|Art Glossary of Terms
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Art Glossary of Terms - Art Lexicon EA to EZ
E.A. - The abbreviation for the French term épreuve d'artiste, meaning artist's proof.
ear - In casting, a depression that receives a pin for aligning the pieces in a two-piece mold. Pictured here is a two-piece rubber mold in which a jeweler can cast a wax ring to be used in lost-wax casting. An ear can be seen at each corner of the right half of the mold. Also see concave, dent, mortise, register and register mark.
earth colors - Pigments, such as yellow ochre and umber, that are obtained by mining; usually metal oxides. Also see color, color wheel, and warm colors.
ecce homo - The title commonly given to depictions of Christ as he was presented to the crowd for crucifixion. Latin for "Behold, the man." The story of Pontius Pilate is told in various books of the Bible. The 'Ecce homo' episode is from John 19:5. Matthew 27:24. "When Pilate saw that he was doing no good, indeed that a riot was impending, he took some water, washed his hands before the crowd and said, "I am innocent of this man's blood. It is your affair." (pr. et'chay ho'mo)
eccentric - Literally, not having the same center, and figuratively, departing from the typical or established norm or pattern. A person who deviates markedly from an established norm, especially one exhibiting odd or unconventional behavior — off-center. It can also be used to describe something that doesn't follow a truly circular path, as in "an eccentric orbit." "Eccentric" contrasts with "concentric": having a common center; concentric circles are placed one within another.
echinus - In architecture, the convex element of a capital directly below the abacus. (pr. eh-ki:'nus) Also see necking and shaft.
eclecticism - A system or method in which individual elements are selected or employed from a variety of sources, systems, or styles. Also see gemütlichkeit, multiculturalism, pastiche, and thematic.
écorché - A figure drawn, painted, or sculpted to show the muscles of the body without skin. The Renaissance architect and theorist, Leon Battista Alberti (Italian, 1404-1472), recommended that when a painter is going to depict a nude, he should first arrange the muscles and bones, then pick out a nice skin to go with them. (pr. ay'kor-shay")
edakumi-ryo - In Japanese art tradition, Bureau of Painters. Also see edokoro.
edge - Where two things meet. Also, edge may refer to a quality sensed in artworks which is other than a smooth decorativeness; and that may be a sense of something unusual, disturbing, controversial, or in any of many other ways more demanding of the audience. Also see aliased and anti-aliased, ancipital, align and alignment, avant-garde, banausic, bland, butt, definition, dissonance, feather, French curve, frisson, grotesque, incongruity, interesting, juxtaposition, margin, marginalia, perpendicular, signature, straight, tangent, tension, and theater.
edition - A set of identical prints, sometimes numbered and signed, pulled by, or under the supervision of the artist. Two numbers are often written at the lower edge of a print — the first indicating the print's place in the order of all prints in the edition, the second number indicating the total number of prints in the edition.
edokoro - In Japanese tradition, Bureau of Painters. Also see edakumi-ryo and Japanese art.
effigy - A likeness or image, especially of a person. A likeness of a deceased person, when placed on his tomb, is usually called an effigy. Now, more often a crude figure or dummy of someone despised; a symbolic image of a person. Perhaps this latter sense arises from a wish that the subject were dead.
efflorescence - A formation of white crusty material — crystals resulting from penetration of moisture through painted walls — especially brick, tile, or uncoated plaster. It may also be produced by soluble material present in the wall itself. Also see bloom and patina.
effort - Mental or physical energy used to achieve a purpose; self-discipline. A person's exertions to reach a particular goal or overcome particular difficulty. At minimum, effort is attempting to accomplish something. Sometimes an effort is remarkable because it is something someone is trying to do for the first time.
egg-and-dart - A decorative pattern commonly used in molding on architecture or furniture, in which a series of oval figures alternate with arrowhead figures of various types — sometimes described as anchors, tongues, or slightly tapered bars. It is found in classical Greek and Roman architecture, as well as in styles derivative of them, including beaux-arts classicism, classical revival, federal, Georgian revival, Greek revival, Neoclassicism, Renaissance revival, Second Empire. Also see festoon, rhythm, and shape.
egg-oil emulsion - A painting medium.
egg tempera - A watercolor medium used for permanent, fine works.
