Art Glossary of Terms
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Art Glossary of Terms - Art Lexicon FA to FZ

  • fabricate - In general, to make; to create. Often more specifically, to construct or assemble something.

  • faade - The front or face of a building. The faade accents the entrance of a building and usually prepares the visitor for the architectural style found inside. Also, any other sides of a building when they are emphasized architecturally. (pr. feh-sahd') Also see elevation and frontispiece.

  • face - Often the subject of portraits, the surface of the front of the head from the base of the chin to the top of the forehead and from ear to ear; a person's or creature's countenance, mug, or visage. Or, variously, the most significant or prominent surface of an object, especially either the surface presented to view, the front, a faade, an outer surface, a marked side, or the right side (as of fabric). May refer to the two-dimensional surface of a polyhedron. Face may also be used as a short version of typeface. And it may refer to the act of producing a surface or cover of a different material, as in marquetry, mosaic, and ormolu.

  • facsimile - An exact copy or reproduction, as of a document. A method of transmitting images or printed matter by electronic means, usually by telephone. Also, an image transmitted this way, commonly called a fax. (pr. fack-si'mi-lee) Also see appropriation, counterfeit, forgery, homage, likeness, mirror, representation, simulacrum, and simulation.

  • faience or faence - glaze earthenware. Although the term originally referred only to the tin glazed earthenware made at Faenza, Italy, it is sometimes used to refer to a paste which produces a glaze-like surface when fired. Also, glazed earthenware used for architectural purposes. Although the term is sometimes used to mean pottery of all kinds, this breadth of meaning is widely considered incorrect. (pr. feye-ahns')

  • fake - Having a deliberately false or misleading appearance; forgery, counterfeit; not authentic, not genuine. Or, to intentionally forge, counterfeit. Also see ersatz, original, and paint-by-number.

  • fame - Great reputation and recognition; renown. Fame is famously a mixed blessing. As something to strive for, it is easily confused with notoriety or clever marketing. Better to strive for success through the attainment of great quality in one's work (preferably in a satisfying quantity), amidst love, and ultimately for posterity.

  • fan - A device which creates a breeze when moved. The shape of most hand-held fans is distinctive, providing a surface or form for the work of artists and craftsmen of many cultures. The folding fan was probably invented in Japan in the 7th century. A synonym for fan-shaped is "flabellate."

  • fanciful - Fantastic.

  • fantastic - Sometimes used to indicate an imaginative, subjective world of inner expression that transcends mere fantasy or science fiction. The paintings of Richard Dadd (English, 1817-1886) are often described as fantastic in this sense.

  • fantasy - The creative imagination, or what it produces. Art characterized by highly fanciful or supernatural elements. From imagined events or sequences of mental images, such as daydreams to the more psychologically charged delusions and hallucinations. In psychological criticism, fantasy can be either creative or adjustive (i.e., compensatory). Also see fifth dimension.

  • fan vault - A development of lierne vaulting characteristic of English Perpendicular Gothic, in which radiating ribs form a fan-like pattern.

  • FAP - Acronym for Federal Art Project, one of the "alphabet soup" of federal projects supporting New Deal art projects.

  • Farm Security Administration (FSA) - An agency of the U.S. government in the Agriculture Department during the Great Depression of the 1930s and 1940s. It was a part of the federal bureaucracy which administered New Deal art programs. It had earlier been the Resettlement Administration (RA).

  • farrago - A motley assortment or a medley; a jumble or conglomeration; a hodgepodge. This obscure word was derived from a Latin word meaning mixed fodder. Use of "farrago" has increased among art writers in the early 2000s. The plural form can be farragoes or farragos. (pr. feh-rah'goh or feh-ray'goh) Also see appropriation, assemblage sculpture, bricolage, collage, construction, homage, incongruity, parody, and pastiche

  • fascist aesthetic - Refers to the art, design and propaganda presented in idealized realist styles, giving it a close resemblance to socialist realism, associated primarily with or produced by Adolph Hitler's Nazi Germany, Benito Mussolini's Italy, and Francisco Franco's Spain, from the 1930s to the mid-1940s. Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) branded modernist art entartete degenerate or degenerative. The fascists favored a strongly classicalstyle in contrast to the prevailing artworld styles of Cubism, Surrealism, Expressionism, Dadaism, and Modernism in general. Hitler believed that modern art was in conflict with the eternal values of beauty and therefore could only lead to a decline of civilization. Men were depicted as patriotic, heroic and powerful, while women were neat and clean, with muscular legs and full breasts. They were often depicted as Nordic or "Aryan" generally light blonde and very white-skinned reflecting myths of Aryan superiority. The most prominent German artists of this style were sculptor Arno Breker and painter Adolf Wissel. Rather than censor modernist art, the Nazis confiscated it, and mounted exhibits of what they called "degenerate art." They expected Germans to recognize these works as presenting "negativity and the incomprehensibility of the world," which pitted modernist aesthetics against what fascists characterized as their own positivism, progressive goals, and noble ideals an ostensibly hopeful Weltanschauung (world-view) that led to their ruthlessly forcing their "solutions" on the world. (pr. fa'shist es-theh'tik)

  • fashimite - A person who is a slave to fashion; a fashion addict.

