Art Terminology - Original Art

From Oil painting to collage, what makes something ‘Unique’ in the world of art?

In this edition of art terminology series we take a look at the ‘unique’ world of original artwork. From Oil painting to collage, what makes something ‘Unique’ in the world of art? We look at a number of terms which relate directly with original artwork, techniques and materials used to create unique pieces of artwork, and some of the terms you may need when discussing artwork of this nature.

Original artwork- A unique piece of artwork is often referred to as an ‘Original.’ This relates mainly to its manner of production. For example a print (or reproduction) may look identical to an original painting, but the image produced by printing can be identically reproduced as many times as is required. An original oil painting can never be reproduced identically again.
This is why the value of an original painting is usually higher than that of a print of the same image.

Oil Paint - Oil paint is made up of pigment suspended in an oil. It can be used raw out of the tube or diluted with different types of spirits, but not water. It produces very rich tones and different thickness can allow an artist to use the paint in different ways. Due to the oil component it can take a long time to dry, however due to the slower drying time oil paint can also be reworked over a longer duration.

Watercolour - a water based medium made from finely ground pigment usually suspended in gum arabic. It can be diluted by water to create an extremely thin medium with luminous transparency.

Acrylic Paint - water based paint made from finely ground pigments suspended in a plasticising emulsion which dries to a very solid state in a short space of time. Acrylic paint can be diluted with water but once dried, becomes water resistant and is very difficult to rework.

Canvas - A closely woven, sturdy cloth of hemp, cotton, linen, or a similar fibre, usually stretched over a wooden frame or flat board, it can also be used “unstretched” and used as a surface for painting.

Collage - From the French verb coller, meaning “to glue.” The term collage refers to both the technique and the resulting work of art in which fragments of paper and other materials are arranged and glued or otherwise affixed to a supporting surface.

Diptych and Triptych - Terms which refer to a work of art consisting of two (di) or three (tri) sections or panels that are displayed together, creating one artwork.

Impasto - is a technique used in painting, where paint is laid on an area of the surface in very thick layers, usually thick enough that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible.

Brushwork - The manner in which a painter applies paint with a brush, “energetic,” “subtle,” “aggressive,” or “tight,” “loose” ...brushwork.

Chiaroscuro - From the Italian terms “chiaro,” light and “scuro,” dark, the term refers to how an artist creates form and volume through a bold contrast of light and shade.

Glaze - a glaze is a very thin, transparent layer of paint applied to an area, or sometimes a full painting to tint, or change the tonal range of colours beneath.

Assemblage - A three-dimensional work of art made from combinations of materials including found objects or non-traditional art materials.

Mixed media - A technique involving the use of two or more artistic mediums, such as ink and pastel or painting and collage, which are combined in a single composition.

Batik - A wax-resist dyeing technique that is often used to make highly patterned cloth.

Medium- the medium refers to the material used to create the piece of artwork, for example, oil paint or charcoal are different mediums.


If you enjoyed learning the Original Art lingo, check out our Art Terminology blog all about Prints, we'll have you talking the talk in no time! 

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