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Word of the Day!


In personal computing, software and applications that combine text, high quality sound, graphics, and animation or video.


An animal whose hair is used for making fine soft brushes.

sacra conversazione

A religious composition in which saints, the Virgin Mary, and Baby Jesus are joined in a space, appearing to be in conversation.

Example: Giovanni Bellini's San Giobe Altarpiece, c. 1490

sand casting (or sand molding)

A method of casting in metal in which a mold is made by firmly packing layers of very fine damp sand around a sculpture. When the original is removed an exact impression is left in the sand. The more complex is the form to be cast, the more likely it will be a piece mold, and of several pieces. Medals were commonly cast in sand molds during the Renaissance. Sand casting was employed greatly in the nineteenth century for the creation of bronze sculpture in edition, most famously by French foundries. The equivalent to the sand mold in lost-wax casting is the investment.


A sedimentary rock formed by the compacting of grit or sand with a high silica content bound in a natural cement-- the silica itself. Many types of sandstone are soft and easily eroded, but some are quite hard and durable. Sandstone is generally more difficult to carve than limestone, for the particles wear down the metal of the chisel. Some sandstone can be polished.


A coffin or tomb made of stone or terracotta.

Example: Sarcophagus with reclining couple, Cerveteri, Italy, c. 520 B.C.

sash clamp

A straight clamp with adjustable fittings, used in wood construction.


See semi-matt.


In color, its purity of hue. A pure hue has the highest saturation.


To make scratches or creases in pieces of clay to be joined together. Scoring and applying slip to such roughened surfaces creates a bond that holds the pieces together. If slip acts as an adhesive, and scoring makes two pieces of clay like the opposite sides of a zipper, their combined action-- a zipped zipper with hardened adhesive inside-- should be permanent.


A tool with a broad metal blade which is fairly rigid, but not honed to a cutting edge.


In printing, a glass plate marked off with crossing lines, placed before the lens of a camera when photographing for halftone reproduction; or it may refer to silkscreen printing. And, a coarse sieve used for sifting out fine particles, as of sand from clay, or debris from paints or solvents. Also, the white or silver surface on which a picture is projected for viewing, or to show or project (a movie, for example) on a screen.


See silkscreen.


A metal tool with a sharp point used to draw fine accurate lines on a rigid material such as metal or plastic sheet.


A three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast.


A broken passage of opaque or translucent paint skimmed or dragged across the surface in such a way that each color is visible, each modifying the other. This technique was developed by the Venetian school of painters.

See Also:  draggingglazeoverpaintingunderpainting


A die or signet having a design or emblem which is in relief, used to stamp an impression on a temporarily soft substance such as hot wax or lead, or the impression made in this way. Seals have been affixed to documents to prove their authenticity or to secure them from tampering.

secondary colors

The colors obtained by mixing equal amounts of two primary colors. The secondary colors in pigment are orange, green, and violet; in light, they're magenta, yellow, and cyan.

See Also:  intermediate colors


A finish in gilding which is often achieved by giving a polish to the bole or other surface that is to receive the gold leaf. Semi-matt is known in Italian as satinato.


A substance applied to the inside surfaces and seams of a mold to prevent the casting from adhering to the mold; also variously known as a release agent, parting agent, or parting compound. A release agent for plaster may be a thin clay slip, or several applications of a soft liquid soap, or thin oil.


A brown drawing or painting material made from cuttlefish ink.

Example: Many Renaissance drawings or plans for larger paintings were executed in sepia tones.


A short stroke or fine line finishing off the main strokes of a letter, whether hand drawn or of type, as at the start and finish of the S's (as well as at the upper-left of the lower-case h) in the title of this page. Such strokes are characteristic of Roman letters. Common fonts which have serifs are Bookman, Caslon, New York, Palatino, and Times.


A stencil method of printmaking in which an image is imposed on a screen of silk or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance, and ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface. Also called silk-screen process and screen-printing. A serigraph is a print made by this method.