  • fat - Describes an oil paint having a high proportion of oil. Also see fat over lean and lean.

  • faux - French for false, artificial, fake. English speakers say "faux" to give a high-toned quality to what is often an imitation of a natural material leather, fur, metal, or stone for example. Although faux materials are usually less expensive than the real thing, there can be other advantages to them: durability, uniformity, weight, color, and availability perhaps. There can be allegorical advantages too (falsity can have its purposes!) particularly when juxtaposed with opulence. Faux finishes are painted simulations of other materials the look of their colors and textures. Examples include: stones (marble, granite, sandstone, malachite, porphyry, serpentine, lapis, etc.), wood (also called faux bois false wood), masonry, and metal (gold, silver,and bronze, along with all of their potential patinas). A faux marble might be a substitute like terrazzo or scagliola, each of which employ marble dust in a plaster binder to result in a hard material that will take a polish. See the article on "marbling" for a discussion of marbling papers as well as faux-marbling as a painting technique. (pr. foh) Also see copy, counterfeit, forgery, gold leaf, likeness, marbling, naturalism, silver leaf, simulacrum, stipple, tortoiseshell, trompe l'oeil, and truth.

  • Fayum portraits - A Romano-Egyptian portrait painted with encaustic on cartonnage, a linen mummy case, or a wood panel. For thousands of years Egyptian religious beliefs called for funerary portraits; in Pharaonic times these representations were very formulaic. When Egypt came under Roman influence during the 1st through 3rd centuries CE, the Roman taste for highly individualized portraiture altered the style of the Egyptian mummy portrait. These portraits were either created during the subject's life, or just after death, and fitted into the mummy wrappings, above the face of the deceased. They are often referred to as Fayum portraits because many examples were found in the Fayum region of Egypt. Fayum is about one hundred kilometers south of Cairo.

  • Federal Art Project (FAP) - An agency of the U.S. Government during the Great Depression of the 1930s and 1940s. It provided employment for artists as part of a larger agency, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), one of several federal entities which administered New Deal art programs.

  • felts - Absorbent pads used to dry the sheets in papermaking. Also see absorption.

  • femmage - A type of collage that includes textile art, traditionally produced by women.

  • fenestration - The design and arrangement of windows in architecture. Architects sometimes refer to the windows of a building as the glazing.

  • feng shui - The traditional Chinese practice of arranging objects in architectural and burial spaces in order to harmonize with the flow of chi (qi) the vital force believed in Taoism and other Chinese thought (including its divination and astrology) to be inherent in all things. Feng shui literally means "wind and water," symbolizing all space between heaven and earth. Feng shui understands chi as moving like wind and water. Its principles rest upon the properties of various objects and their relationships on a number of levels (including light, sound, movement, electricity, symbolism, and color, along with other functional and transcendant issues) to increase or decrease the flow of chi. Trapping chi, for instance, is described as making its flow eddy and stagnate. Any of various types of flow may be best for various reasons, dependent upon a balancing of yin and yang the opposite possibilities of all situations. Study and use of Feng shui's principles can stimulate and regulate creativity, aesthetics, and functionality in the design of any environment, in order to enhance health, wealth and happiness. (pr. fung shway)

  • ferrotype - In photography, a positive image made directly on an iron plate varnished with a thin photosensitive film; also called a tintype. Or, the process by which they are made. The ferrotype process was introduced to the USA in 1855.

  • ferrous - Composed of or containing iron. Ferrous metal include alloys of iron, such as steel. Only ferrous metals are capable of magnetization.

  • ferrule - The metal or plastic device that that aligns and anchors paintbrush bristles or hairs in an adhesive. The ferrule is attached to the handle by crimping or by binding wires. The ferrule pictured here has a brassy color. (pr. fe'rool)

  • festoon - Decorate with a garland or chain of flowers, leaves, etc., suspended in a curve between two points. Also see bric-a-brac, egg-and-dart, molding, and ornament.

  • fte galante - An elegant and graceful outdoor celebration, such as those seen in the picnics and flirtatious games often represented in the works of Antoine Watteau (French, 1684-1721) and other Rococo painters of French aristocratic life. (pr. fayt gah-lahnt' or fet gah-lahnt')

  • fetish - An object believed to have magical powers, especially one capable of bringing to fruition its owner's plans; sometimes regarded as the abode of a supernatural power or spirit. (pr. fe'tish)

  • fettling - The process of cleaning and finishing the surface of a piece of clay or metal work, especially the edges, and in the case of cast work, the seam lines (flashing).

  • fettling knife - A knife designed for working with clay. To fettle is to trim unwanted clay from edges, etc. Also called a potter's knife.

