|Art Glossary of Terms
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Art Glossary of Terms - Art Lexicon GA to GZ
g or g. - Abbreviation for gram.
gal. - Abbreviation for gallon.
gallerist - A professional artists' representative, who may or may not also be an art dealer — someone involved in the buying and selling of art. This term might have been derived from the French galeriste, long used by top gallery workers in France to distinguish themselves from the mere marchand de tableaux, or picture merchant. Alternatively, perhaps it came from Germany, where galerist or galeristin denotes, respectively, a male or female gallery owner.
gallon - A unit of liquid measurement (US) equal to four quarts, or to eight pints, or to 128 fluid ounces. To convert gallons into liter, multiply them by 3.7854. Abbreviated gal.
galvanize, galvanizing, galvanized - Galvanizing is a process by which steel is coated with zinc to prevent rusting. Painting on galvanized steel requires a special primer.
game theory - The thought processes (theory) necessary for the designing of such challenging amusements as mazes, other board, card, computer games, slot machines, etc. A game consists on rules defining a gaming environment, and the potential action of players within it. Rules place requirements on what become the objectives of the players, ultimately determining success — differentiating winners and losers — further depending upon variable degrees of chance and skill. Considerations fundamental to the design of a game is its potential degree of difficulty (or "targeted age-group"), number of players, expense, and duration of play.
Ganesha or Ganesa - The Hindu god of good fortune, he is the son of Shiva and Parvati. He is typically depicted as elephant-headed, and credited with the elephant's good nature and great strength. The remover of obstacles, Ganesha is the god to invoke when embarking upon any important endeavor. He is also considered a patron of students. About the two spellings, English-speaking experts on Hindu art have been wavering about whether we should spell transliterations phonetically or diacritically. Most now lean toward spelling Ganesha the way it's pronounced. A strict Sanskritist would spell it Ganesa, puting dots under the n and the s.
gantry - A rigid framework which supports tackle for lifting heavy objects. Gantries are related to cranes and scaffolds. If needed for temporary use, consider constructing or renting one rather than buying a manufactured one such as this. Also see banker, dolly, and weight.
garba griha - The cella or inner sanctum of the Hindu temple.
gargoyle - In architecture, a sculpture or rain spout carved to resemble a grotesque creature or monster. It is a common feature of Gothic cathedrals.
gather - In glass-blowing, the glob of molten glass collected and to be blown on the end of a punty or pontil.
gauge - To measure; or, a certain unit of measure. Often refers either to a device used to measure the thickness of sheet metal or thickness of wire, or to the thickness of sheet metal or wire expressed in terms of a standard system. (pr. gayj) Also see sizes of common nails, sizes of finishing nails, and tools.
gaze - To see steadily, intently, and with fixed attention. Or, any looking done in this way. Artists typically put effort into anticipating the gaze of those who will view their work. Art historians and critics consider how viewers have gazed or will gaze at the various works they study. In any image of people or animals, qualities of their gaze can be of great importance. Who or what figures are looking at and why, and whether they appear to make eye contact with the viewer or the artist portraying them can be significant to understanding the meaning of a work. Feminists note significant qualities to male and female gazes. (pr. gayz)
G-clamp - A rounded metal clamp, a tool used to squeeze materials together by adjusting a screw thread, as when drilling, sawing, or gluing. Also see adhesive.
gearing - In kinetic sculpture, a means of transmitting motion from a power source to the moving parts of the sculpture, utilizing either levers or interlocking gear wheels. Also see automata, movement, and time.
gelatin - A material made from animal glue which is flexible when warm and can be used for mold-making. Gelatin has largely been supplanted for such uses by latex, silicons and polyurethanes. Also see adhesive.
gem and gemstone - A precious or semiprecious stone of any kind, especially when cut and polished for ornaments. A jewel.
