Writivity Essentials #3: Art Analysis for the Reflective Journal (Pt. 1)

Welcome CSEC Visual Arts teachers and students to the final installment of the Writivity Essentials series. Writivity Essentials #2 introduced the Simple Research Process (SRP) and its application to research for the Reflective Journal. Writivity Essentials #3 is a two-part article, focused on developing the Art Analysis. At the end of Part One, you should become familiar with five (5) key preparation activities before you finalize your analyses.

PART ONE – GETTING READY

Generally, an analysis (singular) is a detailed examination of something to gain a better understanding of it. Analyses (plural) can be expressed verbally or in writing. When one analyses artwork, it entails making a detailed examination of its qualities, which can include physical features as well as symbolisms and conceptual value. CSEC Visual Arts students are required to include in the Reflective Journal, written art analyses of your artwork and the works of the artists you choose. As this may be the first time that you will be making art analyses, it is strongly recommended that you do it in consultation with your teacher, who will offer valuable guidance for this process. As every art analysis is unique to a person’s point of view, art analyses are used by your teacher and the examiners to judge how well you can develop an informed opinion about an artwork.

Before you begin to analyse, there are five (5) preparatory activities you must do:

1. SELECT THE ARTWORK

This can be any suitable example of the Expressive Forms you have chosen. You can view artwork either as physical objects or as photographic reproductions in digital images or print. As a quick reminder, Expressive Forms for CSEC Visual Arts are:

  • Drawing
  • Painting and Mixed Media
  • Graphic and Communication Design
  • Printmaking
  • Textile Design and Manipulation
  • Sculpture and Ceramics
  • Leather Craft
  • Fibre and Decorative Arts

2. SET TIME FOR OBSERVATION

Observation is your ability to closely examine or inspect the artwork. To make good observations, you spend time in active looking in order to identify various types of details in the artwork that a short glance will miss. The time you take to view an artwork should be no shorter than 30 minutes.  Artwork can be viewed in two key ways:

  • Artwork can be viewed as a physical object on display, as would be seen in a museum (like the NGJ), at an art gallery or even in someone’s home. If you are looking at the artwork as a physical object on display, make sure that:
    • You are viewing it in a well-lit environment.
    • You have permission from the owner of the artwork to move closer to it. 
  • Artwork can also be viewed as a photographic reproduction, which you can find as either a printed (eg. found in books, magazines and pamphlets) or digital image. Please note that digital images must be viewed using an electronic device with a display screen. The more commonly used ones are computers, tablets, smart phones and most digital cameras. If you are looking at the artwork as a photographic reproduction, make sure that:
    • For books and other print documents like magazines, you try using a magnifying glass or sheet to make some details bigger and easier to see. If you want to take pictures, make sure you seek permission before doing so.
    • For digital images viewed on an electronic device, make sure that you use an image viewing app that has a ‘Zoom’ feature that can also magnify details. 

3. CHOOSE A METHOD OF DOCUMENTATION

This is the method or process you will choose to record your observations and thoughts about the artwork. Two common ways that persons can document from observation is to:

  • Write notes in a notebook or do so electronically, using note-taking apps that you can use on a smart phone or tablet.
  • Record voice notes, using either a sound recording device or an app that you can download to your smart phone or tablet.

4. REFRESH YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF ART TERMS 

These are words that identify or describe expressive forms, techniques, art materials, as well as elements and principles of art. Examples of some art terms are “painting”, “mixed media”, “textile design”, “green”, “tones”, “carving”, “emphasis”, “line”, “proportion”, “harmony”, among many others. Ensure that you know well the terms that are relevant to your research and upcoming analysis.  For example, the terms relevant to an example of Graphic and Communication Design could be “layout”, “dimension”, “illustration” or “font styles”.

5. USE THESE WORDS TO DRAFT SENTENCES AND PARAGRAPHS

Once you have the Art Terms you need to know, use them to create sentences and paragraphs that test how well you can communicate the information you know and understand about an artwork. For example, please spend a few moments looking at the photographic reproduction of a painting below:

Osmond Watson – Jah Lives (1984), Collection: NGJ

Using information gathered from research and observation, one can use art terms to create a description of the artwork. This is demonstrated in the following sentence (please note that the art terms used in the sentence below are in bold and underlined):

Once you have completed all these activities, then you will be ready to begin developing your ART ANALYSES. 

Part Two of this article will focus on a demonstration of the process of Art Analysis.

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