  • fiber - Thread, yarn, or fabric, such as weaving. The materials used to produce a fiber may be natural (cane, cotton, flax, wool, silk, raffia, rattan, paper pulp [from wood, linen . . .] etc.) or synthetic (nylon, rayon, polyester, etc.) Also see basketry, feather, leather, textile, and wire.

  • fiberglass - A light and durable material consisting of a plastic resin which has been reinforced with glass fiber. Sometimes called spun glass.

  • Fibonacci sequence or Fibonacci numbers - In their simplest form, a sequence of numbers 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 337, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, etc., in which each successive number is equal to the sum of the two preceding numbers. The fractional version is 1/1, 1/2, 2/3, 3/5, 5/8, 8/13 . . . . Named after Leonardo Fibonacci (1175 - c.1250), an Italian mathematician, they have unusual characteristics with possible applications in botony, astronomy, and psychology, as well as in the arts. (pr. fee'beh-nah"chee)

  • fibula - A pin or brooch used to fasten fabric at the shoulder of togas of ancient Greece and Rome. They were often of decorative design. Some are obvious precursors to the safety pins of today. Contrary to persistent misinformation, no fibula is a small lie. (pr. fib'yeh-luh)

  • field and field of view - A background area or an entire physical plane, often of one color and/or texture. Also, a sphere of activity, or a content, or a discourse. And, the area in which an image is rendered by the lens of an optical instrument; also called field of view, which can be any sort of shape and size. A wide field of vision might be panoramic, and a narrow one "long" or "telephoto," high and wide might be "fish-eye," "close-up," a "blow-up," or an "enlargement." Extremely narrow fields of view are routinely achieved with microscopes and telescopes. The latter include the sort of lenses used by satellites that make photographs of small areas of the earth's surface for military, scientific, and commercial purposes. A U.S. Navy Lieutenant, Joe Dalton, is credited with being the first, in 1998, to use a term for this extremely narrow field of view: the "soda-straw effect."

  • field loss - Also known as tunnel vision, this visual malady is a reduced visual range due to injury or disease.

  • fifth dimension - Metaphysical -- based on speculative or abstract reasoning, and interpreted variously as: highly abstract or theoretical, or immaterial, or as supernatural. Also see metaphysics.

  • fig leaf - A stylized representation of a leaf from a fig tree or shrub used especially to conceal the genitalia depicted on sculptures of male nudes. Although fig leaves were originally deployed as a censoring gesture in favor of modesty, increasingly contemporary audiences are more embarrassed by their continued use.

  • figuration - An act of representation in figures. forming something into a particular shape. Also see figure, figurative, figure-ground, statue, and statuette.

  • Figuration Libre - A twentieth century European art movement. [More soon!]

  • figurative - Describes artwork representing the form of a human, an animal or a thing; any expression of one thing in terms of another thing. Abstract artwork is the opposite of figurative art in certain ways. Roy Lichtenstein made a series of images of a bull, demonstrating this kind of range in ways to approach figuration and abstraction \ beginning with the most highly figurative version, and proceeding through stages to the most abstract version:

  • figure-ground - In two-dimensional works of art, the visual unity, yet separability, of a form and its background. Certain alternating figures may help to convey the potential confusion resulting from ambiguity in the figure-ground relationship. One is an alternating figure commonly called a "magic cube": the transparent cube in the see thumbnail belowcenter below. Which of its sides is nearest to you? Is it the one made solidly green on the cube to the left or is it the green side on the cube to the right, or is there no nearest side at all?

  • filbert - A brush with a conical shape.

  • file - A steel tool with a grooved surface used to shape, cut, or smooth materials by abrasion. A file which has a surface both toothed and perforated is a rasp. Also see metal, plastic, riffler, surform, and wood.

  • filigree - A delicate, lacelike, and intricate openwork ornament, usually made from thin wire.

  • filler - A powdered or ground substance added to a paint or sculpture material to give extra bulk or body. Fillers for resin also make the material opaque. Also see aggregate and extender.

  • filling compound - A paste which can be spread into a break or indentation in a surface. The compound can be filed down and smoothed when hard. Also see plaster.

  • filter - A porous or permeable material or device which prevents some things from passing through it, and allows others passage. Filters are used to separate or refine some particles, liquids, gases, or light. Most light filters, such as might be used in photography or in light projection are tinted, but some are polarizing. Acting like seives, some filters are screens, or act like them. Particles of one size or smaller will pass through a screen with openings of a consistent size, while particles of any larger size cannot. Such a filtering screen is useful in removing impurities from paints, for instance, or in separating sizes of sand. Also see clean up, day for night, lens, moir, plaster trap, and trit.

  • fin de sicle - French for "end of the century." During the twentieth century, this referred to the art of the 1890s especially the art of aestheticism and Art Nouveau which is sometimes known as "decadent art." An artist who epitomizes this period is Aubrey Beardsley (English, 1872-1898). When used in art criticism fin de sicle often connotes the idea of a style or movement on the decline. As the end of the twentieth century drew near, this term has been used increasingly to refer to the 1990s. The French for "beginning of the century" dbut de sicle while more rarely used, has been used both for the first decade of the 1900s, and inevitably for that of the 2000s. (pr. fan duh see'ehk"leh)

  • findings - Accessories used for completing jewelry, such as clasps, hinges, pins, posts, etc.