gemütlichkeit or Gemütlichkeit - A quality akin to coziness that one finds in especially comfortable rooms ? warm, friendly, welcoming, informal, and not too large. "Cordiality" and "hominess" are close to being synonyms, but "Gemütlichkeit" is a German word for which no English word is an entirely satisfactory equivalent. Although this quality invariably depends most on the attitudes of ones hosts in an environment, it seems less likely that gemütlichkeit would be found in rooms furnished in a unified style of almost any kind, but rather in rooms conveying a more eclectic and cheerfully personal taste; and also one that's clean but unafraid to show some wear. (pr. g?-MOOT-lik-kyt) See aesthetics, architecture, Gesamtkünstwerk, love, palimpsest, quality of life, and wabi-sabi.
general to particular - Refers to the typical progression in the development of both two- and three-dimensional compositions — beginning with the most general of shapes and forms — blocking in — progressing toward smaller shapes and forms, and increasing specificity of color, value, texture, etc. A painter usually moves from larger to smaller brushes. A sculptor generally moves from larger to smaller tools.
generatrix - A geometric element that generates a geometric figure, especially a straight line that generates a surface by moving in a specified way. Also called generator. (pr. je'ne-ray"triks) The plural form is generatrices. Also see cone, cylinder, and directrix.
genpitsu - In Japanese art tradition, a technique of painting with a reduced number of brushstrokes. Also see sumi-e.
geometric - Any shape or form having more mathematic than organic design. Geometric designs are typically made with straight lines or shapes from geometry, including circle, ovals, triangles, rectangles, squares, and other quadrilaterals, along with such polygons as pentagons, hexagons, etc. Examples of geometric forms include spheres, cones, cylinders, tetrahedrons, pyramids, cube and other polyhedrons. [The articles in ArtLex on these shapes and forms cite mathematical formulas helpful in their use, along with examples of works of art in which they have been used.]
gesso - Plaster or a fine plaster-like material made of gypsum, which is also called whiting, used for sculptures. An especially versatile medium in reliefs, gesso can be either a material cast in a mold or a material of a mold, a material to be modeled, or carved, or attached to something else. When used for molds into which molten metal is poured, it must be hardened with sand as a grog. Gesso may also refer to such a gypsum material mixed with an animal-hide glue and used as a ground for painting. For this latter use, it isWEAR A DUST MASK! usually applied to the surface of a wood panel or sculpture to become the surface on which an artist paints. It was used by Gothic and Renaissance panel painters, and is still used today. Oxgall (or another wetting agent) can be employed MEDICAL ALERT!to eliminate pin-holes in gesso surfaces by mixing it into the gesso before the gesso is applied. Like all other dusts, airborne gesso is hazardous to breathe — every user should wear an appropriate dust mask. Also see slip and stucco. (pr. JES-soh)
gestalt or Gestalt - A physical, psychological, or symbolic arrangement or pattern of parts so unified as a whole that its properties cannot be derived from a simple summation of its parts. May also refer to a school or theory in psychology known as Gestalt psychology.
gesture - A movement of the body or limbs that expresses or emphasizes an idea or attitude. Gesture is a form of non-verbal communication made with a part of the body, and used instead of verbal communication, or in combination with it. The language of gesture is rich in ways for individuals to express contempt, hostility, or approval towards others. Certain gestures have offensive meanings, although the meanings of such gestures can vary between cultures. (pr. JES-ty?r)
gesture drawing -The act of making a sketch with relatively loose arm movements (gestures) — with the large muscles of the arm, rather than with the small muscles of the hand and wrist of the artist. Or a drawing made this way. Gesture drawing is both widely considered an important exercise in art education, and a common practice artists use in "warming up" at the start of any new work. A gesture drawing is typically the first sort of drawing done to begin a more finished drawing or painting. It is used to block in the layout of the largest shapes in a composition. There are compelling reasons too for artists to make gesture drawings simply for the sake of making them. The act of gesture drawing trains the simultaneous workings of the eyes, the brain, and the hand, especially in the act of drawing from life — from direct observation of a subject. Intensifying this learning experience is the practise of gesture drawing at great speeds — drawings made in as long as five minutes, and as short as a few seconds. Gesture drawing is likely to increase awareness of underlying structures, both in the subject of the work and in the work itself. The subject of a gesture drawing can be any at all, although the artists who made each of the following examples chose to make life drawings — of human models.
