artwork that incorporate performance in a moving image.