  • fine motor - Small movements, especially in the hands. Small motor skills typically develop at a certain pace in childhood, following and alongside the development of gross motor skills.

  • fine silver - Silver that is 99.9 per cent pure; has a higher melting point than sterling silver. Also see temperature.

  • finger paintingfinger paint or fingerpainting - Finger paints are formulated to be applied and manipulated by the hands. This process is called fingerpainting, typically done on glossy white paper, strong (60-pound is good), coated on both sides, and non-absorbent, having a smooth, bright surface that resists running, smearing or bleeding. Although done by finger-painting little girlartists of all ages, fingerpainting is traditionally associated particularly with painters at the early-childhood level. Finger paints can be purchased, or they can made from other ingredients. If you have tempera, all you need to do is to thicken its consistency by adding cornstarch (also known as cornflour) either in powder (cooking ingredient) or liquid (laundry supply) form. Each pint of paint could be improved with the addition of a half-cup of starch. A glossy finish will result if you add a tablespoon of glycerine per quart. Artists wearing smocks are less likely to stain their clothes. Plan ahead for clean up too!

  • finish - Something that concludes, completes, or perfects, especially the last coating or treatment of a surface, or the surface texture resulting from such a coating or treatment. A finish in this sense might be described as matt, semi-gloss, or glossy, lustrous, luminous.

  • fire brick - A brick made of clay that withstands high temperatures in a kiln. Also see refractory.

  • fire gilding - A process for the gilding of metal usually copper, copper alloy, or silver also known as mercury gilding, and as POISONOUS!ormolu. Powdered gold (also known as moulu) mixed with mercury is applied to the surface of the metal as a paste and then fired. The mercury evaporates as highly toxic fumes, and the gold is fixed. This surface must then be burnished.

  • firing - A process of applying heat to make hard pottery in either an oven or an ovenlike enclosure called a kiln. Also the means of fixing colors to ceramic surfaces. Also see glaze, polymer clay, pyrometric cones, and temperature.

  • firing cracks - Cracks appearing in a cooling material, caused by the tension from the different rates of its shrinking. For example, in clay after its firing, or in metal after it has been cast. Also see temperature.

  • firing skin - The hard, smooth surface of various fired clays.

  • First Amendment rights - The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedoms of religion, speech, and the press, the right of peaceable assembly, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. In 1989 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that burning the American flag in public to protest government policies is a right protected by the First Amendment. Similarly, one contemporary artist's work in which the flag was placed on a floor, and another's in which it was placed in a toilet have been guaranteed protection under this law's guarantee of freedom of speech.

  • fish-eye lens - A wide-angle photographic lens that views an extremely high and wide area to an angle of about 180 degrees, and that (when uncropped) gives a circular image in which subjects seen at the center typically appear nearer than those seen at the outer edges. A fish-eye lens has a highly curved convex front surface.

  • Five Dynasties - A Chinese dynastic period which lasted 907 - 960.

  • fix - To place something (perhaps a pigment) in a secure or firm position. Also see fixative.

  • fixative - fixativesA thin varnish, natural or synthetic, that is sprayed over charcoal, pastel, oil pastel, oil crayon, pencil, and other drawing mediums, as well as photograps, maps, signs, and unfired ceramics, to protect them from smearing, finger prints, and detatching from a supporting surface (paper, etc.) All or some fixatives will alter the original colors slightly. The best are colorless, non-yellowing, and flexible. Some fixatives permit a medium to remain workable, while others lock it into its position. Some permit the choice of a glossy or a matte finish. Manufactured fixatives are most often available in aerosol cans. Common hairsprays work well as student-grade fixatives.

  • flammable - Easily combustible. Easily ignited by a flame or spark, high temperatures, etc. Highly flammable substances should be well isolated from other substances, stored and disposed of in sturdy, nonflammable containers.

  • flamboyant - Literally, flamelike, flaming. Applied to aspects of late Gothic style, especially architectural tracery. The noun form is flamboyance. If a quality of a person or thing's flamboyance is self-importance, claiming unjustified distinction, then the better adjective might be ostentatious, or worse: pretentious.

  • flaming - A process for finishing and hardening a wax model by passing a candle flame over the surface. Also refers to sending antagonizing email messages. Also see encaustic.

  • flange - A protruding rim, edge, rib, or collar, used to strengthen an object, hold it in place, or attach it to another object. Often simply a metal ring which flares at its base so it can be screwed to a flat surface; and when a rod is inserted into the flange, it is held at right angles to the surface.

  • flashing - The thin rough-edged projections on a casting made from a piece mold from which the cast metal has seeped or forced its way into seams, joins or cracks in the mold. On the exterior of a cast these are generally sawn off and filed down. Also see potato.