gewgaw - Showy but valueless. Rapidly trifling. One of the many words in English for "miscellaneous objects" or "nondescript junk," which also includes nickknack, trinket, doodad, whatnot, and tchotchke. (pron. GYOO-gaw, or GOO-'gaw) Also see bad art, bibelot, bric-a-brac, brummagem, camp, collectible, decoration, decorative, decorative arts, hooptedoodle, kitsch, ornament, realia, and taste.
gibbous - Characterized by convexity; protuberant. Often used to refer to the moon when it is more than half, but less than fully illuminated. Gibbosity is the condition of being gibbous. (pr. GI-b?s)
giclée - French for "sprayed ink." A sophisticated printmaking process, today typically produced on an IRIS ink-jet printer, capable of producing millions of colors using continuous-tone technology. Also a print resulting from this process, also called an Iris print. Giclées are often made from photographic images of paintings in order to produce high quality, permanent reproductions of them. The extra-fine image resolution possible in this printing process permits retention of a high degree of fine detail from the original image, rendering deeply saturated colors having a broad range of tonal values. A giclée should be printed either on a fine fabric or archival quality white paper using bio-degradable water-soluble inks. After the process of printing it, a giclee specialist should examine the painting with special materials to make any necessary corrections, and apply a final, thin, transparent coating for maximum permanence. (pronounced gee-CLAY) [Thanks to Stanislav Tsiperson of Art Collection Group.]
GIF - Graphic Image File format. A widely supported image-storage format released in 1987 and promoted by CompuServe. It gained early widespread use on on-line services and the Internet. An excellent format for graphics used on the World Wide Web (WWW), and there are animated GIFs too. (JPEG is better for photographs.)
gild and gilding - Applying gold leaf. See fire gilding (ormolu), oil gilding (mordant gilding), and water gilding. Also see bole, gilt, sculpture, and semi-matt.
gild the lily - A phrase meaning to add unnecessary ornamentation to something already beautiful."Gild the lily" is attributed to Shakespeare, but there is a catch — the phrase used in Shakespeare's play King John is actually "to paint the lily."
giornata - A day's work (from Italian).
girandole - A composition or structure in radiating arrangement or form. A French word for an ornamentally branching candleholder, sometimes combined with a mirror or a clock. (pr. JEE-r?n-dohl) See design and horology.
glair - A varnish for tempera paints. Traditional tempera, or egg tempera, is prepared from fresh egg yolks — the contents of yolks (removed from their sacs) mixed with powdered pigment. Glair is prepared by mixing the remaining egg whites with a little water, and beating them. The resulting bubbles should be allowed to dissipate before applying.
glare - A strong or annoying and unwanted light, such as reflected from glass covering a picture. Also, a garishness or gaudiness; something overly conspicuous or obtrusive. Also see flare, highlight, and ugly.
glass fiber - A light but durable sculpture material used to reinforce resin, and hollow cast concrete. Thin filaments of glass are bonded into thin, flexible sheets called mats, strips of tape, or a fine, loosely stranded rope known as roving. Also see fiberglass.
glassine - A thin, dense, glossy-surfaced, translucent paper resistant to the passage of air and dirt. Glassine is often used as a wrapping material or for the separation of sheets of paper. (pr. glas-EEN) See acid-free, art conservation, polyethylene, and storage.
glaze - A term used in ceramics to describe a thin coating of minerals which produces a glassy transparent or colored coating on bisque ware. Typically applied either by brushing, dipping, or spraying, it is fixed by firing the bisque ware in a kiln. This makes the surface smooth, shiny, and waterproof.
glazier - A person who cuts and fits glass, as in the art of stained glass.
glisk - A slight touch of pleasure or twinge of pain that penetrates the soul and passes quickly away. Glisk was defined thusly by Charles Harrington Elster in the New York Times Magazine, August 29, 1999, on page 18.
glitter - Sparkle. Also, very small pieces of light-reflecting decorative material, usually foil. And, by extension, superficial attractiveness. The old-fashioned thick and chunky glitter is still around, but there are more textures and colors than ever.
