Increasing your Vocabulary

There are a lot of words out there! When we use vocabulary in speaking we often utilise just a fraction of the range of words available to us. That is fine in conversation, but when we come to writing, it is a different matter. Writing, and for us writing about art, is a formal matter. When writing an essay or dissertation, a press release or report we need to engage language rather differently than when chatting with friends. One of the tasks we have is to increase our vocabulary. To help us do this a dictionary and thesaurus is indispensable, as is reading articles and books about art – and jotting down good phrases and useful words which you might want to use yourself at some point.


Elements of Art and vocabulary: Take for instance, the element of shape. I might be writing an analysis of Picasso’s The Dream which will require me to talk about curves in contrast to straight lines. There are quite a lot of curves in that picture, but it would sound very repetitive if I kept using that one word only. So if I looked up the word in a thesaurus I would find a whole list of words with similar meanings: arc, bow, crescent, half-moon, dome, sickle-shape. From that array I could then choose which word fits better, and include a range of ‘curve’ words, which will make the paragraph read much more fluently.

Here is an example: ‘ A curve of paint is the closed eye, and next to it is a pale curve of the eyebrow … all these curved shapes create the effect of softness’. That’s a bit clunky, with lots of ‘curves’! Here is how I changed it. ‘A slim arc of bold paint intimates the closed eye of the dreamer, sided by a pale crescent for the eyebrow… All these curved shapes create the effect of smoothness and softness’. Little changes make a big difference.

So, get building your vocabulary! Jot down your findings in a notebook/device and see what fun you can have using them in your essay.

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