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How to Write a Comprehensive Artwork Analysis - Steps and Tips

Step 1: Description

1) DESCRIPTION Look at the work and plainly describe what you see. Imagine you are having to describe the artwork to someone over the phone. Tell the name of the artwork you are discussing, the name and brief biography of the artist, any dimensions given of the size of the artwork, any media/materials used in the artwork, and the date/time period the artwork was created. 2) FORMAL ANALYSIS In this section you will describe the art elements and principles of composition present in the work. This should be the longest section of your paper. Use adjectives to help describe the art elements present in the work. To what degree is each element used? Are the lines thin, thick, organic or geometric, etc? Are the colors bright, dull, complementary or analogous? Be as specific as possible and avoid being vague. Don’t say that there are 4 colors and 3 shapes in the work- explain WHERE in the work these elements are found and what their effect is on the total composition. Are certain colors found only in one area of the work or throughout? Is the same or multiple textures used throughout the work? Describe the relationships between the elements that you see- their location, size, shape, color, texture, space. Which compositional elements are larger, darker, brighter, closer than others. Let your thinking follow this format throughout your analysis. If the elements of art are the main ingredients in a work of art then the principles of design are the recipe or how the artist chose to mix their own personal stew together. This is the visual composition of the work or how the artist chooses to physically divide or construct the image area. Is the work symmetrical or asymmetrical? Are there any patterns, repetitions, overall similarities or great contrasts which stand out immediately to the eye, if so describe where these design principles occur and how they lead and move your eye around the image’s composition. Be sure to examine how ALL of the art elements and principles of composition are utilized in the artwork. 3) INTERPRETATION In this section you are to describe the content of the work. The elements and principles of design are the formal and structural aspect of a work of art. This doesn’t speak necessarily if at all of the content or meaning of a work of art. In the Interpretation section you will answer the questions of what the artist was trying to communicate. What is the purpose of the work? What is the story and mood of the work? What symbolism, visual metaphors or iconography is employed? How do you think the artist felt making the work? 4) JUDGEMENT In this last section you get to critically assess what you think the aesthetic value of the work is. Do you honestly enjoy or dislike the work? Thumbs up or thumbs down? Please don’t generalize, be specific. Communicate if you think the artist was successful, if the work is original, well-crafted and designed. Use the previous three sections to support and back your opinions and belief about the work and then write your final analysis in this section

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