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Glossary of artistic terms

Abstract art

Art which does not represent reality as seen by the human eye. Abstract art is often characterised by a strong dependence on what appears to be accident and chance. It takes its inspiration from the real world but uses patterns for expression. Abstract art attempts to express reality without depicting it.


Acrylic is a type of manmade polymer that is an especially popular with artists working today. The term is also used as a generic term for any synthetic paint medium. Acrylics have good adhesive and elastic properties, and they resist ultraviolet light and chemical degradation.

c-type print

A c-type print, such as Ektachrome, is a colour print in which the print material has at least three emulsion layers of light sensitive silver salts. Each layer is sensitised to a different primary colour - either red, blue or green - and so records different information about the colour make-up of the image. During printing, chemicals are added which form dyes of the appropriate colour in the emulsion layers. It is the most common type of colour photograph.

Figurative art

Figurative art is generally art which represents people or animals. As opposed to abstract art's representation of patterns or ideas.


Impasto is an artistic technique most commonly used in oil painting. Paint is applied onto the canvas very thickly, often thickly enough that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible. Paint is also sometimes mixed directly on the canvas. Impasto cannot be used in watercolour works, since watercolour paint is two-dimensional.


Landscape art depicts scenery, sea, sky or vegetation as its primary subject matter.

Limited edition print

Limited edition prints (as sold here on are hand-produced prints of original works. The prints are made or commissioned by the artists themselves. The numbers of print in a run can vary, but they are always strictly limited in quantity and in many cases each print is individually signed and numbered by the artist.

Oil painting

A painting executed with pigments mixed with oil. Technique for painting on board or canvas. Because of the flexibility and variety of results that can be obtained using oils, oil painting has been popular for centuries and continues to be a primary medium for artists working today.


An original artwork is a one-off handmade piece by an artist. It is not part of a print run or limited edition print run.

Painted edges

Not all canvasses are framed. Instead, some are intended to hung without frames. If this is the artist's intention, the artist will often paint over the edges of the canvas onto the sides. This not only allows the painting to be hung unframed, but also creates the interesting effect of extending the painting into three dimensions.

New to buying original art and sculpture? Useful tips to get you started:
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