Glossary of Art Terms - T


A stencil or overlay used in drawing, painting or sewing to replicate letters, shapes or patterns.

Tertiary Colours

A tertiary colour is a colour made by mixing one primary colour with one secondary colour, in a given colour space. Unlike primary and secondary colours, these are not represented by one firmly established name each, but the following examples include some of the most popular. The term "tertiary colour" was originally coined to refer to "neutral" colours; those made by mixing all three primary colours in a colour space. Examples of these would be white or grey, in the (light) additive system, and brown, grey, or black in the (pigment or paint) subtractive system. This is still the common meaning in most technical literature. Many professionals today prefer the term "intermediate colour" for this, to prevent confusion.


A tessellation or tiling of the plane is a collection of plane figures that fills the plane with no overlaps and no gaps. One may also speak of tessellations of the parts of the plane or of other surfaces. Generalizations to higher dimensions are also possible. Tessellations frequently appeared in the art of M.C. Escher. In Latin, tessella was a small cubical piece of clay, stone or glass used to make mosaics. The word "tessella" means "small square" (from "tessera", square, which in its turn is from the Greek word for "four"). It corresponds with the everyday term tiling which refers to applications of tessellation, often made of glazed clay.


A tessera is an individual tile in a mosaic, usually formed in the shape of a cube. In antiquity, mosaics were formed from naturally colored pebbles, but by 200 BCE purpose-made tesserae were being used. Marble or limestone was cut into small cubes that were arranged into the required design. Later, tesserae were made from colored glass, or clear glass backed with metal foils. Another kind of tessera was the ancient Roman equivalent of a theater ticket. Stamped into a clay shard was an entrance aisle and row number for spectators attending an event at an amphitheater or arena. Above the doors of the Colosseum in Rome are numbers corresponding to those stamped into a spectator's tessera.


Texture in a painting is the feel of the canvas based on the paint used and its method of application. There are two forms of texture in painting, visual and tactile. Because texture uses two different senses it is a unique element of art. There are 4 types of texture in art actual texture, simulated texture, abstract texture and invented texture. Texture creates the feeling of an object as this is known. This is the actual texture of how the work of art looks and feels to the touch. Texture gives distinction to a design and this has generally been associated with works that are in 3 dimensions but can be associated with a heavy build up of paint on a 2 dimensional piece of art such as an impasto effect, or the look and feel of paint layered on top of itself.


Liquids such as white spirit or turpentine used to dilute paints or varnishes and also to clear paint from brushes.

Thumbnail Sketch

A small sketch created with the view to creating a much larger work in mind. Thumbnail sketches are usually done very quickly. Sometimes many are done to explore ideas such as textures, colours and layouts etc.


In colour theory, the colour wheel is based on "pure" colours; lighter versions produced by adding white or more light are called tints. These are known as "pale" or "light" colours, as "pastel" colours or (for light tints of some reds, oranges, and yellow) as "tans". - For example adding a small amount of red to white will result in light pink.


Tonalism (c. 1880 to 1915) is an artistic style that emerged in the 1880s when American artists began to paint landscape forms with an overall tone of colored atmosphere or mist. Dark, neutral hues, such as gray, brown or blue, would usually dominate such compositions. During the late 1890s American art critics began to use the term "tonal" to describe these works. Two of the leading painters associated with this style are George Inness and James McNeill Whistler. Tonalism is also sometimes used to describe American landscapes derived from the French Barbizon style, which employs an emphasis on mood and shadow. Tonalism, in both its forms, was soon eclipsed with the popularity of Impressionism and European modernism.


The overall color effect in terms of hue and value. Often one dominating hue is employed in various shades and values.


A tondo is a Renaissance term for a circular work of art. The word derives from the Italian rotondo, "round." Since Greek antiquity artists have created tondi, particularly in Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. The revival of the tondo composition since the sixteenth century has been less usual. However, in John Frederick Herring Junior's Farmyard I and Farmyard II, from the 19th century (and feautured on the site) the tondo shape helps enclose the composition and depict a sense of togetherness between the horses and their fellow farmyarders.


A tortillon is an artist's tool used to smudge and blend an artwork made using charcoal, pencil or pastel. It consists of a tightly-wound stick of soft, fibrous paper, and is sanded to a point at one end like a pencil. This tool is used in place of the fingers because the skin can leave oils on the drawing paper.


A form of spatial art that can transform from one image or perspective to another.


A triptych (pronounced "trip-tick,") is divided into three sections, or three carved panels which are hinged together. The central panel is the most important one, and this is flanked on either side by two lesser but related paintings. The whole is intended to be greater than the sum of the parts. The triptych form arises from early Christian art, and was the standard format for altar paintings from the Middle Ages onwards. Its geographical range was from the eastern Byzantine churches through to the English Celtic church in the west. Renaissance painters and sculptors such as Hans Memling and Hieronymus Bosch used the form. Altarpieces in churches and cathedrals, both in Europe and elsewhere, since the Gothic period were often in triptych-form.


Trompe-l'œil is an art technique involving extremely realistic imagery in order to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects really exist, instead of being just two-dimensional paintings. The name is derived from French for "trick the eye", from tromper - to deceive and l'œil - the eye. Although the phrase has its origin in the Baroque period, use of trompe-l'œil dates back much further. It was (and is) often employed in murals, and instances from Greek and Roman times are known, for instance from Pompeii. A typical trompe-l'œil mural might depict a window, door or hallway to optically enlarge a room. A version of an often-told ancient Greek story tells of a contest between two renowned painters. Zeuxis produced a still life painting so convincing that birds flew down from the sky to peck at the painted grapes. He then asked his opponent, Parrhasius, to pull back a pair of very tattered curtains, claiming the painting was behind them. Parrhasius won the contest, as his painting was the curtains themselves.

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