Egyptian blue - A particular blue pigment.
8-bit image - A digital image, with eight bits allocated for the storage of each pixel, meaning 256 different colors are possible. The 256 colors can be seen in this see thumbnail to rightcolor look-up table (CLUT).
electrolysis - Chemical change, especially decomposition, produced in an electrolyte, by an electric current. Also see electroplate and electrotype.
electrolyte - A chemical compound that ionizes when dissolved or molten to produce an electrically conductive medium. Also see electroplate.
electronic portfolio - A portfolio or set of images of work which is stored on a computer disc. The original work may have been created electronically or scanned from other media.
electroplate - To coat a metal — usually iron, nickel, or copper — with brass, chrome, copper, gold, silver, or another metal. This process is often simply called plating. The base metal is placed in a container of water in which it becomes an electrode, which is then gradually coated with particles of another metal by electrolysis.
electrotype - The reproduction of a model by coating a mold taken from it with metal (commonly copper) by electrolysis.
electrum - An alloy of gold and silver, pale yellow in color.
elegance - Refinement, grace, and beauty. Tasteful opulence in form, decoration, or presentation. Restraint and grace of style.
elements of art or elements of design - The basic components used by the artist when producing works of art. Those elements are color, value, line, shape, form, texture, and space. The elements of art are among the literal qualities found in any artwork.
elevation - In architecture and drawing, a scale drawing of the side, front or rear of a structure. A geometric projection of a building on a plane perpendicular to the horizontal; a vertical projection.
elitism and elitist - The belief that certain persons deserve favored treatment by virtue of their superior artistic or intellectual accomplishments, or because of some other real or perceived status. People and things reach various levels of achievement, of success, and for better or worse, people judge the qualities of other people and things. But elitism is a tendency to codify levels of artistic sophistication into a hierarchical system that some would call pretentiously exclusionary, and others realistic. Elitism is the sense of entitlement that follows from this attitude, and the control or dominance by a group of elitists — the people who take this view of their position. Elitism always elicits aesthetic questions about defining art, who is an authority about it, and what that means for people who aren't.
circle and ellipseellipse - A plane curve, especially either a conic section whose plane is not parallel to the axis, base, or generatrix of the intersected cone, or the locus of points for which the sum of the distances from each point to two fixed points is equal. Note the similarity and difference between a circle and an ellipse. (pr. e-lips') how to draw an ellipse
ellipsis - The omission of a word or phrase necessary for a complete syntactical construction but not necessary for understanding, or an example of such omission. Also, a mark or series of marks (typically: ...) used in writing or printing to indicate an omission, especially of letters or words. (pr. e-lip'ses) The plural form is ellipses. (pr. e-lip"seez') Also see closure, ellipse, erasure, gestalt, lacuna, shard, space, and void.
elongate - Stretching an object or figure lengthwise, thus altering its proportion and making it look taller and more slender; a type of distortion often interpreted as stylization.
ema - In Japanese art tradition, a votive painting.
emakimono - In Japanese art tradition, a horizontal scroll painting to be unrolled by hand.
emblem - In art criticism, an object or a representation that functions as a symbol, or a picture associated with a verse or motto presenting a moral lesson. Also, may refer to a distinctive badge, design, or device. A flag is an emblem.
emboss, embossment - To create a raised design or relief on a flat surface, usually of metal or paper, by pressing or hammering a design into the back side. Embossment is the result of having been embossed.
embrasure - In architecture, a splayed opening in a wall that enframes a doorway or a window. (pr. em-bray'zhuhr)
emerald green - A particular green pigment.
emerging artist - A hopeful label to signify a recent art school graduate or an exhibiting school age artist. Also see children's art and juvenilia.
emery - Coarse corundum used as a powder or paste for the abrasion and polish of stone or metal. Also see grind.
emotionalism - An aesthetic and critical theory of art which places emphasis on the expressive qualities. According to this theory, the most important thing about a work of art is the vivid communication of moods, feelings, and ideas. Also see audience, empathy, expressionism, formalism, imitationalism, kitsch, meaning, sentimentality, subject, and viewer.
empathy - Sympathy for another's situation, feelings, and motives. An imaginative projection of one's own feelings to an object or event.