gloriole or glory - The circle of radiant light around the heads or figures of God, Christ, the Virgin Mary, or a saint. When it surrounds the head only, it is called a halo or nimbus. When it surrounds the entire figure with a large oval it is called a mandorla, the Italian word for almond. It indicates divinity or holiness, though originally it was placed around the heads of kings and gods as a mark of distinction. Also see Gothic, Middle Ages, and votive.
glossy - Surfaces which are lustrous, shiny, extra smooth. For example, enamel and encaustic paints, satin, polished metals, mirrors, and typical glass surfaces are glossy, whereas rougher textures, fabrics, etc., are more matte or dull. Sometimes used to refer to superficiality. Also see coated paper, polyurethane, and semi-gloss.
glue size - Size crystals or powder mixed with water produce a gelatinous solution which forms the binder for gesso. Glue size added to plaster retards the drying process, giving the plaster a longer working time. Rabbit skin is a source for glue size traditionally used in preparing a ground for oil painting.
glutinous - Of the nature of glue; sticky; viscid. Also see adhesives.
glyph - A symbolic figure that is usually engraved or incised, as in the Olmec and Mayan art of Pre-Columbian Mexico. One example is a Tablet which has an incised glyphic inscription, Mexico: state of Guerrero, Ahuelican, Highland Olmec, Middle Formative period, 900-500 BCE, greenstone, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 3/4 inches, Dallas Museum of Art.
glyptic - That which is carved or engraved, or can be carved or engraved, as distinguished from that which is plastic. From Greek. (pr. glip'tik) See glyptics or glyptography.
glyptics or glyptography - The craft of carving on stones, especially on precious stones, and includes many cameos, intaglios, and seals.
goal - The purpose toward which an endeavor is directed. Educational research supports the reasonable idea that students will move toward goals when they know what the goals are. The goals should be fairly specific. Behavioral objectives are effective in this respect. They should also be challenging without being too difficult, and communicated as expectations for the results of learning. When planning curriculum, units, and daily lessons, an educator should do so with a focus not on what he/she is going to cover, but on students meeting standards — on what students should be able to do when instruction is complete.
goo - A creamy paste of cement mixed with water. Goo is the first coat applied to a mold in making a hollow cast concrete sculpture, and forms an even surface layer for the finished cast. Goo is also a brand name for a certain hand cleaning product. Also see investment.
gopuram - In architecture, the massive ornamental entrance structure of South Indian temples. (pr. go'poor-um)
gouge - A beveled chisel with a rounded, troughlike cutting edge, generally for carving wood. There are numerous types of gouges, including a V-tool for engraving the surface of wood. Many gouges are designed to be pushed by hand rather than by the hit of a mallet. To gouge is to make a scooping or digging action, as with such a chisel. A typical gouge has an edge sharpened with a 10% bevel on both inside and outside edges. Also see tools.
gradated wash - A wash that is light or thin in an area where little color has been applied, and gradually becomes darker or heavier into another area, where more color has been applied. A painting technique typically used with watercolors and inks, but possible with any thinned pigments.
gradation - A gradual, smoothly nuanced, step-by-step change from dark to light values or from large to small shapes, or rough to smooth textures, or one color to another. As a principle of design, it refers to any way of combining elements of art by using a series of gradual changes in those elements. Gradation is unlike contrast which stresses sudden changes in elements.
Also see chiaroscuro, gradated wash, gray scale, infrared reflectography (IR) and reflectogram, metamorphosis, modeling, and shading.
gradina - Italian for a claw chisel.
graffiti - A drawing or an inscription made on a wall or other surface, usually so as to be seen by the public, and also called "Spraycan art" and "Subway art" at its height in the 1980s. Although it is sometimes mistaken for (or actually is) vandalism — a defacing of public or private property — and illegal; it may also be regarded as a form of art. Among the most highly respected of artists whose work emerged from graffiti are Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990) and Jean-Michel Basquiat (American, 1960-1988).
graffito - Sgraffito, a method in which a line is produced by scratching through one pigmented surface to reveal another.
gram - A unit of weight measurement equal to 0.001 kilogram. To convert grams into ounces (US), multiply them by 0.03527. Abbreviated g.
