Glossary of Art Terms - V


An art term for the degree of lightness of hue of a color varying from nature's colors of pure black to pure white. Darker colors are darker in hue. Many artists, striving for realist depiction, use their palette's to mix colors to create values that approximate nature's 'true' colors.

Vanishing Point

A vanishing point is a point in a perspective drawing to which parallel lines appear to converge. The number and placement of the vanishing points determines which perspective technique is being used: Linear perspective is drawing with 1-3 vanishing points. Curvilinear perspective is drawing with 5 vanishing points mapped into a circle with 4 VPs at the cardinal headings N,W,S,E and one at the circle origin. Reverse perspective is drawing with vanishing points that are placed outside the painting with the illusion that they are "in front of" the painting. Vanishing points were first used by Renaissance artists such as Donatello and Masaccio.

Vantage Point

The point from which the artist views their subject - also called observation point or viewpoint.


Varnish is a transparent, hard, protective finish or film primarily used in wood finishing but also for other materials. Varnish is traditionally a combination of a drying oil, a resin, and a thinner or solvent. Varnish finishes are usually glossy but may be designed to produce satin or semi-gloss sheens by the addition of "flatting" agents. Varnish has little or no color, is transparent, and has no added pigment, as opposed to paints or wood stains, which contain pigment and generally range from opaque to translucent. Varnishes are also applied over wood stains as a final step to achieve a film for gloss and protection. Some products are marketed as a combined stain and varnish.


Liquid in which pigments are dispersed so that paint can be mixed and spread. The Vehicle is that which carries the color, binds it together and causes it to adhere to a surface.

Vellum Paper

Originally a term for high quality paper made from lamb or calf skin and primarily used for calligraphy and manuscript illumination. However, Vellum in this definition is seldom used by contemporary calligraphers, but the term is used by makers of heavy, durable paper.


Vermilion, also spelled vermillion, when found naturally-occurring, is an opaque reddish orange pigment, used since antiquity, originally derived from the powdered mineral cinnabar. Today vermilion is most commonly artificially produced by reacting mercury with molten sulfur. Most naturally produced vermilion comes from cinnabar mined in China, giving rise to its alternative name of China red. In painting, vermilion has largely been replaced by the pigment cadmium red, a pigment that is less reactive due to the replacement of mercury with cadmium, especially in certain applications such as watercolors.


A term used throughout France in the 19th century to describe a select audience of people who would be allowed to watch the artist applying finishing touches, such as varnish, to their works before exhibitions. The term's usage faded dramatically in the 20th century and was replaced with terms such as 'preview' or 'opening'.


Verso refers to the second side of any work (visual or literary) on paper or canvas. For example the rear of a painting or a book page on the rear of a page being read. The term 'verso painting' has also been attributed to some contemporary 'reverse glass' artwork.


This term was first used by Conor Everts to describe the idea of creating fine art prints from a glass matrice. It's literal meaning is to write on glass.


Similar to mass, a three-dimensional form implying bulk, density, and weight; but also a void or empty, enclosed space.

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