trompe l’oeil

  trohmp LAY´ (French, ‘deceives the eye’) The term trompe l’oeil refers to a visual illusion that tricks the viewer into seeing flat, painted detail as three-dimensional. While the technique appears in fine art from time to time (figures crawling out of frames, insects that seem … Continue reading


TRIP´-tick A triptych (rhymes with cryptic) is a painting or carving consisting of three separate canvases or panels meant to be displayed as a group. The term comes from the Greek triptychos, ‘having three folds,’ a word both the ancient Greeks and Romans employed to refer to a hinged … Continue reading


sfoo-MAW´-toh If you’ve ever driven around Los Angeles, you’ve experienced the phenomenon of sfumato. Through the smog, everything takes on a misty, ethereal quality—Golden Arches meld imperceptibly with the San Gabriel Mountains, palm fronds dissipate into the gray of the Disneyland … Continue reading

screen print

A screen print is a print made through the process of screen printing, in which paint is forced through a mesh screen stretched over a wooden frame. The technique is also referred to as silkscreen printing, since early screens were made exclusively of silk. Today, screens are also made of … Continue reading

plein air

plane-AIR´ (French, ‘open air’) The term plein air is used to describe paintings executed outdoors, as well as the practice of painting or sketching outside, known as painting en plein air. Artists began making outdoor sketches in the 17th century, but the invention of paint tubes in the … Continue reading