How many of you appreciate art but when forced to share your opinion about art have a huge desire to crawl under a nearby desk or chair and hide? I know countless people actually afraid to talk about art. They are afraid they will say the “wrong thing,” or that they don’t actually know what they are talking about! Today I hope to begin to dispel this fear.
Step One: RELAX! If you are at a gallery or museum to enjoy art, STOP worrying how long you should look at a work or what to say. Quiet your mind and observe a work that draws your attention.
Step Two: Glance over the artwork. With a quick once-over, is there anything you notice that stands out? If something jumps out at you that is probably important to the artist’s message.
In contrast, the exact opposite can be telling: is there little or nothing that stands out?
Example: Yves Klein’s Blue Monochrome. What is immediately obvious to you when you look at this work?
Step Three: Think about different elements of art. Select one at a time and go through as many of them as you like. Elements include: Line, Texture, Color, Shape (square is an example), Form (box is an example), Space, and Value (shading). Start with color and ask yourself, for example, is the blue in the artwork moody or bright and happy?
Step Four: Connect artistic choices to meaning. Does that bright blue sky seem as happy if the ground is filled with skeletons below it? (Yes, I can be a little morbid but this example conveys the point.) How would you say that color supports or enhances the meaning of such a work? Is it unsettling to see such a contrast?
Step Five (optional): Pass judgment. Knowing a bit more about the artist’s toolkit, do you feel s/he was effective in conveying a message or idea? Why or why not?
If you still feel uncomfortable read through the gallery guide or rent out a museum audio guide to learn more about the work and its history and context. Remember, art is to appreciate and create dialogue, don’t feel intimidated just because you never learned how to talk about it! There is always a place to start and hopefully this can begin to build your confidence. 🙂
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Want more? Consider buying my ebook ArtSPEAK, which gives you practical guidance and examples of analyzing and interpreting art. 🙂
10 Drawing Truths: A Guide to Better Drawing
Uncover 10 things most people don't know about drawing that can improve your skill and increase your confidence as an artist.
Enjoy this free bonus when you sign up for Artist Strong's weekly newsletter.
We honor your privacy - read more here.