  • flask - The container used for making a mold. In the case of the one pictured here, the flask is a steel cylinder open at each end in which an investment has been poured over a wax model to fill the flask to its rim in the lost-wax casting process.

  • flat - The quality of a smooth, even, broad surface; a surface without curvature; especially a horizontal one. Also, lacking variety in tint or shading; uniform. Not glossy; mat (also spelled matte). And, it may refer to a flat-shaped brush. Although it is an oversimplification of their position, modernist artists and artwriters of the 1960s and early 1970s agreed that the essential characteristic of painting was its flatness, a point of view especially formulated by the critic Clement Greenberg (American, 1909-). This led to post-painterly abstraction on the one hand and to minimalism on the other.

  • flatbed scanner - An image-capture device scanner resembling a photocopy machine. The object to be scanned is placed face-down on a glass plate. The CCD array passes beneath the glass.

  • flat chisel - A chisel with a straight cutting edge used for finishing and shaping in wood or stone carving.

  • flat file - A drawer system which is especially suited for the storage of large, flat objects, such as sheets of paper, drawings, and prints. Also see bin and stack tray.

  • flattery - To compliment excessively. Often flattery refers to such compliments given insincerely, especially in order to win favor or gratify someone's vanity. Also see mirror.

  • flatulence[Some have suggested that this is an appropriate place to define flatulence. ArtLex doubts greatly that it is necessary to explain how this term is employed in art contexts. However, for those who will find such information useful, "flatulence" refers to an emergency vehicle that picks up a person who has been run over by a steamroller.]

  • flipbook or flip book - A small book consisting of a series of pictures that give the illusion of continuous movement when the thumb is placed so that the pages will flip past at a steady pace. The example shown here was produced with a stack of 3 x 5 inch index cards. Also see animation and kinetic.

  • float - A decorated exhibit or scene mounted on a mobile platform and pulled, carried, or driven in a parade.

  • floodlights - The kind of lighting Noah used for the ark.

  • flourish - To grow luxuriantly; to thrive. Or, to succeed. Also, a dramatic movement or gesture; panache. In art, this is often a curvilinear ornamentation or embellishment, especially in calligraphy or handwriting. (pr. fler'esh) Examples of flourishes in the last sense:

  • flow - To melt. Also see temperature.

  • fluorescence and fluorescent lamps - The emission of electromagnetic radiation, especially of visible light, stimulated in a substance by the absorption of incident radiation and persisting only as long as the stimulating radiation is continued. Also, the property of emitting such radiation, or that radiation itself. Various things can be fluorescent, most commonly lamps in the form of tubes whose inner wall is coated with a material that fluoresces when an electric current causes a vapor within the tube to discharge electrons. Also see incandescence, infrared reflectography (IR) and reflectogram, kelvin, neon, radiograph, stroboscopic, ultraviolet, and x-ray.

  • fluorescent colors -Also called day-glo colors or DayGlo colors colors and neon colors, fluorescent colors are especially bright, clean materials which can be much brighter than conventional colors. They were first developed in the 1930s, finding their way into magic shows, stage shows, and movie posters. They contain certain dyes and resins that produce colors far brighter than traditional pigments, and that had the unique effect of "glowing" under ultraviolet or black light. Fluorescent colors are exceptionally bright under many different conditions, including indoor lighting, low light outdoors, and in limited visibility areas. Studies have shown that fluorescent colors are noticed first. They grab the attention of the observer. Fluorescent colors are widely used to get attention, focus attention on an object, warn people of a potentially hazardous situation, get an object, person or situation noticed, etc. They are commonly used for traffic cones, detergent packaging, tennis balls, fishing lures, etc., and can be found in a wide range of media, including oil and acrylic paints, inks, dyes, markers, crayons, etc.

  • flute, fluted, and fluting - Grooves or channels which are roughly semi-circular in cross-section, found repeated vertically in columns, pedestals and pilasters, but also used in frames and other moldings.

  • flux - A chemical used to clean oxides and other impurities from metal to assist fusion when metals are welded or brazed. In ceramics, flux causes or promotes melting. Also see deoxidize and Fluxus.

  • fly-whisk - In Hindu art the fly-whisk or fan is one of the attributes of the god Shiva, especially in Indonesia. But Shiva is not the only figure to hold this attribute. It occurs frequently as an attribute of other Hindu and Buddhist deities. Heavenly servants often have a fan or fly-whisk to cool their master and to keep away insects.

  • foam core or foam board - A strong, stiff, resilient, and lightweight board of polystyrene laminated with paper on both of its sides. It may be any of several thicknesses, in any of a variety of colors. It is often employed as a surface on which to mount two-dimensional work, and as a material with which to construct three-dimensional work (such as architectural models). Although more expensive than some other cardboards, it is preferred to them for many qualities, including the ease with which it can be cut. Make straight cuts by using an extremely sharp razor knife on top of a mat or other surface that will not be damaged. Draw the knife toward you along the edge of a metal ruler (with finger tips away from that path). Cuts at each of three successive depths will produce a neat edge to the board. Also see adhesives, bristol board, carding, card stock, corrugated cardboard, matboard, oaktag, and packaging.

