Analyzing Art

Looking critically at artwork allows us to understand the world in different ways, gives us different perspectives, allows us to ask questions, helps us to become more creative and complex thinkers, inspires us produce more innovative ideas and projects, encourages us to communicate in different ways, and can help us explore different ideas and themes. Analyzing art is also one of the best ways to learn about art and to get better at making it it. 


Although description is an important part of a formal analysis, description is not enough on its own. You must introduce and contextualize your descriptions of the formal elements of the work so the reader understands how each element influences the work’s overall effect on the viewer. – Sylvan Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing About Art2

Making sketches or drawings from works of art is the traditional, centuries-old way that artists have learned from each other. In doing this, you will engage with a work and an artist’s approach even if you previously knew nothing about it. If possible do this whenever you can, not from a postcard, the internet or a picture in a book, but from the actual work itself. This is useful because it forces you to look closely at the work and to consider elements you might not have noticed before. – Susie Hodge, How to Look at Art7