Glossary of Art Terms - C


Handwriting as art. In printing and drawing, Calligraphy is a free and rhythmic use of line to accentuate design, and may have more focus on design than legibility. Lettering pens are the primary tool used in modern Calligraphy, and quill pens or fine brushes were used in Medieval manuscripts. Japanese wood-block prints and Chinese scrolls have much Calligraphy, and the term derives from Oriental art, which often has little distinction between painting and handwriting.


Canvas is usually stretched across a wooden frame called a stretcher, and may be coated with gesso before it is to be used, though gesso is rather brittle and susceptible to cracking. Various alternative and more-flexible canvas primers are commercially available. Although many modern artists, such as Jackson Pollock, Kenneth Noland, Francis Bacon, and many other Color Field painters, Lyrical Abstractionists and others sometimes paint onto the bare, unprimed canvas, called "raw canvas". Early canvas was made of linen, a sturdy brownish fabric of considerable strength. Linen is particularly suitable for the use of oil paint. In the early 20th century, cotton canvas came into use, often referred to as "cotton duck". Cotton duck, which stretches more and has an even mechanical weave, is preferred by most modern and contemporary painters today; although linen is still popular with many professional artists especially those artists that paint with oil paint. The considerable price difference, however, prompts many beginners, and even mid-level artists, to choose cotton over linen. The advent of acrylic paint has greatly increased the popularity and use of cotton duck canvas.


Casting is a creative process by which a molten material such as Bronze or plastic is introduced into a mold, allowed to solidify within the mold, and then ejected or broken out to make a fabricated part. Casting is used for making parts of complex shape that would be difficult or uneconomical to make by other methods, such as cutting from solid material. Casting may be used to form hot, liquid metals or meltable plastics (called thermoplastics), or various materials that cold set after mixing of components such as certain plastic resins such as epoxy, water setting materials such as concrete or plaster, and materials that become liquid or paste when moist such as clay, which when dry enough to be rigid is removed from the mold, further dried, and fired in a kiln.


Ceramics are made from heating Clay at very high temperatures in a kiln.It is one of the ancient arts and embraces porcelain, earthenware and sculpted figures.


The term originated as a name for a type of Renaissance drawing on coloured paper, where the artist worked from this base tone towards light, with white gouache, and dark, with ink, bodycolour or watercolour. The term broadened in meaning to cover all strong contrasts in illumination between light and dark areas creating moods and focal points in the art.


Collage (from the French: coller, to stick) is regarded as a work of visual arts made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole. Use of this technique made its dramatic appearance among oil paintings in the early 20th century as an art form of groundbreaking novelty. An artistic collage work may include newspaper clippings, ribbons, bits of colored or hand-made papers, portions of other artwork, photographs, and such, glued to a solid support or canvas.

Colour Wheel

A circular grid that represents the colors based on colour theory. This grid clearly shows the relationships colours have with each other (complimentary, opposite, etc.)


The planning, placement or arrangement of elements to form a work of art.i.e., the disposition of shapes, masses, areas of light and dark, etc.

Conceptual Art

In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. – Sol LeWitt, "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art", Artforum, June 1967.


An artistic movement in Russia from 1914 onward, which grew out of Collage.

Conte Crayon

Conté, also known as Conté sticks or crayons, are a drawing medium composed of compressed powdered graphite or charcoal mixed with a wax or clay base, square in cross-section. They were invented in 1795 by Nicolas-Jacques Conté, who created the combination of clay and graphite in response to the shortage of graphite caused by the Napoleonic Wars. Conté crayons had the advantage of being cost-effective to produce, and easy to manufacture in controlled grades of hardness. They are now more commonly made of a variety of fabricated chalk. Conté is most commonly found in black, white, and sepia tones and is frequently used on rough paper that holds pigment grains well. It can also be used on prepared primed canvases for underdrawing for a painting. The sticks' square profile makes Conté more suitable for detailed hatched work as opposed to the bolder 'painterly' drawing style demanded by soft pastels. They were extensively used by the Renaissance Old Masters in a variant called Sanguine, which has become the name of the reddest sepia tone of Conté.

Contemporary Artist

This is an artist who creates contemporary art, i.e. whose peak of activity can be situated somewhere between the 1970s (the advent of postmodernism) and the present day. FineartSurrey has a good representation of Britain's top living Contemporary Artists.

Contemporary British Art

British Art from the 70s to the present day.


The network of cracks which sometimes appears on paint and varnish of an oil painting as the paint ages and settles. Also known as Craquelure.


Cubism was a leap into 20th century garde art movement that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music and literature. It developed as a short but highly significant artistic movement between about 1907 and 1914 in France. Cubism is a painting of a normal scene but painted so that it is viewed from multiple views while the positions of some of the parts are rotated or moved so that it is odd looking and scrambled. In cubist artworks, objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form — instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context. Often the surfaces intersect at seemingly random angles presenting no coherent sense of depth. The background and object planes interpenetrate one another to create the ambiguous shallow space characteristic of cubism. Some art historians speculate that Cubism originated in the work of Cezanne. For him, paintings should treat the forms of nature as if they were cones, spheres and cylinders. Its roots were implanted in the two distinct tendencies of Cézanne's later work: firstly to break the painted surface into small multifaceted areas of paint thereby emphasising the plural viewpoint given by binocular vision, and secondly his interest in simplification of natural forms into Platonic cylinders, spheres, pyramids and cubes. The cubists, however, went further than Cézanne. They represented objects in all their faces in a single plane. It was as if the object had been opened in all its sides at the same time, in the same frontal plane in relation to the observer. This attitude broke down the objects and showed a new vision of reality. The most notable of its small group of active participants were the French Georges Braque, and the Spaniards Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris. Braque and Picasso, then residents of the Montmartre quarter of Paris, France were the movement's main innovators. After their meeting in 1907 they began working on the development of Cubism in 1908, and worked closely together until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. French art critic Louis Vauxcelles first used the term "cubism", or "bizarre cubiques", in 1908 after seeing a picture by Braque. He described it as 'full of little cubes', after which the term quickly gained wide use although the two creators did not initially adopt it. Cubism was taken up by many artists in Montparnasse and promoted by art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, becoming popular so quickly that by 1911 critics were referring to a "cubist school" of artists. However, many of the artists who thought of themselves as cubists went in directions quite different from Braque and Picasso. The Puteaux Group was a significant offshoot of the Cubist movement, and included artists like Guillaume Apollinaire, Robert Delaunay, Marcel Duchamp, his brother Jacques Villon, and Fernand Léger.