Transitions of dark to light in paintings that are blurred and smoky they are so gradual.

Example: Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, c. 1503-1505


A method of decorating or designing a surface, as of paint, plaster, or glazing, by scratching through a layer of one color to expose a different color underneath. Examples include: scratching through a layer of wet paint to reveal dry paint or gilding beneath, and scratching through unfired glaze to reveal the ceramic body beneath, The Italian word meaning to scratch. (pr. sgrah-fee'toh)


A color to which black or another dark hue has been added to make it darker. For example, black added to green makes it a darker shade of green. Value changes from pure hues are called shades and tints.

See Also:  chiaroscurogradationtone


Showing gradual change 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 used to create the illusions of dimension and depth.


A glossy, lustrous surface, such as found on satin.


Lac is a resinous substance secreted by the lac insect, and found on trees in southeast Asia. It is melted into plates (which resemble shells) and used in the manufacture of a varnish which provides a golden translucent finish that darkens with age. Shellac has been used most frequently as a coating on wood, but also on bronzes and plaster casts. It can be toned with various pigments.

See Also:  lacquer


In Hindu temples, the mountain-like tower which marks the sanctuary.

Example: Rajarajeshvara Temple, Tanjore, India, c. 1000


A thin brass strip used to divide the surface of a modeled sculpture into sections for a piece mold.


In Japanese tradition, a calligraphic term referring to formal or static brush strokes.


The design or use of signs and symbols. Signage may include billboards, posters, placards, etc. It may refer to a number of signs thought of as a group.

silica (or silicate; silicon)

A hard mineral substance found in various natural deposits. Silica ground into a granular form is a component of glass and ceramic bodies, cement and abrasives, and, further refined as silicon, in computer chips.

See Also:  silicone rubber

silicone rubber

A cold cure molding polymer compound which can withstand the heat of molten lead. It is mixed from a rubber based solution and a catalyst. Silicone rubber is used for small scale casting. As a gel, silicone is available in tubes from any hardware store. The transparent kind is preferable because it permits the sculptor to see air bubbles. A technique some employ: first extrude it under water, then apply it to the model to make a flexible mold. If a thick mass is needed, it is best applied in coats. While silicone's surface can cure rapidly, if too thick a coat is made at once, the interior will not cure in an acceptable time. Many such products are hazardous. Read labels well and follow all cautionary advice.

See Also:  release agent


A stencil method of printmaking in which an image is imposed on a screen of silk or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance, and ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface. Also called serigraphy and screen-printing.


A type of schist which is dark gray and brown.


A lustrous nearly white, ductile, malleable metallic element. Silver reacts with hydrogen sulfide in air to form silver sulfide-- tarnish. It is used for sculpture, jewelry, tableware, and other ornamentations, and is widely used in coinage, photography, dental and soldering alloys, electrical contacts, and printed circuits. Silver may be cast, embossed, inlaid, or worked as wire, foil, or leaf.

silver leaf

Silver which has been beaten into as thin a sheet as it can be. It can be applied with the same techniques used for gold and other types of leaf. Because it tarnishes easily, unless it is coated with a durable varnish, it will eventually blacken.

silverpoint (or silver point)

A drawing point made of silver, which is used on a gesso coated surface, or the use of this technique, or the drawings made with it.


The shaping of a malleable metal such as silver or gold by hammering it into a depression. Sinking is generally done to a sheet of metal.

See Also:  bossembossraisingrepousséwrought iron

sinopia (or sinopie)

A reddish-brown earth color. Also, the cartoon or underpainting for a fresco.


Any of several gooey substances usually made from glue (the best is made from rabbit skin), wax, or clay, and used as a glaze or filler for porous materials such as paper, cloth, or wall surfaces, and used in sizing. Also, the physical dimensions, proportions, magnitude, or extent of an object. Size is one of the perspective tools an artist can use to create an illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface, in that the nearer an object is the larger it appears to be, and the farther it is the smaller it appears to be.


