How to Look at Art

I. Describe What You See: What are the elements of the image?

  • Start simple.
  • What are the building blocks that make up the image?
  • Take your time and absorb the experience of the work.

II. Analyze What You See: How do the various elements work together?

  • Speculate about why the artist made certain choices.
  • What are the areas of emphasis?
  • In what tradition is the artist working?
  • Is there an overall plan? What is the overall effect of the individual elements?

III. Interpret: What is the significance of what you see?

  • Examine and explain the cause of your response to the work.
  • Use adjectives and analogies to describe the sensory experience of the work.
  • Think of a theme that could explain the response prompted by the work.
  • The meaning of a work of art should be tied to elements previously analyzed.
  • Be imaginative, let your mind roam for possibilities beyond the obvious.

IV. Evaluate: Give thoughtful and fair judgment.

  • Start by defining the criteria/standards used in evaluating this particular work.
  • Do your normal criteria adequately match the style of the work before you?
  • Has the artist told the truth in the best way possible according to their worldview?
  • Have all the artist’s choices worked together to create a cohesive whole?

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