  • focal length - In photography, the distance between the lens (its rear nodal point) and the focal plane (the film's or paper's surface). Also see aperture, camera, f/stop, telephoto, and wide-angle.

  • focal plane - In photography, an image line at right angle to the optical axis passing through the focal point. This forms the plane of sharp focus when a camera is set on infinity. Also see aperture, camera, focal length, and f/stop.

  • focal point - The portion of an artwork's composition on which interest or attention centers. The focal point may be most interesting for any of several reasons: it may be given formal emphasis; its meaning may be controversial, incongruous, or otherwise compelling.

  • focus - A point of convergence, such as the point at which rays of light converge in an optical system, or from which they diverge; also called focal point. The clarity of an image, such as when rendered by an optical system; or to make an image clear. The typical camera has a focus ring around its lens. Also see definition, focal length, focal plane, gestalt, obsession, photography, refraction, and soft focus.

  • foil - A thin, flexible leaf or sheet of metal e.g. aluminum, copper, gold, silver, and tin often used alone or adhered (laminated) to surfaces of other materials, sometimes for packaging. Also, a thin layer of polished metal placed under a mounted gem to increase its brightness. And, a person or thing that by contrast emphasizes or enhances the distinctive qualities of another. In architecture, a curvilinear, often lobelike figure or space formed between the cusps of intersecting arcs, found especially in Gothic tracery and Moorish ornament. Although comparable to sheet metal, foil is invariably a much thinner material. Also see a chart of steel sheet gauges, acetate color, jewelry, manufacture, quatrefoil, scissors, and trefoil.

  • fold - To bend over so that one part overlaps another part, moving from an extended to a closed position. Or, the act or an instance of folding a line, layer, pleat, or crease formed by folding.

  • foliate - Of, relating to, or shaped like leaves. Also, to make (hammering, cutting, etc.) metal into leaf or foil, or to apply leaf or foil to a surface.

  • folio - A book or manuscript of the largest standard size, its height 30-38 cm (12-15 inches), consisting of sheets of paper which have been folded once. What is called a "coffee table book" is often a folio. Folio is abbreviated Fo. Also see bookbinding, duodecimo, quarto, octavo, sextodecimo, signature, tricesimo-segundo, and vicesimo-quarto.

  • fontography - The field of font design. A person who designs fonts is a fontographer. Also see graphic design, letterform, and text.

  • foot - A supporting base on a vessel, chair leg, etc. Also, a unit of distance measurement equal to a third of a yard, or to twelve inches. To convert feet into meters, multiply them by 0.3048. To convert square feet into square meters, multiply them by 0.0929; into square yards, divide them by 9. To convert cubic feet into cubic inches, multiply them by 1728.0; into gallons (US dry), x 6.42851; gallons (US liquid), x 7.48052. Abbreviated ft. or with a ' (inches can be abbreviated in. or with a ").

  • foreground - The area of a picture or field of vision, often at the bottom, that appears to be closest to the viewer. Also, to give priority to one aspect of a thing over another.

  • foreshortened image: looking at a standing man, from a vantage above his headforeshortening - A way of representing a subject or an object so that it conveys the illusion of depth so that it seems to thrust forward or go back into space. Foreshortening's success often depends upon a point of view or perspective in which the sizes of near and far parts of a subject contrast greatly. Notice how the head and feet of the man on the phone differ in size. In the black and white hand, note how the shapes of fingers oriented to the side differ from the shape of the finger pointing toward you. The shadow below the foreshortened index finger also helps to convey the direction of this finger's placement.

  • forge - A furnace or hearth, or workshop where metals are heated or wrought; a smithy. To heat and form metal this way.

  • forgery - Making counterfeits fraudulent copies of something valuable. Or, a counterfeit. Because fraud is involved, forgery is not to be confused with appropriation.

  • forget and forgetting - To lose memory. Forgetting (like remembering) is key to the incubation (Getzel's third) stage in the creative process. At this stage, the artist must mull over the problem in a sort of chaos of ideas and knowledge (remembering), letting go of certainties (forgetting), as the artist engages the intuitive, non-sequential, or global thinking at the core of creativity.

  • formal - Relating to the outward form or structure of a work; not to be confused with "ceremonial" or "stately," since formal elements can be quite informal in character. Also see classicism, formal analysis, and formalism.

  • formal analysis - The study of a work of art with reference to its form, rather than to its content or context. Also see formal and formalism.

  • formalism - An aesthetic and critical theory of art which places emphasis on form the structural qualities instead of either content (sometimes called literal or allegorical qualities) or contextual qualities. According to this point of view, the most important thing about a work of art is the effective organization of the elements of art through the use of the principles of design. Also known as structuralism, in the 1960s and early 1970s formalism was so entrenched as the most powerful critical approach, that artists frequently produced works that were particularly attentive to it, and even now some think of modernism as more or less synonymous with formalism. Critic Clement Greenberg (see flat) is frequently cited as an instigating force, but formalism can be traced back through many artists, including J. A. M. Whistler (American, 1834-1903. See aestheticism, art for art's sake, and fin de sicle) to the philosopher Immanuel Kant. Also see communication, deformalism, emotionalism, imitationalism, isms and -ism, meaning, Minimalism, subject, and viewer.

