Art Terms and Definitions — I

art definitionsA word list of art definitions that begin with the letter “I”. The list below, which begins with ICON and ends with IVORY CARVING, has over 20 art terms that will give you a better understanding of art.

Quick links to more art definitions are located at the end of the list.

Icon

An artistic visual representation or symbol of anything considered holy and divine, such as God, saints, or deities. An icon could be a painting (including a relief painting), sculpture, or mosaic. It also refers to a little picture on a computer screen that represents the various functions of the computer. Generally, the user clicks on an icon to start an application or function.

Illusionism

A technique in art that creates the illusion of a real object or scene, or a sculpture where the artist portrays figures in a realistic manner, tricking the eye into believing the objects are real and occupying the same space as the viewer. A concept also known as mimesis.

Illustrate

To create designs and pictures for books, magazines, or other print or electronic media to clarify or explain the text or show what happens in a story.

Illustration

A visualization, such as a drawing, painting, photograph, or other work of art, stresses the subject more than form. The aim of an illustration is to elucidate or decorate a story, poem, or piece of textual information (such as a newspaper article) by providing a visual representation of something described in the text.

Illustration Board

Heavy paper or card appropriate for pencil, pen, watercolor, collage, etc.

Illustrator

A graphic artist who specializes in enhancing the written text by providing a visual representation that corresponds to the content of the associated text. Also refers to a computer illustration program developed by Adobe Systems, Inc.

Impasto

A painting technique where paint is applied thickly to a canvas or panel so that brushstrokes or palette knife marks are visible. Originating in 14th-century Italy, it gained popularity during the Renaissance, when artists like Michelangelo began using impasto in their sculptures and paintings.

Implied Line

A line in an artwork that is subtlety perceived by the viewer but has no physical shape and flows from one area to the next, implying continuation by similar direction and juxtaposition.

Impressionism

art definitions A loose, spontaneous style of painting that originated in France about 1870. Impressionism has the appearance of being rough and unfinished and is characterized by small, thin, visible brushstrokes.

Impressionist paintings are often painted outdoors to capture the natural sunlight and color of their subjects. Black is rarely used since impressionist artists prefer mixing and using dark tones and complementary colors. Impressionism is often a representation of an artist’s impression, rather than a detailed work. Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro were considered leaders of this artistic movement.

Imprimatura

An Italian term meaning “first paint layer,” is a transparent, toned stain applied to the canvas in painting. It is an initial layer that serves as a uniform ground and foundation for subsequent paint layers.

India Ink

A simple black or colored ink, made from a black pigment consisting of lampblack and glue, used for drawing and outlining, especially when inking comic books and comic strips.

Indian River School

An American art movement of the 1950s and early 1960s. A group of artists collaborated to create dramatic and power-filled images portraying scenes in Florida. The group was heavily influence by a Florida naturalist named, A.E. “Beanie” Backus. The group created their artworks using materials like Masonite, Upson board, canvas board and canvas. Furthermore, rather than selling through art galleries, the artists sold their work directly to customers along highways.

Industrial Design

The design of the mass-produced products of our everyday environment, from sinks and furniture to computers. The word was first used in America in the 1920s to characterize the work of specialized designers who worked on product design.

Insect Art

monarch butterfly small art painting
The Monarch Butterfly” painting by Teresa Bernard.

Refers to the illustration and depiction of insects in a detailed and accurate manner. It includes precise and realistic images of insects for research and education, as well as fine art that depicts their beauty and complexity. Artists make intriguing pieces based on the rich forms, colors, and features of numerous insects, such as butterfly wings and beetle armored exoskeletons. This special blend of science and creativity makes each insect a unique subject for artistic expression.

Insect art is also referred to as “entomological art”.

Intaglio

A printmaking technique where lines forming an image are cut into a metal plate and filled with ink. When a sheet of paper is pressed against the plate, a print of the image is formed.

Intensity (or saturation) of color

The purity or dullness of a color. A color’s purity is determined by whether it has been mixed with another hue and, if so, to what extent. The most vibrant colors are those right from the tube. Colors that have been combined with various hues are thought to be less intense. To reduce the intensity of a color, there are two options: 1) mix the color with gray or 2) mix the color with its complement.

Intermediate Colors

See “tertiary colors.”

Internal Focus

In the realm of art, refers to a creative approach where artists draw inspiration from their thoughts and feelings. These artists delve into their inner world, seeking to express intangible concepts, emotions, or ideas. Rather than strictly portraying external reality, they use physical objects as a means to convey what lies within them. Surrealism, post-impressionism, fauvism, cubism, and abstract expressionism are examples of art movements driven by internally focused artists. Also referred to as “internal vision.” Opposite of “external focus.”

International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA)

Asteroid Collision Course painting
Asteroid Collision Course” painting by Teresa Bernard

A global guild of artists that promotes astronomical and space art projects, using various mediums like painting, drawing, sculpting, blowing glass, and digital art to create space-themed images. For more on the IAAA, visit their website here.

Iridescence

A color change phenomenon that occurs on certain surfaces like an oil slick, soap bubble, or fish scales, that appears to gradually change color as the angle of view changes. This lustrous rainbow-like play of color is caused by differential refraction of light waves. Also known as “goniochromism.”

Irregular Curve

See “French curve.”

Ivory Carving

art definitions The carving or shaping of ivory into sculptures, ornaments, and decorative articles using animal tusks and teeth, notably from elephants, whales, and walruses, by using sharp cutting tools, either mechanically or manually.

Art Glossary Links

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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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