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Art Vocabulary to Teach Your Chinese Students

Many schools for expats in Shanghai allow their students to learn Art. Teachers pursuing teaching jobs in China can now teach art and help students learn English to describe, understand, and appreciate art. These students need to familiarize themselves with proper art vocabulary.

Art Vocabulary to Teach Your Chinese Students

Understanding art vocabulary is central to comprehending various concepts, ideas, themes, and emotions portrayed in art pieces. It also enables students to connect, develop, and show artistic emotions through different art professionally. Art vocabulary plays an essential part in communication, as it allows students to maximize their creative potential.

Here are twelve terms to teach your Chinese students:

1. Line

The line is a continuous mark on a surface or moving point. Various artists consider a line that strays, resulting in a beautiful shape. The line is essential because it suggests shape, depth, form, pattern, distance, and emotions. All other aspects of artistic representation start with line drawings.

Lines can be straight, zigzag, round, wavy, broken, or round. At the same time, you can join lines to form shapes. For example, three straight lines can form a triangle, while four straight lines can form a square, rectangle, or rhombus.

2. Form

The form describes the elements of visual art relative to the shape or physical design of an art piece. The form explains how an artwork occupies space in its canvas and translates to imagination and reality. It can also encompass other design principles like width, length, and depth of a specific shape. By learning the meaning of form, your students can easily interpret artworks in detail.

3. Shape

Shape describes an enclosed space, usually a two-dimensional form bounded by length and width. The shape can be defined with other artistic elements like colors, lines, textures, etc. Shape provides geometric and natural perspectives helping to enhance various representations.

While defining shape, it is essential to remember that shapes come in dimensions, and a good example is the 2D and 3D dimensions.

4. Texture

The texture of an artwork denotes the supposed surface quality, and it may vary depending on the type of artwork. For instance, it can be physical, where you experience it through sight and touch, or emotional, where you experience it through sight and relate it to an experience. Students need to understand how to correlate artistic texture in artworks with their experiences in the world. This

5. Value

Value in art defines the lightness or darkness of any hue or color expressed in an artwork. It may occasionally interchange with shade because it is a visual scale or gradient from light to dark. Value is essential in art because it creates depth, boundaries, and texture. The tonal variance of an image, which is the difference between its darkest and lightest shades, play a crucial role in enhancing the quality of an artwork.

6. Subject Matter

Subject matter in art is the topic, image, or focus, and it specifically answers the question of what is in any artistic piece. Subject matter representations in any art piece may take portraiture, still-life, landscape, or abstract forms. The creator may use various concepts to represent their subject matter based on the emotion they wish to portray. The subject matter is at the forefront of the artwork and is supported by the background to create or send a unique message.

7. Proportion

Proportion in art describes the relationship between one form or shape and another regarding the size. Proportion is significantly essential in art because it creates a sense of reality, such as comparing one image to another to make sense of size. Art pieces with great use of proportion result in a balanced and harmonious artwork.

8. Motif

A motif is a recurring pattern or fragment in a piece of art used by the artist to create a specific feeling important to the message shared. Motifs are vital elements of an image that develop stories figuratively or narratively. Artists use motifs to create rhythms that help tell their story or pass their message effectively by evoking emotion.

9. Focal Point

The focal point is the area that demands or attracts the viewer’s attention. Focal points are essential in artistic images because they show the central part of an artwork. Artists can change the emotion or message of an art piece simply by moving the focal point of their art pieces. At the same time, they can direct their viewers towards a precise area according to their intention and message.

10. Pattern

A pattern is a design where an artist repeats colors, shapes, lines, and forms to create the desired emotion. The pattern may be regular or irregular. Irregular patterns lack any sense of symmetry, structure, or continuity, while regular patterns possess those elements.

11. Emphasis

The emphasis in art is used when artists make a specific element dominant to create a focal point. Emphasis is essential in art pieces because they help direct viewers to areas or locations with the most important messages or emotions. Without directing attention to the focal point, viewers may often miss the point or overlook the creativity in an artwork. For students, they must understand what language the artist uses and what elements they emphasize to ensure their message is passed across clearly.

12. Color

Color is the aspect of any object and is usually described in hue, contrast, and saturation. Colors can be ground as primary, secondary, or tertiary colors. Primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. On the other hand, secondary colours are achieved by mixing two primary colors, and they include purple, green, and orange. Tertiary colors are made by mixing primary colors with secondary colors. An example of a tertiary color is amber.

Colors can also be described as warm or cool. Warm colors include yellow, orange, and red. Artists use these colors to emphasize a specific emotion relative to their message, while cool colors like green, blue, and purple represent nature – the calm waters and the open blue skies.


Art vocabulary is essential to helping students interpret and understand the message portrayed in art. Furthermore, understanding the terminologies and applying them in their classes helps them engage in meaningful artistic conversations with their peers. When Chinese students master the vocabularies above, expressing their ideas becomes more effortless. The first step of creating or understanding the true worth of any artwork is knowing how to fuse concepts, thoughts, and emotions in an artistic perspective for your audience to enjoy.

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