-gram - A suffix (word ending) referring to something written, drawn or recorded, such as an anagram, chronogram, diagram, epigram, hexagram, hologram, ideogram, lipogram, logogram, monogram, pentagram, pictogram, program, and telegram. Decagram and kilogram are units of weight measurement in the metric system devived from the gram. Also see -graph and -type.
granite - A hard, coarse-grained igneous rock largely consisting of mica, and quartz. It has been used for sculpture, monuments, and architecture by several civilization. The name granite is sometimes used loosely to include related igneous rocks such as granodiorite.
granulate - A material which is rough and grainy. Or, to make a material rough and grainy. (pr. gran"yeh-layt') Also see abrasive, matting tools, rugosity, sand, and texture.
graph - A diagram that exhibits a relationship, often functional, between two sets of numbers as a set of points having coordinates determined by the relationship. Also called a chart or plot. Pictorial types of graphs include the pie chart and the bar graph, often used to express the relationships between quantities, volumes, degrees, etc.
-graph - A suffix (word ending) referring to something written, drawn or recorded (such as a collagraph, collograph, holograph (not to be confused with hologram), monograph, photograph, pictograph) or an instrument for writing, drawing, recording, or playing a recording (such as phonograph and seismograph). A person who writes about a specific subject might be a biographer, a geographer, etc. Penmanship is chirography. The Oxford English Dictionary says a hurrygraph is a "jocular nonce-word" meaning hurried sketch. Also see -gram and -type.
graphic - Any image that is especially linear in character, such as a drawing, and any image made by or for printmaking or digital imaging. Also see -graph, graphic arts, and graphic design.
graphic artist - A person who makes drawings or fine prints, such as block prints, bookplates, intaglio prints, lithographs, and serigraphs. Also see graphic, graphic arts, graphic designer, and illustrator.
graphic arts - Visual arts that are linear in character, such as drawing and engraving, and other forms of printmaking, such as lithography and serigraphy.
Graphic Converter - A shareware application for Macintosh platform computers that converts digital images of any format (e.g. GIF, JPEG, PICT, TIFF, etc.) to another format. It also contains many useful features for picture manipulation. Download GraphicConverter from the producer, LemkeSoft.com.
graphic designer - Among people in art careers, a person who designs for commercial purposes, such things as logos, letterheads, packages, advertisements, signage, books, Web pages, and other publications. Many graphic artists and designers are freelancers.
graphics tablet - A device by which pictorial information is entered into a computer in a manner similar to drawing, using a stylus. Also see digital imaging and graphic design.
graphite - A soft black mineral substance, a form of carbon, available in powder, stick, and other forms. It has a metallic luster and a greasy feel. Compressed with fine clay, it is used in lead pencils (though contemporary lead pencils contain no lead), lubricants, paints, and coatings, among other products. Also called black lead and plumbago.
graver - A tool used in engraving metal, wood, or stone. A knob-like wooden handle which holds a metal shaft having a sharp beveled point with one size of several possible shapes, either flat, round, multiple, or elliptical. It is generally designed to be pushed by the hand, although there is an electrical tool often called a graver, which has a rotating tip. Another name for graver is burin. Graver may also refer to the technique or style of an engraver's work. See block printing, burin, gravure, woodcut, and wood engraving.
gravure - French for engraving. There are several types of engraving, including copper-plate and wood engraving, rotogravure and photogravure. In English, gravure has been used broadly to cover any or all of these several types. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, prints have been referred to as "art gravures" in order to distinguish them as art prints, rather than as merely commercial-grade prints. The line drawn between the two is a relatively subjective one. Seeing this term ON a print should raise suspicion that it is part of a huge edition, and/or for a relatively mass audience.
gray scale - The range of neutral values, or shades of gray in an image. The gray scales of scanners and terminals are determined by the number of grays, or steps between black and white, that they can recognize and reproduce.
