Art Terms and Definitions — G

art vocabulary and meaningsArt vocabulary and their meanings that begin with the letter “G”. Art words artists use on a daily basis to characterize their art that were created to help you better comprehend art concepts. This list has more than 30 words from GALLERY to GUERRILLA ART

Quick links to more art vocabulary and their meanings are located at the end of the list.


A building, hall, room, or series of rooms where sculpture, paintings, photographs, or other works of art are exhibited and or sold.

Gallery-wrapped Canvas

art vocabulary and meaningsA type of canvas used by artists to create paintings on top of the canvas surface. Canvas fabric is stretched across and wrapped around wooden stretcher bars. It is then attached to the back of the stretcher bars using staples or spline. Gallery-wrapped canvas allows artists to paint on the sides or edges of the canvas and to hang it without a frame. Some artists and collectors prefer the more contemporary look of unframed art. See also “stretched canvas.”


From the French word meaning “kind” or “genus.” A realistic style of painting that depicts scenes of everyday life. Dutch artworks of peasant and tavern scenes are considered typical genre paintings.

Genre Painting

art vocabulary and meaningsA realistic style of painting that depicts scenes of everyday life. It shows average folks going about their lives, whether they are at work or having fun. These paintings feature intimate scenes of daily life, costumes, residential settings, interiors, festivities, bar scenes, marketplaces, and other street scenarios. It might also represent a crowded street, a beach party, a dinner gathering, or any other location where life happens. Dutch artworks of peasant and tavern scenes are considered typical genre paintings.

Geometric Art

An art movement that emerged in the early 20th century by artists fascinated with geometric shapes. Inspired by geometry, a type of mathematics, geometric art is a form of abstract art that uses basic shapes like squares, circles, triangles, and rectangles in its designs. Geometric artworks can be created using various materials like paint, ink, pencil, paper, metal, and plastic. And it is often used to create seamless patterns, abstract backgrounds, and various photo effects.


art vocabulary and meaningsA mixture of plaster, chalk, or gypsum bound together with glue that is applied as a primer or coating to canvases to give them the correct properties to receive paint. Without this layer of primer, the paint would soak into the weave and possibly damage the canvas material. When applying multiple layers of gesso, it is best to lightly sand each layer before applying the next one. Gesso can be applied to just about any surface and may be painted on with acrylic or oil paint. It can also be built up, molded into relief designs, or carved.

Gesture Drawing

A freehand drawing technique used by artists to quickly capture the action, form, and pose of a model or figure. It involves using the whole arm with loose movements, focusing on the shape rather than details. This method is beneficial in improving the hand and eye coordination for artists of all levels, from beginners to experienced.


(Pronounced “zee-clay”). A printmaking process usually on an IRIS inkjet printer to make reproductions of a photograph or painting. The printer can produce a vast range of colors, resulting in prints that are of exceptionally high quality.


An acronym for “Graphic Interchange Format,” an image format type generated specifically for computer use. Its resolution is usually very low (72 dpi, or that of your computer screen), making it undesirable for printing purposes.

Gild the Lily

A phrase meaning to add unnecessary ornamentation to something already beautiful.


The application of a gold finish. It is achieved by applying gold leaf or by using metallic powders.


A thin layer of translucent acrylic or oil paint that is applied to all or part of a painting to modify the tone or color underneath. Glazing is the process of using this technique.

Gold Leaf

An extremely thin tissue of gold used for gilding.

Golden Ratio

golden mean diagram
The Golden Ratio

A compositional technique that creates harmonious proportions in paintings by utilizing a mathematical ratio found in nature. It is an actual ratio of 1:1.618, which can be demonstrated by drawing a rectangle with a width of 1 and a length of 1.618. Within this rectangle, there is a square with a ratio of 1:1 and another rectangle with a ratio of 1:1.618. If another square is drawn within the smaller rectangle, it will have a ratio of 1:1 and another rectangle with a ratio of 1:1.618. This ratio can create beauty and balance in the layout and design of all paintings. The point where the diagonal lines intersect is crucial when using this ratio to compose your paintings, as it is infinitely divisible, allowing multiple intersections for sub-elements. Also referred as the “golden mean.”


See “iridescence.”

Good Design Principles

The basic building blocks an artist uses to organize or arrange the various elements that comprise a design or composition within a work of art. The principles are balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, proportion, space, unity, and visual economy. Also referred to as the “principles of design” or the “principles of composition.”