  • format - The color scheme, shape, and size of an image. Also see logo.

  • formication - An abnormal sensation which resembles that of having ants crawling on one's skin. This word is derived from a substance called formic acid, which is produced by ants. This has very little to do with visual culture, but the author is chronically drawn to such word formations as this one.

  • forum - A central gathering place for the citizens of a city typically a square (plaza, Platz, etc.) and/or a marketplace. It was a typical feature of ancient Roman cities. Also see acropolis.

  • found image, found material, or found object - An image, material, or object, not originally intended as a work of art, that is obtained, selected, and exhibited by an artist, often without being altered in any way. The cubists, dadaists, and surrealists originated the use of found images / materials / objects. Although it can be either a natural or manufactured image / material / object, the term readymade refers only to those which were manufactured. Also known in the French, objet trouv.

  • foundry - A workplace where metal is melted and poured into molds. Also see cast, forge, and lost-wax casting.

  • four bit gray scale4-bit image - A digital image with two bits allocated for the storage of each pixel, meaning eight monochromatic colors are possible a see thumbnail to right gray scale (or value scale) of sixteen values. Also see 1-bit image, 2-bit image, 3-bit image, 8-bit image, 12-bit image, 16-bit image, 24-bit image, and 32-bit image.

  • four-dimensional - The fourth dimension is time. So a thing which is four-dimensional has height, width, depth, and moves, or otherwise changes over a period of time. Dance, theater, cinema, and videos exist in the first (height), second (width) and fourth dimensions. Comic strips, although experienced in the fourth dimension, as we experience everything over a period of time, do not themselves move. (In the fifth dimension, perhaps, might be all aspects metaphysical.)

  • foxing - A brownish yellow, patchy discoloration of paper caused by the action of mold on iron salts, which are present in most paper. Foxing usually results from high relative humidity typically when a work is hung on a damp wall. To prevent foxing, mount, mat, and frame using only acid-free materials, keep glass away from the surface of the artwork, and place in a low-humidity environment. Foxing can be treated by a paper conservator, although it is unlikely to be removed entirely by standard cleaning treatments. Also called foxed. Also see stain and stain removal.

  • fractal - A geometric pattern that is repeated at ever smaller scales to produce irregular shapes and/or surfaces that cannot be represented by classical geometry. Every part at every scale of a fractal mirrors the whole.

  • fragment - A portion of a whole, a fragment is often what remains of a damaged or ruined object. A fragment of pottery is called a shard. Or, to make fragments.

  • free carving - Carving without the use of a pointing machine. Free carving generally follows a drawing on one or more faces of a block. With more and more carved sculptures having been executed by pointing machines after clay models, purists among Western sculptors of the early twentieth century used this term in an effort to recognize the fundamental difference between the processes of modeling and carving.

  • freehand - Drawn by hand, without the use of any mechanical device without the aid of a straight-edge, compass, protractor, French curves, computer equipment, etc. and also without tracing. Freehand is the opposite of mechanical drawing. Also see line.

  • freelance and freelancer - A freelancer is an artist, typically a graphic artist or designer, who sells his or her work to an employer without any long-term commitment to any one of them. Selling work in this way is doing freelance work.

  • freestanding sculpture or free-standing sculpture - A type of sculpture that is surrounded on all sides by space. Also called scupture in-the-round.To be viewed from all sides; freestanding. The opposite of relief.

  • freezing point - The temperature at which a substance solidifies as it cools. For instance, the temperature at which water turns to ice water's freezing point is 32 F., 0 C. Also see alloy, climate control, hygrothermograph, measurement, melting point, and metal.

  • French curve - Any of several flat drafting tools, shape template with curved edges and voluted cutouts, used to draw curves, especially in mechanical drawing. see thumbnail to rightEight popular designs, each between 6 and 12 inches long. French curves inspired a series of works by Frank Stella (American, 1936-), in the early 1980s. See Minimalism, pattern, and stencil.

  • fret - An ornament, usually in bands but also covering broad surfaces consisting of interlocking geometric motif. Also called a meander, or Greek key, or Roman key, or gather, or wall of Troy pattern. Also see openwork.

  • frigidarium - The cold-bath section of a Roman bathing establishment. See Roman art.

  • frisket - A masking device or material used especially in airbrushing, in photography, in the graphic arts, and in printing. It often refers to a paper or film used to shield areas of an airbrush painting from spray, or printing paper from ink, or photographic paper from light.

  • frisson - A feeling of excitement, usually brief. Although somewhat pleasureable, this sensation is caused by fear or the expectation that something is going to happen. It comes from a French word for shiver, from Old French frion, from Late Latin friction-, frictio; which in turn came from Latin, literally, friction. It was first used as an English word in 1777. (pr. free-SOHn) Also see aesthetic experience, compare, dissonance, edge, expression, grotesque, incongruity, interesting, juxtaposition, pain, and tension.

