Simply imagine a person (a figure) standing on the earth (the ground). In drawing and painting all objects or forms or even shapes that stand out can be called FIGURE. What the figures are ON, IN and SURROUNDED by is GROUND. Often this term is followed by the word: RELATIONSHIP ie. figure-ground relationship. How everything that is a figure relates to everything that is ground is called the figure-ground relationship. Thus when someone refers to the figure-ground relationship they mean how the form or forms are situated on or within the ground or grounds. The spaces in a painting are also designated with the word ground as in foreground, mid-ground and far-ground or background.