emphasis - Any forcefulness that gives importance or dominance (weight) to some feature or features of an artwork; something singled out, stressed, or drawn attention to by means of contrast, anomaly, or counterpoint for aesthetic impact. A way of combining elements to stress the differences between those elements and to create one or more centers of interest in a work. Often, emphasized elements are used to direct and focus attention on the most important parts of a composition — its focal point. Emphasis is one of the principles of design. A design lacking emphasis may result in monotony.
empirical - Relying on or derived from observation or experiment. See empiricism.
empiricism - The philosophical stance that experience, especially of the senses, is the only source of knowledge. Also, the use of empirical methods. Also see epistemology, interdisciplinary, metaphysics, ontology, phenomenology, and teleology.
empower - To enable, to invest with power, as in giving recognition to artists who are members of marginalized groups. See multiculturalism, political correctness (PC), xenophilia, and xenophobia.
empty shape - In an artwork a shape that is left bare instead of filled with lines or color. Also see closed shape, lacuna, negative space, and open shape.
emulation - Imitation; especially in order to equal or exceed a model. In computer terminology, it refers to a means to allowing software written for one computer platform to run on another. Also see chinoiserie and derivative.
emulsifier - A catalyst combining oil, water and varnish into media for painting. Also see solvent.
emulsify - To create an emulsion.
emulsion - A suspension of small globules of one liquid in a second liquid with which the first will not mix. A photosensitive (light sensitive) material which consists of a coating of silver halide grains in a gelatin layer, on photographic metal plates (for a daguerreotype), glass plates, film, fabric, paper, or other surfaces. (pr. uh-muhl'shuhn) Also see emulsifier, negative, photography, positive, and stain.
engaged column - In architecture, a column-like, nonfunctional form projecting from a wall and articulating it visually. Also see pilaster.
engobe - A colored slip used in decorating ceramics. They have several distinctive attributes, but are also excellent alternatives to glazes because they are less expensive and less time consuming. Engobes are typically made by mixing water with a claybody in use, then mixing in one or more colorants (e.g. oxides) — in a proportion of dry ingredients to water that is about 1:2 by volume. They are best applied in a consistency like cream to leatherhard greenware, or a little thinner when applied to bisque. Colored slips stay put — they won't run or blur as many glazes do. Textures made in colored slip will remain as they're formed, instead of smoothing out as do those made with glazes. They can be applied with a brush, a slip-trailing bottle, or by dipping or spraying. Another method for using engobes in making a design is called sgraffito: coat unfired clay with engobe, and then scratch away at parts of it to reveal the clay surface underneath. (pr. en-gohb)
enlargement - A larger version of an image or of a work. Making an enlargement is sometimes called a bump up or a blowup.
Enlightenment - Also called the Age of Reason, the name applied to an intellectual movement and zeitgeist which developed in western Europe during the seventeenth century and reached its height in the eighteenth. The common element was a trust in human reason as adequate to solve the crucial problems and to establish the essential norms in life, together with the belief that the application of reason was rapidly dissipating the darkness of superstition, prejudice, and barbarity, was freeing humanity from its earlier reliance on mere authority and unexamined tradition, and had opened the prospect of progress toward a life in this world of universal peace and happiness. In the visual arts, this was the time of the Baroque period.
ennui - Boredom; listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest and motivation, resulting in lack of effort. (pr. ah-nwee) Walter Sickert chose Ennui as the title of his painting:
entablature - In architecture, the upper section of a classical building. Resting on the columns, it consists first of the architrave, the frieze, and the cornice on top.
entasis - An almost imperceptible convex tapering (an apparent swelling) in the shaft of a column. (pr. en'tah-sis)
enthusiasm - Great excitement for or interest in a subject or effort, or the source or cause of such great excitement or interest. An enthusiast is an enthusiastic person. Enthusiasm is an important ingredient in motivation to produce art, as well as to study and enjoy it in other ways. It is a quality that springs from the personality of artists, teachers and other lovers of art. Instructors develop their students' enthusiasm most effectively by demonstrating it. So much of school life is routine and mundane that teachers and students can slip into a business-as usual rut. But enthusiasm in the classroom is the spice that brings new zest to learning for teachers as well as for students.