  • frontal - The head-on view of a person or object.

  • frottage - The technique of rubbing with crayon or graphite on a piece of paper which has been placed over an object, or an image achieved in this way. Also simply referred to as rubbing. Such impressions are usually made from such highly textured subjects as leaves, wood, wire screen, gravestones, and manhole covers. It was a technique especially employed by surrealists, one of whom, Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976), first introduced frottage in his works in 1925, often employing such rubbings as part of a collage, or combining frottage with painting techniques. (pr. fraw-tahzh')

  • FSA - Acronym for the Farm Security Administration, an agency of the U.S. government in the Agriculture Department during the Great Depression of the 1930s and 1940s. It was a part of the federal bureaucracy which administered New Deal art programs. It had earlier been the Resettlement Administration (RA).

  • f/stop - In photography, the focal length of a camera divided by the diameter of its aperture. Knowing the f/stop, a lightmeter can measure the light on the subject, and calculate the exposure time.

  • ft. - Abbreviation for foot or feet.

  • fugitive colors - Short-lived pigments and dye capable of fading or changing, especially with exposure to light, to atmospheric pollution, or when mixed with certain substances; in each case the result of a chemical change. Examples are the colors in magazine photographs and inexpensive construction papers, especially the yellows, and then reds. While student works are generally forgiven the use of such inexpensive poor-quality pigments, professional artists' works are expected to be made with permanent pigments.

  • fulcrum - A prop or support for a lever or a balance-beam. An example is the red form in this picture.

  • full round - Sculpture in full and completely rounded form, usually intended to be seen from all sides. Also called sculpture in the round. The opposite of full round is relief.

  • full-scale - Actual or full size. In the case of an animal or human figure, this is also called human scale or lifesize. Also see pure, human scale, maquette, measure, model, plan, pointing machine, replica, representation, reproduction, scale, and visual scale.

  • full-screen image - A digital image covering the entire screen of a workstation monitor.

  • fumage - A method of making an image with smoke fumes. Fumage was invented by Wolfgang Paalen, whose first fumages were made with a kerosene lamp. When surrealist painter Salvador Dali (Spanish, 1904-1988), made a fumage, he called the method sfumato; and some have spelled this term "sfumage". Very few artists have worked in fumage.

  • fumigant and fumigation - A chemical used to treat an object, group of objects, or structure for elimination of pests or mold, and such a treatment. Camphor flakes, naphthalene, and paradichlorobenzene are three such fumigants. Also see art conservation, ASTM International (American Society for Testing and Materials), Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), preparator, and storage.

  • function - Refers to the intended use or purpose of an object. The term is often applied to manufactured products, particularly crafts, and when discussing designs for architecture. Though sometimes said to be non-functional, art is expected to function in various ways, including: to beautify, to adorn, to express, to illustrate, to mediate, to persuade, to record, to redefine reality, to redefine art, to provide therapy, to give unselfconscious experience, to provide paradigms of order and/or chaos, and to train perception of reality. Anything that is not functional is called nonfunctional.

  • funk art - A term used loosely for art in which offensive subject matter is presented in order to offend, sometimes pornographically. It gained this association in the 1960s, when used to refer to such work produced in the San Francisco area. The word "funky", from which this term was derived, has older, wide-ranging meanings, including: having a moldy or unwashed odor; smoky or earthy qualities in music, as in the blues; self-expressive, original, and modish; unconventional, outlandishly vulgar or eccentric in a humorous or tongue-in-cheek manner; campy. Also see aesthetic, bad art, beauty, fumage, grotesque, kitsch, obscene, and ugly.

  • fusain - Fine charcoal in stick form, made from the wood of a spindle tree. [Do you know if this is the same or different from what is called "willow" or "vine" or "lime" charcoal? Please tell me how you know. - email Michael Delahunt ] The wood is dried and carbonized in an airtight container. The duration of its burning determines its hardness a longer period makes it softer. A fusain can also be a sketch or drawing made with this charcoal, often either as a finished work on paper, or as a drawing over which an artist will paint. Fusains must be fixed. This English word was absorbed from the French, who had adopted the Latin word for spindle, fusus. (pr. fyoo-zayn', fyoo'-zayn) Also see chalk, cont crayon, crayon, pastel, and pencil.

  • fuse, fusion - To melt; two or more materials joining at a molecular level. "Fusion" may also refer to the combination or blending of other things, such as styles or subjects. An example of this in the classical orders is the composite order. Also see adsorption, adhesives, alloy, encaustic, fire, flux, Fluxus, glass, glaze, kiln, metal, pastiche, polymer clay, soldering, temperature, and welding.

  • fusuma-e - In Japanese art tradition, paintings on sliding wall panels. Because the materials with which sliding screens are made are short-lived, these works are considered to be temporary ones.

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