Art terms: M-R



The medium of an artwork can be the materials used by the artist to create it (e.g. oil paint, watercolour, marble) as well as the method used to create it (e.g. painting, drawing, photography).


The central area of a composition, or the middle third of a painting.


The technique of using shading to make objects and figures in a 2-D artwork look 3-D.


An artwork that is created using only varying shades of a single colour.


Narrative painting

A painting that tells a story.



Artists use perspective to create the illusion of a three-dimensional space on the two-dimensional surface of the canvas or paper. Types of perspective include: linear perspective, whereby objects in the foreground of the painting are larger than those in the background; atmospheric perspective, whereby forms in the foreground are more brightly coloured and detailed than those in the background.

Plein air painting

Painting outdoors in direct response to nature and natural light.

Preparatory sketch

A sketch or drawing created by an artist when planning the composition of an artwork.



Realistic painting

A painting that convincingly represents the world.

(in) Reserve

Areas of canvas that are not covered with paint are referred to as being left in reserve.