Guidelines and suggestions for viewing a visual work of art and thinking about it.

  1. Determine what the subject matter of the work is:

    What is its title? Does the title help you interpret what you see? Can you imagine different treatments of the same subject matter that would change the way you read the work?

  2. Consider the formal elements of the work and how they relate to its subject matter:

    How is line employed in the work? Does it seem to regulate or order the composition? Does it seem to fragment the work? Is it consisstent-with traditional laws of perspective or does it violate them?

    What is the relation of shape to space in the work?

    How do light and dark function in the work? Is there a great deal of tonal contrast, or is it held to a minimum?

    What is the predominant color scheme of the the work? Are commplementary or analogous colors employed?

    What other elements seem important? Is your attention drawn to the work's texture? Does time seem an important factor in your experiience of the work?

  3. . Then ask yourself how these elements are organized:

    Is there significant use of visual rhythm and repetition of elements? Is the composition balanced? Symmetrically? Asymmetrically?

    Do various elements seem proportional, and how does the question of scale affect your perception?

    Does the composition seem unified or not?

  4. Next consider how the artist's choice of medium has affected the piece:

    Are effects achieved that are realizable only in this particular mediium? If more than one medium is involved, what is their relation?

  5. Finally, consider what all this might mean:

    What is the artist trying to say about the subject matter of the work?

    What feelings or attitudes does the composition seem to evoke, and what specific elements or design choices account for these feelings?

Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated: September 3, 2008.