Just a few minutes reading this glossary, and you'll impress your friends with your knowledge of outdoor art styles, elements, techniques, protective finishes and other artful trivia. Then, when you're ready to choose outdoor art pieces for your own spaces, you'll impress yourself, too.
Architectural Ornamentation: Minor decorative items used to embellish buildings, such as rosettes, keystones, caps, garlands, wreaths and coats of arms. Often used separately as decorative outdoor art.
Armillary Sphere: A common outdoor metal sculpture. A model of the heavens, with rings representing the motion of the stars around Earth.
Atmospheric Lighting: Creating a mood either with artistic outdoor light fixtures or "painting" a picture with light of different qualities in strategic places within outdoor spaces.
Dimensional: A piece of art that contains three-dimensional qualities.
Exterior Acrylics: Paint formulated to be resistant to water and ultraviolet light, as well as other outdoor conditions.
Functional Art: Artistic objects designed to serve a useful function, as well as look good. Examples include benches, thermometers, lights, door handles, gates, plant stakes, stepping stones and mosaic sidewalks.
Frieze: A long painted or carved design, often showing a sequence of scenes. Usually positioned just above eye level.
Giclee: Any high-quality digitized ink-jet print. In outdoor art, giclee is printed on weatherproof canvas and sealed against the elements.
Galvanization: Applying a thin protective coating of metal over steel to protect it from the elements and keep it from rusting. Originally involved an electrochemical process named after Italian scientist Luigi Galvani. Now includes other processes, including hot-dip galvanization.
Interactive Art: Artistic pieces designed to be used in a hands-on manner by viewers. Includes bells, spinners, wading pools and unique interactive items, such as whistling tubes people can turn to catch the wind.
Metal alloy: A combination of metals that creates qualities best for certain uses. Tin and copper combine to make bronze, for example, one of the most durable and most beautiful metals used in outdoor sculpture.
Mosaic: The art of creating pictures and designs by assembling small pieces of glass, ceramic or stone.
Patina: A colorful film on the surface of metals produced by oxidation and other surface changes. A natural patina is created when a piece of outdoor art is exposed to the elements for a long period of time. An "applied patina" is often created quickly on the surface of outdoor metal art by exposing it to chemicals.
Relief: Three-dimensional decorative outdoor carving or casting.
Sea Glass: Smooth frosted glass items found along waterways. The glass has been tumbled and worn down by the waves and movement of sand and water. Real sea glass is rare these days because items that used to be made from glass are now made from plastic. Modern outdoor art often includes artificial sea glass.
Sealant: A glaze or varnish that seals the surface of outdoor art to protect it from the elements.
Sconce: A decorative light fixture attached to a wall, usually with the light shining upward.
Substrate: The work surface upon which an outdoor mural is painted or other artistic technique is used.
Tooth: Ability of paint to stick to a surface. Some surfaces do not have enough tooth to hold the paint for a durable, weatherproof finish.
Waterproofing: Make sure outdoor art is sealed to protect against the elements. This can apply to fabrics and other materials not normally designed to be used outdoors. It also can apply to functional outdoor artistic pieces, such as outdoor clocks, fountains or motorized sculptures, with workings that need to be sealed off.