Artists use line, shape, and color to convey ideas and images, much like a writer uses words. The vocabulary words in this lesson help artists communicate with one another about the way they use the elements of art to create images.
Academic Words That Describe the Elements of Art
attribute (n.): a quality or characteristic of something
An attribute of Claude Monet’s paintings was his use of dabs of color to create impressions of objects.
component (n.): a part of something
Some artists use real objects as a component of their collages and sculptures.
dominant (adj.): more important; in control
The dominant object in a painting is often placed in the foreground.
element (n.): an identifiable part of something; a basic component
Line, shape, and color are elements of art.
intensity (n.): a quality of strength or power
The artist captured the storm’s intensity in his work.
negative (adj.): characterized by the lack of something
Artworks with large amounts of negative space feel light and airy, while those with little negative space feel heavy or busy.
neutral (adj.): not having strong characteristics
She chose to decorate the room in neutral colors such as cream and beige.
overlap (v.): to position two shapes so that one partially covers the other
He overlapped the two shapes in his sketch to make one appear to be behind the other.
positive (adj.): having or expressing a real quality
The horse in the painting took up much positive space, making it the most important subject.
predominant (adj.): most important or powerful
The students believe that Pablo Picasso was the predominant painter of the twentieth century.
Recognize Word Opposites
Directions: Some words have opposites, or antonyms. It is as important to understand what a word doesn’t mean as it is to understand its definition. Match the words below with their antonyms.
____ 1. Component
____ 2. Dominant
____ 3. Intensity
____ 4. Overlap
____ 5. Positive
Choose the Best Word for the Job
Directions: Writers and speakers choose the best word for the job of explaining their ideas clearly. Read each sentence below and underline the word in parentheses that best completes the sentence.
1. The (attributes/attribute/attribution) of this work include a bold use of form and texture.
2. An important (components/component/componentry) of his art is his cultural heritage.
3. The art critic felt that the sculpture (domination/dominator/ dominated) the garden area of the public park.
4. The three major (elements/elementary/element) used in this painting are line, shape, and color.
5. Inspired by the vibrant colors of the sky, Ellen decided to use (intensity/intensify/intense) colors for her painting.
6. His innovative use of (negatively/negated/negative) space made the sculptor famous.
7. The fashion designer contrasted (neutral/neutrals/neutrally) colors with splashes of bright color in these dresses.
8. By (overlap/overlapping/overlaps) the shapes of the people in the crowd, the artist was able to create a feeling of depth in the painting.
9. The objects portrayed occupy the (positive/positively/positives) space of a drawing.
10. Women and children are (predominant/predominantly/predominated) subjects in the works of Mary Cassatt.
Name ___________________________________________________ Period ________________________
Understand Words with Multiple Meanings
Directions: Some words have more than one meaning. Match the definitions in the boxes to the underlined words in the sentences that follow.
The word negative has many meanings:
a. (adj.): characterized by a lack of something
b. (adj.): saying no; refusing or denying something
c. (adj.): unfavorable
d. (n.): photographic film that has been exposed to light
____ 1. The art director’s negative answer to the designer was final.
____ 2. The photographer’s negatives were stored in a cool, dry place.
____ 3. The art critic’s negative review discouraged people from seeing the show.
____ 4. Alexander Calder’s use of negative and positive space made his mobiles a wonder to behold.
The word attribute has two meanings:
a. (n.): a quality or characteristic of something
b. (v.): to give credit (pronounced a-TRI-bute)
____ 5. The art historian attributed the sculpture to the Kota people of central Africa.
____ 6. An attribute of nonobjective art is that it does not represent an identifiable object.
The word neutral has several meanings:
a. (adj.): not having strong characteristics
b. (adj.): not choosing sides in a contest or argument
c. (n.): in an engine, a position of disengagement of the gears
____ 7. It was important that the commentators for the art contest were neutral.
____ 8. The photographer shifted the engine to neutral so she could observe the landscape.
____ 9. The painter balanced the use of bold color with neutral tones.
The word positive has several meanings:
a. (adj.): having or expressing a real quality
b. (adj.): having a happy attitude focused on good
c. (adj.): certain; not in doubt
d. (adj.): having a good and striking influence
____ 10. Many customers were drawn to the potter’s positive manner as he spoke to them.
____ 11. The archaeologist was positive she had found a long-lost Egyptian carving.
____ 12. The artist thought carefully about how much positive space he would use in the charcoal drawing of the young child.
____ 13. The museum’s community beautification project has had a positive impact on the residents of the neighborhood