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Glossary of Terms


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #

Select the first letter of the word from the list above to jump to appropriate section of the glossary. If the term you are looking for starts with a digit or symbol, choose the '#' link.


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Contour: You can represent or describe the meeting of two objects or shapes (the shared edge) with a single drawn line - that's called a contour or contour line. A "shared edge" and a "contour" are pretty much the same thing - except, you regard the contour as a single thing. You regard the recorded shape of that meeting of shapes as a drawn line. The drawn line is the contour: the recorded shared edge. (See Lesson 4.)
  • Composition is the set of things that make up a picture, all that is included within a format. A composition is nothing more than the arrangement of positive objects and negative spaces within the format. It may of may not have unity. (See lesson 6.)
  • Crest Shadow. This is the shadow that falls on the curved portion of a rounded object. It covers the zone between the highlight and the reflected light. Rarely is it one shade of shadow like it looks here. It's usually darkest at the point farthest from both highlight and reflected light. It's also the key in conveying three dimensionality in an object. (Lesson 9)
  • Cast Shadow. It's the shadow cast by the direct blockage of light. The cast shadow is usually the darkest shadow. (Lesson 9)
  • Cross-hatching: the method of using a series of parallel lines to depict shadow.
  • Cupid's bow is the line the upper and lower lip make where they meet. Cupid's Bow is actually the contour - the shared edge - between the upper and lower lip. Specifically it's the most most down-curved section right the center of the upper lip.
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Drawing grid. To simplify the scene in front of the artist, and make manageable proportion and perspective, a gentleman named Albrecht Durer put on his thinking beanie and came up with this great idea: break down the scene you're trying to draw into lots of smaller pictures. The grid is a viewfinder of sorts, in this case a wire mesh grid made up of horizontal and vertical wires the artist would look through to view his subject. With squares of the grid reproduced in exact proportion on the drawing paper the task of the artist was to reproduce in each of the drawing paper squares exactly what he sees through the grid in front of him.

