13 basic art concepts any art enthusiast should know

Golden ratio, linear or point-projection perspective, and other terms you should know if you really want to understand art.

It is difficult to know all the concepts of art and delve into them as we would like, but if you want to dedicate yourself to art, at least, you should know the basic references that allow you to start with your creations. Don’t think you need to go to school, there are highly recognized artists, whose paintings sell in millions and who never went to a formal art school.

The ‘enfant terrible’ of art, Basquiat, began his work after attending a school for the gifted and visiting museums in his childhood. Now his works are priced in the millions for a fresh proposal that was born in the streets of New York.


Neither Francis Bacon, the great expressionist, attended school to master the emotions on canvas. In fact, Bacon never had a formal education due to health and economic problems, so with an unstable education, the only doctrine he had was that of the Australian artist Roy De Maistre.

So, remember that even if your artistic education is informal, you can get into art or appreciate it better through these concepts.


Aerial perspective

Coined by Leonardo da Vinci, this term refers to the technique used to produce the sensation of depth in a painting. The farther away, Leonardo da Vinci theorized, the more objects are covered with a bluish or hazy hue, depending on whether it is at a medium or far distance.

Linear or point-projection perspective

When painters alter the proportions to adapt the representation with perspective, we speak of foreshortening. The art dictionary of Fatás and Borrás, says that it is the “way of representing a figure that in reality would be arranged perpendicularly or obliquely to the plane in which it has been represented. In reality, all perspective requires the existence of a foreshortening, but it is only spoken of when it is pronounced,” that is to say when it is very marked.



Chiaroscuro refers to the technique of contrasts between light and shadows. With a correct distribution of these, they oppose and complement each other. When this contrast is very marked, we speak of the pictorial technique of chiaroscuro, which helps to highlight some elements of the painting. Caravaggio managed to make chiaroscuro a masterful technique that made him stand out among the rest of the artists, becoming one of the best painters. Later, Rembrandt stood out with his compositions through this game of contrasts.


Most commonly used in photography, appropriation is taking an image from someone else to incorporate it into what we do, which calls into question concepts such as originality and authenticity. It is said that appropriation is the illegitimate child of copying and refers to a great extent to the constant contemporary production that constitutes itself as a discourse.



It is an idealized prototype or the original and primary model. That is why it is said to be what inspired art since the Paleolithic.


Harmony is the aesthetic principle related to formal values that encompass principles such as symmetry, balance, and proportion. If the elements are related and provoke delight, the fulfillment of work, they assured, was fulfilled. Thanks to the distribution of the parts in a logical way, they are related like a living organism in the function of content.


Golden ratio

Also known as divine proportion; it is one of the first rules of photographic composition and has been used since antiquity. This ratio is based on the irrational number that links two segments of the same straight line. It divides spaces and areas in a pleasing image. With mathematical investigations, they found the golden number or Phi Number: the researchers divided two parts, A and B to express it as follows: (A + B)/A = A/B.

Then, Fibonacci made a succession of infinite numbers in which the succession of digits is the sum of the two previous ones. And then, when representing it graphically, the typical snail we all know is formed.



Duchamp said that painters did not make art, but that work was in charge of the illuminators and the spectators. In art, good lighting can condition the final result of the work. However, the role of light is not only the discourse of the painting: all objects in nature are visible through the light that shines on them, and with it, we see everything that composes anything. Color and texture are relative properties of light and are manifested whenever there is light.

Theory of color

Although color itself does not exist and is a subjective appreciation, it can be defined as a stimulation of the eye and its mechanisms by the light energy we perceive. It can become the visual translation of our senses and, through it, we can give the sensation of cold, irritating, hot, appetizing, or tropical. White light is made up of the three primary colors of light: red, blue, and green. The primary pigment colors are cyan, magenta, and yellow. In psychology and under Ewald Haring’s theory of the composition process, the primaries are distinguished into red, blue, green, and yellow. The other colors are simply a combination of these.



The mastery of any art such as painting, writing, sculpting, or composing music is technique. This will give the artist greater freedom to express beauty.

Artistic trend

Refers to the artistic movement that becomes a trend, with a common philosophy and style. Different artists, whether known or not, follow the principles of this movement during a period. Renaissance or Baroque are two good examples.



A group of artists who work under the influence of a single master or have similarities because they are from the same region or practice a local style.


We would all like to have one. A patron is a person or foundation that protects and promotes someone’s work. Buñuel’s “The Golden Age” was made thanks to Viscounts Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles. Picasso received preferential treatment from Gertrude Stein, and Peggy Guggenheim exhibited Pollock’s works in her gallery for the first time.


Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva

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