Art Terms and Definitions — L

art reference An art reference dictionary containing words and descriptions beginning with the letter “L”. Terms are listed in alphabetical order, from LACQUER to LUMINOSITY. The list includes over 10 of the most regularly used art terminology in the art world.

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


Refers to a clear or colored finish material that dries to a hard, glossy finish. Usually applied with a sprayer, lacquer dries too quickly for smooth application with a brush unless specially formulated.

Land Art (Earth Art)

An art movement that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States and Great Britain as a response to the commercialization of art. It involved works made directly in the landscape, sculpting the land itself into earthworks or making structures in the landscape using natural materials found on-site, such as rocks, twigs, and soil. Land art sites were often far from metropolitan areas, emphasizing a connection to nature. Also known as Earth art, environmental art, and Earthworks.


art reference
The Grand Teton Mountains by Teresa Bernard

A painting, drawing, or photograph that depicts outdoor scenery, featuring mountains, valleys, meadows, trees, rivers, woodlands, the sky, and weather. They can even include farms and structures in the countryside. Fencing, bridges, barns, windmills, and farmhouses are examples of what one could expect to see in landscape art. For more on landscapes, click here.


In typography (rhymes with headings), the space between lines of type, often measured from the baseline of one line to the baseline of the next and less frequently measured from ascender to ascender. Dates back to hot metal days when strips of lead were inserted between lines of type to provide line spacing.

Life Drawing

Drawings of a human figure. Usually, nude figures are used so that the artist can understand how the muscles look and how light, tone, and shadow reflect around the body.

Light Table

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Light Table

A table that has a translucent top with a light shining up through it, made especially for working with negatives, viewing transparencies and slides, and pasting up artwork. Light tables are commonly utilized in graphic design trades, particularly in cartoons and comics, to trace designs and review film negatives, photoliths, or other artwork that can be placed on a table.


Refers to a paint’s ability to resist fading under ultraviolet light, determining the pigment’s retention of its original color. To determine the lightfastness of your oil paints, check the label and look for the official American Society for Testing and Materials Standard (ASTM) rating.

Lightfastness ratings are:

      • ASTM I—Excellent
      • ASTM II—Very Good
      • ASTM III—Not Sufficient


Refers to the similarity in appearance, character, or nature between persons or things.

Limited Edition

A limit placed on the number of prints produced in a special edition to create a print scarcity. Limited editions are signed and numbered by the artist. Once the prints in the edition have been sold out, the digital file is then destroyed by the Giclée Printmaker to maintain the integrity of the limited edition. The image will not be published again in the same form.

Limited Palette

still life with clay pottery
Still Life with Clay Pottery” by Teresa Bernard is done in earth tones using a limited color palette.

A painting style where an artist deliberately limits the number of colors used in a composition to a small selection. Many famous painters used this style, including John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, and Claude Monet.


A long, narrow mark connecting two points. It has one dimension — length. When two ends of a line meet, a shape is created. Lines can also create textures and patterns when combined with other lines. There are different types of lines they include: horizontal, vertical, diagonal, curved, organic, contour, geometric, and implied. An implied line is the path that the viewer’s eye takes as it moves along a path from form, color, or shape within a work of art.

Line Drawing (Line Art)

A drawing style that uses a pencil, pen or brush to create distinct straight lines or curves of a shape or form on a simple background. Line art is often one color and is used to depict two- or three-dimensional objects with no hue or shade variations.

Linear Perspective

vanishing pointA graphical system used by artists for creating the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface. The system is based on a scientifically or mathematically derived series of actual or implied lines intersecting at a vanishing point on the horizon. As objects move away from the viewer, they appear to grow smaller and converge toward the vanishing point. The vanishing point may be in any direction the viewer looks, including up, and may also be visible (on the canvas) or imaginary (somewhere off the canvas). Linear perspective determines the relative size of objects from the foreground to the background.

Linseed Oil

The most popular drying oil used as a painting medium. The medium hardens over several weeks as components of the oil polymerize to form an insoluble matrix. Driers can be added to accelerate this process.


Uses the principle that oil, and water don’t mix as the basis of the printing process, a method of printing using plates whose image areas attract ink and whose non-image areas repel ink. Non-image areas may be coated with water to repel the oily ink or have a surface, such as silicon, that repels ink.

Local Color

An object’s true color. The actual color, distinguished from the apparent color of objects and surfaces, is true color without shadows or reflections.


In typography, small letters of a typeface, as opposed to capital or uppercase letters. Derived from the location of the type cases where typographers used to store metal or wood letterforms.


An American landscape painting movement that flourished from the 1850s to the 1870s. It was distinguished by its emphasis on capturing the effects of natural light in peaceful and tranquil settings. Luminism had a significant influence on later American landscape art. It was instrumental in clearing the path for later art movements that also honored the American wilderness, such as the Hudson River School.


The illusion of light emanating from within a painting, creating a sense of brightness, glow, and radiance. It organizes scenes, defines detail, and conveys emotion. Artists use various methods to create luminosity, such as layering transparent paints or glazes, applying hard edges and soft highlights, or using chiaroscuro.

Art Glossary Links

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H     |     I       |     J     |     K     |     L     |     M     |     N

O     |     P     |     Q     |     R     |     S     |     T     |     U

V     |     W     |     X     |     Y     |     Z

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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