TIPS FOR WRITING A VISUAL ANALYSIS

TIPS FOR WRITING A VISUAL ANALYSIS

Note: This is NOT your assignment prompt but a few tips that might help you compose your paper.

In writing a formal analysis or visual analysis, the most important thing to remember is that even though you might be thinking “description,” this paper does require a thesis. Even in a purely visual paper, a thesis gives your paper a point to prove, and thus provides an analytical approach to the object. Description is part of the process, but you must analyze the visual information in order to “unlock” the artwork.

When you first approach the object, take plenty of time to note down all the visual details of its form that you can. As you look carefully, you will begin to sense an overall organization to the work of art. When you have crystallized that sense into a single sentence, you have produced your thesis. In a formal analysis paper, that thesis will be proven by the visual details of the object that support the thesis.

As you are looking, consider:

Medium (what the object is made of): Be attentive to particular kinds of brushstroke, or ways in which the artist handled the substance that forms the object. Is the work a sculpture, painting, photograph, print, etc.? Is it marble, stone, bronze, oil/canvas, etc.?

Technique (how the object was made): Notice whether the object was drawn, painted, engraved, carved, cast, etc., and how the artist carried out those processes.

Size: Is it large or small? Can it fit in your hand or can it fill the wall of a building?

Composition (the arrangement of elements in the work): Is there a focal point? Is the composition crowded, open, varied, repetitious? How does your viewpoint affect the work?

Space: Which methods are used to create space or is there a denial of space? Is there a foreground, middle ground and background? Does the artist employ perspective? How does the object relate to the space around it?

Content (including subject matter, if applicable): Does the work have a recognizable subject (a marriage, party, war, etc.)? What is the meaning of the work? Does it communicate ideas or feelings? Can you determine its social, political, religious or economic context?

Note: The study of subject matter is ICONOGRAPHY (“the writing of images”). Iconography includes the study of symbols and symbolism.

When writing, try to express what you see with as much precision as possible. Remember the following formal terminology:

Color: Elements of color

· Hue

· Value

· Intensity OR Saturation

· Local color, Optical color, Arbitrary color

Line: Uses of line

· Description

· Expression

· Decoration

Space: Methods for creating space in a 2-D object

· Figure vs. Ground

· Modeling

· Overlap

· Reduction in scale

· Foreshortening

· Atmospheric Perspective: “Blueing out”, reduction of detail, reduction of value contrast

· Vertical Perspective

· Axonometric Projection

· Linear Perspective

Plastic Arts: Elements to consider in sculpture

· Mass

· Volume

· Texture

· Relationship to site

Style: Combination of form and composition that makes a work distinctive

· Period Style (traits from a particular historical era)

· Regional Style (traits from a geographic region)

· Representational Style (Realism, Naturalism, Illusionism, Idealization)

· Abstract Styles (essence of form – nonrepresentational, expressionistic)

· Linear (line as primary means of definition and modeling)

· Painterly (free brushwork as the primary means of definition)

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