entropy - The tendency of all matter and energy in the universe — including all systems, societies, etc. — to change toward a state of disorder or randomness. The works of earth artists — Robert Smithson (American, 1938-1973), for example — reflect an interest in the concept of entropy. Related to this is the use of the term in information theory, where entropy is a measure of the apparent disorder of a system, so that the more there is known about it, the less entropy it seems to have. In this vein, entropy is understood as the number of possibilities, which decreases as knowledge grows. Also see chaos, composition, interdisciplinary, and order.
epistemology - The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its extent and validity. An epistemological question might be "How can we really know that . . . ?" (pr. e-piss'te-mah"le-jee) Also see appreciate, art criticism, art history, cognitive, critique, discover, empiricism, genius, gestalt, interdisciplinary, liberal arts, memory, metaphysics, mind, ontology, perception, phenomenology, science and art, sense, and teleology.
epistle - A message or letter; in the New Testament, any of the letters written by apostles. (pr. eh-piss'l)
epitome - An example of a class or type; a representative or typical example. This does not mean the best example, but rather one which is typical of what's available. Art educators, limited in the number and variety of examples of art images they can show to students, seek exemplars along with pieces which epitomize their types. (pr. e-pi"toh-mee') Also see archetype and avatar.
epoxy resin - A thermosetting plastic resin, used for resin casting. Epoxins are also used in the manufacture of adhesives which bond firmly.
épreuve d'artiste - French for artist's proof, abbreviated E.A.
EPS - Encapsulated PostScript. An electronic image-storage format that extends the PostScript page description language to include images. See digital image.
épure - In architecture, a full-scale, detailed drawing done on a wall, floor, or other large surface, from which are traced the patterns for various building elements.
equilateral - When every side of a polygon is of the same length. A square, for instance, must be equilateral in order to be a square. Also see mathematics, regular, and shape.
equilibrium - A state of rest or balance between contrasting elements or opposing forces. Also see dominance, emphasis, and weight.
equine art or equine statue - An image or a sculpture of a horse, with or without a rider. A sculpture of a horse with a rider can more specifically be called an equestrian statue.
equipoise - An equal distribution of weight, relationship, or forces. Also see counterpoise and balance.
eraser - A tool used in the erasure of parts of drawings. Graphite pencil drawings are erased with any of several types of rubber. (It was after this use that the substance called rubber received its name.) Lighter parts of charcoal drawings can be erased with either a kneaded eraser (also called putty rubber) or a kneaded piece of fresh bread. Wax crayons and lithographic crayons cannot be erased unless they are on non-absorbent surfaces. Also see canvas scraper, clean up, palimpsest, solvent, and stain removal.
erasure - Removal, usually of written or drawn marks, by rubbing, blotting, wiping, or scraping. The goal of erasure is typically to remove all traces of something, although one finds it practical to compromise at partial erasure. And, the scrambling of material recorded magnetically, as in the use of the delete key on a keyboard. Also see camouflage, clean up, eraser, implied, palimpsest, solvent, and stain removal.
ergonomics - An applied science concerned with the characteristics of people that need to be considered in the design of devices and systems in order that people and things will interact effectively and safely. This is also called human engineering or human-factors engineering. Some objects occasionally cited as ergonomically well designed are: the umbrella, the bicycle, the pencil, and the Post-it note. In furniture, it's the Freedom Chair by Niels Diffrient (American, contemporary). Also see anatomy, ASTM International (American Society for Testing and Materials), humanism, human scale, interdisciplinary, interdisciplinary, safety, and science and art.
erotica and erotic art - Erotica includes images, books, and objects that cause or celebrate sexual feelings or desires. Just as "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," some observers will perceive erotica as obscene or pornographic. But when sexually suggestive or explicit materials are deemed erotica or erotic art, they are described more neutrally or positively than they are when called obscenity or pornography.
ersatz - Describes an artificial and inferior substitute or imitation. An adjective drawn from a German noun meaning "substitute," Ersatz was first prominently borrowed by English speakers during World Wars I and II, when it was frequently applied as an adjective to food products made in immitation of the real thing — such as a coffee made from acorns, a flour made from potatoes, or a sugar made from sawdust. (pr. ayr'sahts or ayr'zahts) Also see allusion, analogy, appropriation, copy, copyright, counterfeit, derived image, facsimile, fake, forgery, kitsch, likeness, mirror, paint-by-number, plagiarism, replica, representation, reproduction, simile, simulacrum, and simulation.
