Art Terms and Definitions — S

Sable Brush     |     Symmetrical Ballance

A dictionary of art terms and definitions that begin with the letter S.

Sable Brush 
An artist’s brush made of sable hairs. Click for more information on sable brushes.
Sacred Art
See “Religious Art.”
Sand Art
The art of pouring different colored sand into a plastic or glass bottle to create a scene or image.
The art of pouring colored sands and pigments onto a surface to make a temporary or permanent picture.
Sand Sculpture
The art of modeling sand into an artistic form. Sandcastles are a common form of this type of art form; however, sand sculpting has progressed into more elaborate sculptures that you would expect to see in stone, bronze, or wood.
Sans Serif
Art Terms and Definitions -- S In typography, a typeface, such as Arial and Helvetica that does not have a serif (crossline) decorating the main strokes of the characters. Sans is French for “without” (see illustration).
Screen Art 
Artwork which has been set up for the screen printing process. It is essential that the artwork is set up correctly to obtain good results in screen printing.
Screen Printing 
Art Terms and Definitions -- SA printing technique used to apply inked images to an underlying layer using a mesh stencil or a series of stencils. The ink is distributed to the desired area(s) by being pressed through a porous screen made from fabric (silk or synthetic) stretched tightly over a frame, hence the name Screen Printing. Also referred to as silk screening or silkscreen printing because silk was once used in the process. The most popular screen in general use is made of polyester. This process is used in printing screen art onto garments, such as T-shirts and sweatshirts, and such items as tote bags, towels, umbrellas, etc.
An artist who creates sculptures.
Any three-dimensional form created as an artistic expression. Sculpture is primarily concerned with space: occupying it, relating to it, and influencing the perception of it.
A painting or work of pictorial art that depicts the sea or a scene that includes the sea; a painting representing an expansive view of the ocean or sea; a picture or painting showing life around the sea. Click for more information about seascapes.
Secondary Colors 
secondary colors on the color wheelGreen, violet, and orange. These three colors are derived from mixing equal amounts of two primary colors (red, yellow, and blue). Green is the result of mixing blue and yellow. Violet is the result of mixing red and blue, and orange is the resulting color by mixing red and yellow.
Self Portrait
Self Portrait by Vincent van Gogh
Self Portrait by Vincent van Gogh, 1889

A portrait an artist makes using himself or herself as the subject, typically drawn or painted from a reflection in a mirror. Also, a portrait taken by the photographer of himself, either in a mirror, using a remote release, or with a self-timer.

A reddish-brown hue sometimes applied to black-and-white pictures, which gives the finished print an antique appearance often associated with monochrome photographs of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
See “Heptaptych“.
In typography, serifs are the small features at the end of strokes within letters (see san serif illustration above).
A color produced by adding black to a pigment.
shading graphicShowing changes from light to dark or dark to light in a picture by darkening areas that would be shadowed and leaving other areas light. Shading is often used to produce illusions of dimension and depth (see illustration).
An area that stands out from the space next to it or around it because of a defined boundary or a difference in value, color, or texture.
A form of limonite clay most famous in the production of oil paint pigments. Its yellow-brown color comes from ferric oxides contained within. As a natural pigment, it (along with its chemical cousins ochre and umber) was one of the first pigments to be used by humans and is found in many cave paintings.
A dark image outlined against a lighter background.
The understanding of what is and is not essential in a design. Details that do not have a significant impact on the design are omitted to keep it uncluttered.
A rough drawing used to capture the basic elements and structure of a situation often used as the basis for more detailed work.
The interval or measurable distance between pre-established points.
Space Art
A modern-day art movement still in its infancy. Sometimes referred to as astronomical art. Space art strives to show the majesty of the universe by depicting interstellar and interplanetary elements as its subject matter.  Click for more information about space art.
Stained Glass
stained glass graphicGlass that has been colored or stained through different processes. This term is also used to refer to the art of cutting colored glass into various shapes and joining them together with lead strips to create a pictorial window design (see illustration).
A sculpture representing a human or animal.
Stiff paper (or other sheet material) with a design cut into it as a template for shapes meant to be copied. Also, a method of applying a design by brushing ink or paint through a cut-out surface.
A decorative technique in the visual arts where an image is created by passing ink or paint through the cut-out perforations of a stencil onto an underlying surface.
Still Life 
A painting or other two-dimensional work of art representing inanimate objects such as bottles, fruit, and flowers. Also, the arrangement of these objects from which a drawing, painting, or other artwork is made. Click for more information about still life art.
A drawing technique consisting of many small dots or specks to construct the image; method of using small dots to simulate varying degrees of solidity or shading; to paint, engrave, or draw using dots or small touches of the brush, pen, or other tools.
A kind of pencil consisting of a tight roll of paper or soft leather, or a cylindrical piece of rubber or other soft material used to rub down hard lines in pencil or crayon drawing to blend the lines of shading to produce a uniform tint.
Street Art
A form of contemporary art intended to be experienced outside of the typical art gallery setting, as in out on the street. It encompasses a variety of mediums like painting, sculpture, or stained glass. Public murals are the most common form of street art. It is not considered to be the same as graffiti.
Stretcher Frame
stretcher bars graphicA wooden frame over which the canvas of a painting is stretched (see illustration). For information about stretcher bar frames, click on the link.
Subject Matter 
The topic dealt with or the subject represented in a work of art. The subject matter is what the artist has chosen to paint, draw or sculpt.
The material providing a surface upon which an artist applies color, collage, etc.
Art Terms and Definitions -- SAn art style developed in Europe in the 1920s, characterized by using the subconscious as a source of creativity to liberate pictorial subjects and ideas. Surrealist paintings often depict unexpected or irrational objects in an atmosphere of fantasy, creating a dreamlike scenario; An art movement in which one’s dreams, nightmares, subconsciousness, and fantasy inspired the final works. Click for more information about the surrealism art style.
Symmetrical Balance 
The placing of identical forms to either side of the central axis of a work to stabilize it visually.

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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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UPDATED: 13 March 2023

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