A Guide to Writing about Art

A Guide to Writing about Art

 14-A Guide to Writing about Art

This is an article concerning our beloved domain – ART! I wish to express my greetings to a website which allowed me the right of sharing this article: Thank You! Also, you are invited to visit the website as you will find more interesting things; a website which contributes to development of art:

 The University of Iowa


[Source Info:

http://www.uiowa.edu/~writingc/writers/handouts/WritingAboutArt.shtml  ]


A Guide to Writing about Art



“When you analyze, you are seeking to account for your experience of the work.”

“An unanswered question is an essay topic in disguise.”

We write about art to clarify and to account for our responses to works that interest, excite, or frustrate us.  When writing a paper we not only look at what is in front of us, but what is within.  Here is a basic checklist to keep in mind when drafting a paper:

  1. Interesting title.
  2. Intro includes essential info.
  3. There is a point (thesis).
  4. The point is well supported with persuasive details.
  5. The needs of the audience have been addressed.
  6. The paper is well organized.
  7. Personal views are included.
  8. It satisfies the assignment.

How to begin:

There are three main considerations when writing about art:

  • subject matter
  • form
  • socio-historical context

Each of these affect the meaning or content you take away from a piece. In your analysis you might choose a single design element of the piece that illuminates your experience of it (i.e.: the scale of the piece, effect of gaze of the artist or viewer, the brushstrokes). When analyzing art, consider the following questions. After you answer each one remember to further ask yourself:

  1. Why the artist might have made that choice, and
  2. How does it affect the viewer’s reaction to, or relationship with, the piece?

General Questions:

  • What is the title?
  • Why was it made? What is its purpose?
  • If it’s a portrait – does it portray an individual or a social type? What aspect of the sitter’s personality is expressed?
  • If there is a figure, what is its gaze as it relates to the gaze of the artist or viewer?
  • What is the relationship between the parts?
  • What is the medium, color, scale?
  • What techniques did the artist use?
  • Where is it located?
  • Are there any connections with earlier art history – or history in general?
  •  Is there any symbolism?
  • What is the artist’s philosophy?
  • Does the piece appear as it was originally constructed?
  •  What is the size?
  • Where is the main subject in relation to the foreground, background and middle ground?

Drawing and Painting:

  • If it is a still life, what does the artist focus on, technique, composition?
  • In a landscape, is there any human interaction with the land? Whose view of the natural world might the artist have represented?


  • Is there a pose? What does the pose suggest?
  • What does the clothing suggest? Is it heavy or light?
  • Is the piece geometric? Irregular? In silhouette?
  • If you are looking at a bust, note the truncation?
  • Why would the sculptor chose to stop there? Is there a base?
  • Is the sculpture carved or molded? What is its texture? Does it reflect the medium or the facture (the process of working on the medium)?


  • Who was the photographer, an individual or a firm?
  • What is the overall focus?
  • What type of development process was used; what kind of paper?
  • On what material is the photograph printed?
  • Has it been tinted, retouched or cropped?
  • Was natural or artificial light used?
  • What is the range of light and dark?
  • What did the photographer chose for exposure time? Are there blurs or motions which indicate the passage of time?

Video Art:

  • What is the visual impact? (Consider the work as you would a sculpture.)
  • Is there sound?
  • What is the context? (Of the video, of the piece as a whole.)
  • Are there any political implications?


  • How is the structural system of a building/monument suited to its purpose?
  • What is the interior hierarchy of spaces?  Do they flow, connect well to the exterior?
  • What kind of statement does the building make about the thing it will house? (If it is a bank, what does it say about money? If it is a library, what does it say about knowledge?)
  • How do you approach the building and enter it?
  • Are there blueprints of the work? Do they change your impression of the building?

Please note: reproductions (in books or slides) offer little sense of the actual size and texture of the original. If possible, make an effort to see the work you are writing about or ask your professor to recommend a good book or website.

The information in this handout is excerpted from A Short Guide to Writing about Art (8th ed.), by Sylvan Barnet.

–The Writing Center thanks April Freely, Emma Rainey, and Emily Weirich for contributing this handout.



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Defining Drawing



[ Source Info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drawing  ]


Drawing is a form of visual art that makes use of any number of drawing instruments to mark a two-dimensional medium. Instruments used include graphite pencils, pen and ink, inked brushes, wax color pencils, crayons, charcoal, chalk, pastels, various kinds of erasers, markers, styluses, and various metals (such as silverpoint). An artist who practices or works in drawing may be called a draftsman or draughtsman.

A small amount of material is released onto the two dimensional medium, leaving a visible mark. The most common support for drawing is paper, although other materials, such as cardboard, plastic, leather, canvas, and board, may be used. Temporary drawings may be made on a blackboard or whiteboard or indeed almost anything. The medium has been a popular and fundamental means of public expression throughout human history. It is one of the simplest and most efficient means of communicating visual ideas. The relatively easy availability of basic drawing instruments makes drawing more universal than most other media.

Drawing is a form of visual expression and is one of the major forms within the visual arts. There are several categories of drawing, including figure drawing, cartooning and doodling. There are also many drawing methods, such as line drawing, stippling, shading, the surrealist method of entopic graphomania (in which dots are made at the sites of impurities in a blank sheet of paper, and lines are then made between the dots), and tracing (drawing on a translucent paper, such as tracing paper, around the outline of preexisting shapes that show through the paper).

The word drawing is both (1) a noun and (2) the present-participle and gerund forms of the verb draw. To draw is to produce a drawing. A quick, unrefined drawing may be called a sketch.

Drawing is generally concerned with the marking of lines and areas of tone onto paper. Traditional drawings were monochrome, or at least had little colour, while modern colored-pencil drawings may approach or cross a boundary between drawing and painting. In Western terminology, however, drawing is distinct from painting, even though similar media often are employed in both tasks. Dry media, normally associated with drawing, such as chalk, may be used in pastel paintings. Drawing may be done with a liquid medium, applied with brushes or pens. Similar supports likewise can serve both: painting generally involves the application of liquid paint onto prepared canvas or panels, but sometimes an underdrawing is drawn first on that same support. Drawing is often exploratory, with considerable emphasis on observation, problem-solving and composition. Drawing is also regularly used in preparation for a painting, further obfuscating their distinction.

In fields outside art, technical drawings or plans of buildings, machinery, circuitry and other things are often called “drawings” even when they have been transferred to another medium by printing.



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