Gothic Art

A medieval style of art originating in Northern France in the 12th century. It is characterized by intricate detailing, ornate designs, and religious themes. Emerging from Romanesque art and Gothic architecture, it is often associated with towering cathedrals with pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and elaborate stained glass. The term Gothic was coined by Renaissance Italian writers who attributed the development of medieval architecture to the barbarian Gothic tribes that destroyed the Roman Empire and its classical culture in the 5th century.


A type of watercolor paint made heavier and more opaque by the addition of a white pigment (chalk, Chinese white, etc.) in a gum arabic mixture. This results in a stronger color than ordinary watercolor.


The gradual transition from one color to another, from lighter to darker shades, or large shapes to smaller ones.

Graffiti Art

Refers to forms of art (or vandalism) where images or text have been spray-painted, sketched, or even scratched onto walls, sidewalks, or other publicly accessible areas. Public response to graffiti is not always favorable. Enthusiasts say that unauthorized or illegal art comes from a desire to make cityscapes more attractive by painting over blank or barren walls.

Graphic Art

A diverse visual expression, often created on flat surfaces. It uses a variety of techniques to represent subjects, including drawing, painting, and photography. It also includes decorative elements, patterns, and designs for aesthetic purposes. Graphic art can be textual or use printing techniques like engraving. Most graphic art is two-dimensional, with emphasis on line, color, and tone. It combines creativity, technique, and visual communication to create captivating and expressive works.

Graphic Artist

Graphic artists are creative professionals who create visual materials to convey emotions, stories, and messages to audiences. They focus on artistic expression and work in both traditional and digital media. They create original artwork, illustrations, or animations for various projects, including advertisements, posters, book covers, comic books, graphic novels, animations, film illustrations, and cartoons. Graphic artists use their skills and tools to design images, logos, illustrations, animations, and other elements for various media and purposes.

Graphic Design

The applied art of arranging images and text to communicate a message. It may be applied in any media, such as print, digital media, motion pictures, animation, product decoration, packaging, and signs. Graphic design as a practice can be traced back to the origin of the written word, but only in the late 19th century did it become identified as a separate entity.

Graphic Designer

A specialist who creates and communicates visual concepts through the integration of technology and art. Graphic designers focus on effective communication strategies within specified specifications utilizing text, images, colors, fonts, and other elements to design and layout information for a variety of mediums such as websites, printed pages, brochures, magazines, bannes, and advertisements. Their goal is to inform, inspire, and captivate consumers with their designs, reflecting the desired message and brand of their clients or customers. They ensure readability and aesthetically pleasing layouts using principles like contrast, balance, and visual hierarchy.

The terms is often used interchangeably with “graphic artist.”


A soft, black, lustrous mineral made of carbon that is used in lead pencils, paints, crucibles, and lubricants.


The range of gray tones between black and white (see illustration).

art vocabulary and meanings


GreenOne of the secondary colors that is created when the two primary colors of blue and yellow are mixed. See Secondary Colors. The complement or opposite of the color red. Part of the RGB color model used on television and computer screens.


Refers to a series of crossed lines that meet to form a boxed pattern used in the predetermined placement of photographs and graphic elements on a canvas. Helpful in creating compositions.

Grid Enlarging

grid enlargingThe process of using a grid to enlarge an image; for copying very precisely another image on the same or a different scale, usually larger; used in scaling an image by drawing. For more information on using this method, see the article titled Using a Grid to Enlarge and Transfer an Image to Canvas.


Monochrome painting generally employs shades of gray executed in a black pigment and an inert white pigment in oil, gouache, or tempera; a stained-glass window incorporating muted tones as opposed to bright colors.

Guerrilla Art

art vocabulary and meanings
Street art by Banksy.

A term often used interchangeably with “street art.” Guerrilla art is a form of art-making that entails installing unauthorized works of art in public places. This form of art expression allows the artist to express their views and opinions to a large audience anonymously. Such statements can be either political or merely to call attention to one’s surroundings. Guerrilla art differs from other forms of art. It is environmental and is not created on traditional supports such as a canvas. Such traditional art forms can be moved from gallery to gallery without any effect on the piece or its meaning; however, this is not so with street art. The surface to which street art is applied can be as fundamental to the piece’s meaning as the image itself.

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Contributing to The Art Dictionary

This art dictionary is a work in progress. New terms and definitions are added on a regular basis. If you know of an art term and definition that isn’t already listed in it, but you believe it should be, send it to us and we’ll consider adding it. We’ll let you know if we do. Thanks!

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