escutcheon - In heraldry, a shield or a shield-shaped emblem bearing a coat of arms. Also, an ornamental or protective plate, as for a keyhole or a push-button. Also see cartouche and frame.
eshi - In Japanese art tradition, a painter.
esquisse - A sketch showing the general features of a design or plan. Also see architecture.
etch - To use acid to cut into a surface, usually metal or glass. Too often confused with engrave. See etching.
ethnic - Relating to sizable social groups sharing a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage. "Ethnic" was once a term for Egyptian, African, Mesoamerican, and other non-Christian ("heathen") peoples, even though European cultures posess all the exoticism, inscrutability and "otherness" that "ethnic" implies. European, like ethnic arts, are the products of specific times and places, beliefs and taboos, produced to serve ritual ends, religious and social, confer prestige, and provide cultural self-affirmation. Also similarly, European art evokes complex, sometimes conflicting reactions, admiration, bafflement, amusement, and disdain. "Ethnic" (like "primitive") should therefore be used very cautiously. Considering how profoundly we have needed to reevaluate our uses of "ethnic" to designate non-European peoples, a contemporary use is likely to smack of negative stereotype and ethnocentrism. Also see Aboriginal art, American Indian art, anthropocentrism, Buddhist art, Chicano art / Chicana art, Chinese art, folk art, Harlem Renaissance, heritage, Hindu art, Islamic art, Jewish art, Mexican art, Russian art, tradition, xenophilia, and xenophobia.
ethnocentrism - The tendency to see one's own ethnic group as the norm and all others as marginal; a form of racism.
ethnosphere - The web of human culture around our planet. This word was coined in the late 1990s by an ethno-biologist as a counterpart to "biosphere," which stands for the web of living organisms inhabiting earth. Prediction: next will be geosphere — from geology. Jockosphere? Dweebosphere?! Sphereosphere?! Also see civilization, custom, ethnocentrism, material culture, multiculturalism, tradition, and xenophilia.
Eurocentrism - The tendency to see European culture and history as the norm and all others as marginal. See also art history, ethnic, ethnocentrism, isms and -ism, lookism, and xenophobia.
eurythmy - Harmony of proportion or movement. Among the principles of design, eurythmy is a hybrid of three of the principles — harmony, proportion, and movement. Also see composition, distort, elongate, emphasis, Golden Mean, music, rhythm, and scale.
evaluation - The ability to judge the value of material (work of art, statement, writing, music, etc.) for a given purpose. Evaluation represents the sixth level of learning outcomes in the cognitive domain — the level of understanding just beyond analysis and synthesis. Intelligent judgments must be based upon definite criteria. These may be internal (organization) or external criteria (relevant to the purpose) and the student may determine the criteria or be given them. Objectives of lessons which will increase a student's ability to evaluate can be stated with such behavioral terms as: accept, adjudge, appraise, arbitrate, assay, assess, award, classify, conclude, criticize, critique, decide, decree, describe, determine, discriminate, estimate, evaluate, explain, grade, interpret, judge, justify, measure, predict, prioritize, rank, rate, referee, reject, rule on, select, settle, summarize, support, umpire, and weigh. Some have proposed that there is one higher thinking skill: meta-cognition. Also see achievement, assessment, Bloom's Taxonomy, description, effort, and interesting.
Evangelists - The four writers of the Gospels in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Frequently, they are represented in works of art by their conventional symbols: an angel, a lion, an ox, and an eagle.
examination - The study and recording of the physical characteristics of an object. Also see assessment, condition, description, and Praxis.
excavate - To dig a hole into something or to hollow it out by digging or scooping. Or, to expose or uncover by digging, as in the pursuit of archaeology. The act or process of excavating is called excavation. Also see carve and potsherd.
exemplar - Something that serves as an example; typical or representative of its type; especially an example that is worthy of imitation; a model or ideal. As opposed to an exemplum, an exemplar can be both an ideal model as well as one in a range of examples in a group. Art educators, limited in the number and variety of examples of art images they can show to students, seek exemplars along with pieces which are epitome of their types. Also see archetype, avatar, and realia.
