How to Analyze Art
Image by Amelia Bartlett
C/S presents the process of engaging in dialogue with an artwork. If you see artwork at a coffee shop, gallery, or museum, the following 5 points will help you understand what you are looking at. We at C/S believe that artwork is created to express feelings that are difficult to convey in words, therefore creative expression is the artist trying to tell us something and the 5 Points will help you learn how to listen.
This first point is easy. When looking at art, point out any figures, symbols, colors, shapes, lines that you see. As you do this more, look for deeper descriptive details.
i.e. Instead of just identifying a woman in a painting, try describing her ethnicity, outfit, facial expression, color of her hair, etc.
If you have a more extensive arts vocabulary, begin identifying elements and principles of design.
Context can be defined as the order in which items are placed so a message is understood. In sentence form, "Let's eat, abuelito!" and Let's eat abuelito!" are completely different just by adding or omitting the comma in the middle of the sentence.
In artwork, this can be done with figures, colors, medium, a slight change in image and your story changes. Duchamp added a mustache onto the Mona Lisa. He changed the context. "To understand the art, you should first understand the artist."
Google the artist, read the artist label, learn more to see the artwork at a deeper level.
Squint and ask yourself, how does it feel to the eyes? Does it feel balanced? Is there something missing or unappealing? What do I enjoy about the work?
If you have a more extensive arts vocabulary try to identify elements and principles of design used to make the artwork dynamic.
This is a mental exercise for many people. Finding ways to connect to the art can be a challenge, especially with conceptual and contemporary works. C/S recommends going back to the 1st Point. Out of the imagery in the art, the shapes, the colors, the symbolism, find something that relates to your personal life, your tastes, interests, etc. This can be your favorite color, an expression on a face, a feeling, a memory you just had because of the shoes depicted in a painting.
We recommend even the smallest connection.
After processing the first 4 Points, what questions do you still have about the artwork? It is equally important to not have all the answers. Wonderment leads to curiosity, which leads to creativity.
Would you like to see what this process looks like in practice? Watch this clip.