Greek cross - A cross in which all the arms are the same length.
green earth - A particular green pigment.
greenstone - jade.
greenware - Generally refers to unfired pottery, although sometimes the term is used to specify Chinese stoneware with a high-fired green glaze. Also see bone dry and leather-hard.
green wood - Lumber that is not fully dried.
grid - A framework or pattern of criss-crossed or parallel lines. A lattice. When criss-crossed, lines are conventionally horizontal and vertical; and when lines are diagonal, they are usually at right angles to each other. Typically graph paper is a grid of lines. Things which are often gridded: tiles, tessellations, wire screens, chess boards, maps, graphs, charts, calendars, and modern street plans.
grind - To crush, pulverize, or reduce to powder by friction, especially by rubbing between two hard surfaces. Or, to shape or refine with friction. [For grinding to occur, bumping is required.]
grog - Clay which has been fired and ground into fine granules, used as an ingredient in a clay body or as a base on which clay is worked or fired which allows the form to contract freely as it dries. It may also be used for molds and cores and for objects cast and modeled. When added to clay it raises its firing temperature and makes it more stable, but it can also alter its appearance. Sometimes sand is used as a substitute. Also see investment and pyrometer.
groin - The edge formed by the intersection of two vaults.
groin vault - A vault formed when two barrel vaults meet at right angles. Groin vaults were used by Roman builders in the construction of the central hall of the Baths of Caracalia.
gross motor - Larger movements of the body. Large motor skills typically develop at a certain pace in childhood, preceding and alongside the development of fine motor skills.
grotesque - Something having a fantastically distorted appearance. Also, a style of painting, sculpture, and ornamentation used in antiquity in which natural forms and distorted figures are intertwined in bizarre or fanciful combinations, consisting of representations of medallions, sphinxes, foliage, and imaginary creatures.
ground - A surface to which paint is applied, or the material used to create that surface. A painting's ground is usually specially prepared on its support. Traditionally, for oil paint on canvas use a ground of oil and white pigment, and on wood surfaces either an oil ground or gesso.
grout - A paste cement or mortar used for filling and sealing gaps — cracks, crevices and joints — especially between tiles.
guilloche - A patterned ornament consisting of interlaced, curving bands. (pr. gee-ush')
guillotine - A mechanical cutting apparatus with a heavy movable blade, worked by a lever or foot pedal. A guillotine is a tool designed to produce quick, easy, and straight cuts through paper, sheet metal, and some other materials.
gum arabic or gum acacia - Hardened sap secreted by acacia trees, used in solution as a medium, vehicle, or binder for water-soluble pigments. Also used in adhesives, and, although it is slightly acidic, it is an ingredient in ice creams and candies. With much of it originating in the Sudan, gum arabic is so valuable that control of it has sometimes been violently contested. Also see base, resin, and watercolor.
gymnophobia, gymnophobe - Derived from Greek words for naked, gymnos, and fear, phobos, gymnophobia is a fear or anxiety about either being seen naked or seeing others naked, whether entirely or in part, even in situations where it is culturally acceptable.
gyo - In Japanese tradition, a mark or impression. In calligraphy, gyo is an abbreviated brushstroke. Also see gyotaku, shin, and so.
gyotaku - In Japanese tradition, a relief print made from an actual fish, and sometimes from a shell, leaf, or other object from nature — inked and placed on paper or cloth. In Japanese, gyo means impression, and taku means fish. This is a relatively new technique. The oldest known prints were commissioned in 1862 by Lord Sakai in the Yamagata Prefecture to preserve the memory of a record catch. Ever since, gyotaku has been employed as a way for Japanese sport fishermen to record the exact size and species of fish they've caught. The original kind of gyotaku involves applying black ink directly to a fish, and making an impression on thin rice paper or cloth. This creates an image with bold contrasts and powerful lines. Such gyotaku are commonly exhibited on the walls of homes, or kept in journals to document fishing achievements, much as western fishermen display photographs and taxidermy. When Japanese fishing organizations hold contests for the largest fish caught, they typically judge gyotaku to determine winners.
gypsum - Calcium sulfate dihydrate, found in a variety of forms as natural deposits (such as alabaster), which when heated and deprived of its moisture forms the substance known as plaster of Paris. Gypsum rates an index of 2 on Mohs Scale of Hardness. (pr. jip'sum)