Treatment of a fabric or other surface with size-- any of several gooey substances usually made from glue (the best is made from rabbit skin), wax, or clay and used as a glaze or filler for porous materials such as paper, cloth, or wall surfaces. Sizing prepares the surface of a support for priming and painting.


A quick drawing that loosely captures the appearance or action of a place or situation. Sketches are often done in preparation for larger, more detailed works of art. A sculptural sketch too is a quickly or loosely produced sculpture, typically made in working out ideas which the sculptor might later execute with more detail or in more expensive or more time-demanding materials.

slab construction

A pottery technique in which a form is built up by joining shapes cut from thick sheets of damp clay.

See Also:  scoringslip


A metamorphic rock that splits into thin layers, most commonly used for roofing and writing surfaces, but sometimes for sculpture. May also refer to the medium-gray to black color of this rock.


An opaque, creamy liquid made by mixing finely ground clay with water. Slip is an inevitable byproduct of working on a potter's wheel, its name having resulted from potters' use of water to keep the spinning clay slippery as it's worked. Slip is also used in the making of pottery to cement together parts that have been formed separately; in slip casting, and in decorating surfaces.

See Also:  gessoscoring

slip casting

Slush casting by pouring slip into a plaster mold, and then leaving it until a thick skin forms inside the mold. The excess slip is poured out and the hollow cast left to harden. It was introduced into many European porcelain factories in the eighteenth century, and was commonly employed for the casting of terracotta sculpture in the nineteenth century.


A small abrasive stone used to sharpen the inside curve or angle of a gouge or V-tool.


A mixture of plastic clay and water, useful in ceramics in many of the ways that slip is.

slush casting

A method of hollow casting in which a liquid or molten substance is hardened against the walls of a cold mold, generally with the aim of making a cast with very thin walls. The mold is rocked and rolled to insure that all of the smallest spaces are reached, and the walls are more or less even. Excess material is often poured out. Chocolate is regularly cast into bunnies and other shapes in his way. The indirect cast wax model in lost-wax casting is cast in this way in a plaster mold which has first been moistened. Plaster can itself be slush cast. Slip casting is a type of slush casting.

See Also:  release agent


The colored glass or enamel used in mosaics.


Steatite; a soft metamorphic rock composed mostly of the mineral talc. Soapstone is used in China for small figurative sculpture similar to work in jade, and in Byzantium it was used for sculpture similar to work in ivory In India whole temples with highly ornate carving have been carved of soapstone.


A method of joining pieces of metal by melting an alloy of tin and lead into the joint to fuse the two edges together. A soldered joint will not withstand much stress.

See Also:  temperaturewelding


Able to be dissolved.

See Also:  aqueoussolventwater-soluble



See Also:  solvent


A liquid substance which is able to solve (dissolve) another substance, either for cleaning, mixing, or some particular step in an art technique. Common solvents include water (especially when soapy), turpentine and paint thinner, alcohols, acetone, lacquer thinner, toluene, plastic cement (model airplane cement), and naphtha. Solvents are commonly available at hardware stores, as well as at art supply stores. All solvents can be dangerous--most are toxic, volatile, and flammable-- so be sure to study their labels carefully, in order to handle, store, and dispose of them properly. Keep them out of the reach of children.


A simple rounded or blunt modeling tool in a flat, elongated shape, and often somewhat flexible. Spatulas are made from wood, plastic, horn, and metal, and generally used with soft materials such as clay, paint, and wax.


A distribution of colors, arranged in order of wavelengths, which make up the light from any particular source. A rainbow is a natural display of the visible spectrum. The plural form can be either spectra or spectrums.

split complements

One color plus the two colors that are on either side of its complement on the color wheel. For example, the complement of orange is blue, and the two colors on either side of blue are blue-green and blue-violet. Therefore the split complements of orange are blue-green and blue-violet.


A small planing tool for cutting away a thin slice of wood. It consists of a blade with a handle at either end.