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Edge: In drawing, an edge is where something ends and another thing begins - where two things meet. I'll illustrate. Look at your hand - hold it up in front of your eyes with fingers splayed and palm towards your face. With one eye closed, focus on the outline of your hand. There you are, looking at your hand with nothing but air surrounding it. The edge is where air meets your hand. It forms an outline.
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Format: the "bounded" area you're drawing in - like the 8 1/2" x 11" piece of paper you're reading this on if you printed it out. Like the frame around a painting, or the shape you see containing your subject when you look through a camera viewfinder (usually rectangular or square). You can think of the pages of a book as the format for the text: all the text and pictures are written within the edges of the paper. Like an aquarium is a container that holds all the fish.
  • Foreshortening: (Definition form Webster's) "to shorten some lines of an object to give the illusion of proper relative size."
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The "ground" - an artist's technique by which an intermediate tone (between the white of the paper and the darkest black of the medium) is layered over the paper first. Erase into it for highlight, color over it for darkest shadows.
  • Glabella - the meaty little bundle of flesh between the eyebrows and just above the nose. A consequence of contraction of the procerus and corrugator muscles of the forehead.
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  • The Highlight. The Highlight is the brightest light on the page or object. This is the area where light falls at it's most direct on the object.
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Infra-orbital folds - the little rings of fleshy skin under the eyes. Also called "bags".
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  • Negative space: is the background. Negative space is often the "nothing" shapes, the non-object shapes that surround the object you're drawing. When you hold your hand up in front of your face, you hold it against a background of air - the air between your hand and whatever else that was behind it. Paint all that air black, remove the hand, and you have the negative space.
  • Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): words and symbols become so charged with meaning, that just uttering the wrong word or seeing a the wrong gesture can throw you into a panic, passion, or a blind flurry. NLP is the study of physiological reaction that can be associated to a word or object. Can be both a positive association (like when you see a picture of someone you're infatuated with), or very negative in the case of phobias.
  • Naso-labial folds - the skin folds that run from side of your nose, define the lower margin of your cheeks and course to the corners of your mouth.
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Premise of the "R-mode" drawing system: "present the dominant left hemisphere of the brain with a task it finds either too complicated or boring, and so it "shuts down", thus allowing the non-dominant right hemisphere to take over. "
  • Positive Form is the subject of a composition. If you were drawing a bird flying in the sky, the bird is the positive form. The shape around the bird - the sky, the air, anything "non-bird" is the negative space.
  • Pure Contour: a drawing technique where the object drawn is drawn without the drawer ever looking at the drawing paper or taking his eyes off the object being drawn. (Boy, did that sound clinical.)
  • Perspective is simply the study of how an object changes apparent size with distance: the farther away something is, the smaller. The closer, the bigger. (Lesson 8)
  • Proportion refers to relative size. If a six foot man is standing next to a 12 foot tree, no matter how far away we are from the pair (the tree and the man), the tree will always be twice as tall as the man . If we're doing an accurate drawing of this pair, we'll always draw the tree two times taller, whether we're working in half scale or one-thousandth scale. (Lesson 8)
  • Picture plane: The two dimensional surface you envision your subject to exist in, or the two dimensional surface you draw your subject on. Examples. The computer screen you're viewing this on is two dimensional. It acts as a picture plane. The paper you draw on is a two dimensional surface on which you "collapse" the three dimensional world you're drawing. It too is a picture plane. When you stick your arm out in front of you to gauge and perform "sighting", you're relating everything "out there" in the world on to an imaginary picture plane at the end of your arm. (Lesson 8)
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R-mode: The partially misnamed mode of mind you enter when you become intimately aware of the information coming in from your senses. Also called the "intuitive" brain, holistic, non-linear, non-verbal, associative, subjective, artistic, free, imaginative, visual brain, etc. "Right"- brained because people damaged or with physical trauma to this side of the physical brain had a sudden inability to function visually. Misnamed in part since not all of it's functions can be attributed to just the right side of the brain, hence "R-mode".
  • Reflected Light. Look for this tricky and somewhat sneaky light on any surface. (It's actually light reflected from the environment and other surrounding objects.)
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Shared edge: The line where two different objects meet in space - not necessarily where they touch - but where it appears to the eye they contact, like where the ocean and the sky meet: at the horizon. That's a shared edge.
  • Sighting: the terms artist use when they visually compare angles, size proportions, ratios, angles and relationships in space. (Lesson 8)
  • Scale Adjustment Faculty: a magical function of the brain that zooms you in or out of anything you're paying close visual attention to. For instance, if you're watching a baseball game from the highest seats in a large stadium (the "nose bleed section"), Your brain will "zoom" you in closer to where you are. Shows up in disproportionate drawings. (Lesson 8)
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Tone suggests color, individual colors. Values suggest a range of shades within that color.
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Upside-down drawing: Literally drawing with the subject upside down. Why? It makes the object being drawn something entirely unnamable and new to the eye. So, you can't name it, you can't categorize it and thus you have to see it for what is: a unique shape.
  • Unity: How all the different parts of a picture fit together, how the sum of shared edges, contours, negative spaces, and positive forms create a composition.
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A viewfinder is anything that you use to limit and define what you're looking at. You look through it. It allows you to "frame" your subjects the same way you "frame" objects and people when you look into a camera or a telescope or a video camera. You could even stretch the definition of "viewfinder" to a window in your home, it'll work if what you're drawing is the view out your window. It imposes a shape, a boundary around whatever you're viewing. Viewfinders and formats should match each other proportionately - i.e., if your viewfinder is square, so should your format. If your viewfinder's vertical edge is two times longer than it's horizontal edge, then so your format should be of the same proportion.
  • Values suggest a range of shades within a color. Tone suggests the original starting color. E.g. Black could be your starting color, but gray a lighter value or shade of it.
  • Vermillion border - the line where lip and skin meet. Also notable for a change in color and texture from the flat color of skin to the shiny red or pink of the actual lip proper.
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Revised: August 08, 2001.
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