Hello and welcome to Learn English Vocabulary. My name is Jack and I’m making this podcast for you to learn or revise English vocabulary. You can find a transcript of this podcast on LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk.
Today, I want to focus on language related to art and artists. I’m going to focus on the verbs read, write, paint and draw and I’m going to explore the vocabulary that goes with these verbs, that is the collocations and related language.
Let’s start with read and write. One of the first things I wrote that was genuine, I mean that wasn’t for a school project, was a letter. But these days, I write emails. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a letter. When you write a letter, you expect that the person you send it to will read the letter. So most of the words that collocate with write will also collocate with read.
What can you write and what can you read? You can write a story a tale and you can read a story. I read my boys a bedtime story every night. You can write a poem. I will admit that I don’t read poetry. The word poetry is used to talk about poems as a form of written art or of literature. I sometimes hear poetry on the radio and quite enjoy it, but I haven’t read a poem since I was at school. What else, you can write a novel.
OK this is a little more complicated so I think I need to talk more about types of books. When you go into a bookshop in the UK, often, the books are divided into two sections. I imagine this is the same in bookshops all over the world. You have books that are fiction and non-fiction. If a book is fiction, it is a story that has been made up or invented. It is not a true story. You can talk about books as works of fiction. Charles Dickens wrote many works of fiction. Oliver Twist is a work of fiction. You can use the adjective form fictitious, but it’s not common. Another word for a work of fiction is a novel. You might hear someone ask: have you read the latest John Le Carre novel?
Other works of fiction include short stories. These are often published in magazines first and then published in collections. I love JG Ballard’s short stories. He wrote a collection of stories called News from the Sun which was brilliant.
In the non-fiction section, you find travel books, self-help books and biographies, stories about the lives of famous people. Autobiographies a type of biography that is written by the same person they are about. The last autobiography I read was Michele Obama’s.
OK so you can write a novel and you can write an autobiography. Often novels are divided into chapters so I suppose you can write a chapter. The author has just started writing the final chapter of her new novel.
William Shakespeare was a writer, but he didn’t write novels. He wrote plays. Plays are the words and directions for a production in the theatre. People who write plays are called playwrights. This is an interesting word because it’s spelt play p l a y as you’d expect and then wright w r i g h t and not w r i t e the verb to write. This is because the word wright used to mean worker in old English. The only other place you see the word with this meaning these days are pub names. I used to go to a pub called the shipwrights’ arms and there’s a type of beer called Wainwrights.
Shakespeare is probably the most famous playwright in the world, but he wasn’t just a playwright. He wrote poems as well. He is famous for writing sonnets as well as plays. Sonnets are types of poems that have 14 lines and a particular rhyming structure.
If you write novels, you are a novelist. If you write books you are an author. A novelist is an author, an author of novels. Cambridge dictionary says you are an author if you write articles, but I’m not convinced. You can certainly talk about the author of an article when you are saying who wrote it, but you can also use the word author to describe someone’s job and you would not describe a researcher at a university as an author or a journalist, and these are the people who normally write articles.
If you write poems, you are a poet. If you read poems, you read them in collections which are often called anthologies. An anthology is just a collection of short texts so you can get anthologies of songs and short stories, but the word is used with collections of poems most frequently.
If you take the words of a poem and put them to music, then you have written lyrics. I watched a short documentary on the Billie Holiday song Strange fruit. The lyrics were written by Abel Meeropol and they started life as a poem. Only later did he work with Billie Holiday to put the poem to music and the poem became the lyrics to one of the most haunting songs ever written. If you write lyrics, you are a lyricist.
You can write music. You can write songs. Bob Dylan is a great songwriter. For other types of music, it’s probably more common to use the verb compose. Beethoven and Mozart are famous composers.
Let’s move on to the verbs paint and draw. Painting is probably the most prestigious art. There are galleries around the world where you can go to see paintings. If you hear that someone is an artist, you can probably assume they are a painter. There is a modern use of the word artist that includes performers and TV celebrities, but that use isn’t that common in the UK. Traditionally, artists paint pictures.
So you can paint pictures. You can paint pictures of people. If a picture has one person in it, then it can be called a portrait. In the past, rich and powerful people would have their portrait painted and there are galleries full of these pictures. The National Gallery in London has a great collection of paintings. The gallery’s permanent collection is worth seeing and there is usually an interesting temporary exhibition that you can see. There are also lots of portraits in the National Gallery.
So you can paint a person’s portrait. You can also paint a family portrait which is a picture of a family posed together.
Another common type of painting is a landscape. This is a painting of a view, often of a beautiful scene in the country. John Constable was an English landscape painter who painted pretty country scenes. Paul Cezanne was one of my favourite artists when I was a teenager because of his landscapes of southern France. Recently, David Hockney had an exhibition of landscapes he painted of scenes in East Yorkshire.
This is where landscape and portrait settings on your computer come from. If you want to print a document, you can print in landscape mode which is when the paper is wider than taller or portrait mode which is when the paper is taller than wider.
When I was younger, I was impressed by Turner’s seascapes. A seascape is like a landscape, but of the sea. You also hear about cityscapes which are pictures of cities, but I think the word cityscape is used more for photography than painting. The artist Canaletto is famous for his landscapes of cities, Venice in particular.
The last artistic verb that I want to talk about is draw. There are fewer nouns that go with the verb draw when talking about art. My children are very creative and most of their creations are simply pictures. You can draw a picture. My youngest gave me a picture he had drawn today of a Star Wars boat with all kinds of droids and walkers on it. As he gets better at drawing, his creations will become sketches. A sketch is a simple drawing, often used as a study for a more elaborate work of art. So Leonardo da Vinci drew many sketches before starting on a painting. You can draw a sketch or make a sketch. I think you could even say I’m going to do a quick sketch, but more simply you can use the word sketch as a verb. I’m going to sketch the scene.
OK. I have looked at loads of creative collocations with the verbs read and write and paint and draw and I have explored plenty of vocabulary related to art and artists.
I’ll create some activities and a lesson to go with this podcast for the speaking club members on the Learn English Vocabulary website.
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