In lost-wax casting, a channel through which molten metal can enter a mold (runners) and air and gas can escape (risers ). This term applies to the wax rods attached to the wax model that result in the formation of these channels, and for the rods of metal that may be cast within channels once metal is put into the mold. In some regions, to attach the wax rods is called spruing, in others it is called rodding.

stained glass

Glass that is tinted with color, cut, and placed in elaborate designs. Rosary windows of stained glass in cathedrals often form the focal points of the west facades.

Example: Rosary windows, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France, begun 1163


The point at which a graphic artist makes a number of prints from his block, plate, stone or screen. If he alters his print design at all, this first series of impressions is called the first state. A second series, made after the design changes, is a second state. This can go on indefinitely until a final state is produced.


A colorless, odorless, wax -like ester of glycerol and stearic acid, derived from animal and vegetable fats and used in candle and modeling waxes, and to supplement beeswax. (pr. stee'ah-ren)


Soapstone; a soft metamorphic rock composed mostly of the mineral talc. Soapstone is used in China for small figurative sculpture similar to work in jade, and in Byzantium it was used for sculpture similar to work in ivory. In India whole temples with highly ornate carving have been carved of steatite.


An alloy of iron and carbon capable of being tempered to many degrees of hardness.


Stiff paper with a design cut into it. Ink or paint forced through the design openings will produce a print on a flat surface placed beneath. Also, the image produced, and the process of making it.

See Also:  serigraphy


See silver.


The marks of blood left on Christ's feet and palms after being lowered from the cross. The stigmata often are depicted occurring on the hand and feet of saints.

Example: Giovanni Bellini's St. Francis

still life (or still-life)

A picture of inanimate objects.


A drawing or engraving method employing series of dots rather than lines.


Concreted earthy or mineral matter; rock. Examples are marble, granite, limestone, alabaster, sandstone, schist, and soapstone. In the printmaking process of lithography, a piece of limestone is traditionally used as the printing surface. Also, a unit of weight in Britain is a stone: equal to 14 pounds (6.4 kilograms).

See Also:  carvingchiseligneous rocksculpture

stucco relief

A technique for decorating architecture with wet plaster popular in Islamic architecture.

Example: Court of the Lions, the Alhambra, Granada, Spain, 1354-1391


A place where an artist or craftsman works, or where art is taught or studied.


A preparatory drawing.


The traits, historical aspects, and visual aesthetics of a group of painters or painter in time which cohesively convey stylistic similarities.

Example: The "Sweet Style" of Leonardo da Vinci's almond-shaped faces.


A pointed instrument used to grave into a softer surface.

See Also:  burinengravinggraffito


A trademark used for expanded polystyrene plastic, a light-weight, granular mass, usually worked in sheets or blocks, but also available in loose granules. Styrofoam is often mentioned in print as [lower-case s] styrofoam.

See Also:  foam board


An action which produces subtraction, or the removal of some material. Often refers to carving. Materials especially appropriate for subtractive sculpture in schools include clay, chalk, plaster, soft salt blocks, artificial sandstone, soap, and wax.

See Also:  erasuremodelingsolvent

subtractive color

Cyan, magenta and yellow are the three primary colors of the subtractive spectrum. When light illuminates an object, colors are subtracted from light rays because the object absorbs them. The colors that we see are those that are reflected back to our eye by the object. In theory, when equal quantities of subtractive primary colors are mixed, they should produce black. The subtractive spec­trum is most useful when it is used to explain the behavior of pigments.


The material providing a surface upon which an artist applies color, collage, etc. Also, holding up, as a base or column often does.

See Also:  armaturebuttresscanvaspanelpaper


The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object.

See Also:  supporttexture


A metal abrasive tool fitted with a replaceable blade, like a grater, so that small particles of material pass through and do not clog the cutting teeth. Surforms are available in a number of shapes-- flat, curved and rounded.

surrogate image

A representation, usually in photographic form, used for study.


A manufacturer's sample of a range of cloths, fabrics, paper, or other material.


Produced by synthesis. Artificial; not of natural origin.

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