exemplum - Something that serves as an example; typical or representative of its type. As opposed to an exemplar, an exemplum is not so much an ideal model as it is simply one in a range of examples of a type. Also see archetype and realia.
exergue - A space on the reverse of a coin or medal, usually below the central design and often giving the date and place of its production. (pr. ek'serg' or egg'zerg) Also see die and numismatics.
exhibit and exhibition - A public showing of a piece or a collection of objects.
existentialism - An anti-rationalist philosophical tendency and attitude to life concerned with the being or existence of the free individual in an absurd or meaningless universe. Existentialism has had many variants, but its most prominent spokesmen have been Søren Kierkegaard (Danish, 1813-1855) and Jean-Paul Sartre (French, 1905-1980).
exonumia - A branch of numismatics that includes medals, tokens, and scrip. Although exonumia does not include conventional coins and paper currencies, money with various unusual qualities might be included — elongated or encased coins for instance. [What about credit cards? Is that a collection of exonumia in my wallet?! - MRD]
exothermic - A material which gives off heat as it cures is described as exothermic. Also see temperature.
expanded polystyrene plastic - A plastic having a light-weight, granular mass, usually worked in sheets or blocks, but also available in loose granules. A trademark often used for expanded polystyrene plastic is Styrofoam (often mentioned in print as [lower-case s] styrofoam). Also see foam core.
expression and expressionism - (with a small e — the more general sense) An attitude conveyed by the set of a person's facial features. Also, a quality of inner experience, the emotions of the artist (expressive qualities) communicated through emphasis and distortion, which can be found in works of art of any period. See a larger article devoted exclusivly to expression and expressionism, which includes examples of expressionist works, quotations, etc.
Expressionism - (with an upper-case E — the more specific sense) An art movement dominant in Germany from 1905-1925, especially Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter, which are usually referred to as German Expressionism, anticipated by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828), Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890), Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903) and others. See an article devoted exclusivly to Expressionism, which includes examples of Expressionist works, quotations, etc. Also see isms and -ism.
expressive qualities - The feelings, moods, and ideas communicated to the viewer through a work of art. This aesthetic quality is favored by emotionalism.
exquisite - Showing intricate and beautiful design or execution, and so beautiful or delicate as to arouse delight. Also, acutely perceptive or discriminating. Sometimes used to refer to a person who is excessively fastidious in appearance, manners, or taste. Also see aesthetics and connoisseur.
exquisite corpse or cadavre exquis - Aleatoric techniques for producing either visual or literary art devised by surrealists in which several people collaborate in creating a text or an image. This activity is often called a game, and the product of this activity are also called an exquisite corpse or, in the original French, cadavre exquis. This game is based upon an old parlor game in which players take turns writing on a sheet of paper folded it to conceal part of the writing, and then pass it to the next player for another contribution.
extended loan - An object loaned to a museum for long-term, sometimes indefinite use. Naturally, museums hope that an extended loan will eventually become a part of its permanent collection. Also see deed of gift and donation.
extender and extending - Material used to increase the bulk of a medium; the act of adding such a material. Often used in less expensive (sometimes sold as "student quality") paints. Sometimes called filler and filling. Also see aggregate.
exterior - Something that is outside. For example, in architecture, an exterior wall is on the outside of a building. Also see elevation.
extrados - The upper and / or outer surfaces of arches and vaults. (pr. ecks-trah'dohs) Also see intrados.
extrusion - The process of making shapes by forcing material such as clay or dough through dies. Also see hot glue gun.
ex voto or ex-voto - A votive offering, typically an object presented at shrines, sometimes pinned to images of saints, etc. Latin for "out of thankfulness." Also see charm, iconoduly, and milagro.
eyedropper - A tool often used in the mixing and application of small and precise amounts of liquids, such as dyes. An eyedropper can be useful in floating oil colors on water in the marbling of paper. Eyedroppers are very inexpensive, and can be readily obtained from phamacies — called chemists in many countries. Glass eye droppers are generally preferable to plastic ones unless safety is an issue.
eye-hand coordination - Movement of the hand as directed by the eye and brain. See direction, representation, and sight.