formal anaylsis of an art

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For this assignment, visit an original artwork in person.

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REQUIREMENTS:

1) Print off these instructions and the Formal Analysis Guide before you go.

2) Perform a detailed formal analysis of a single work of art WHILE YOU ARE IN FRONT OF THE WORK.

a) This is an exercise in looking. Therefore, any discussion of the artist’s biography, historical context, or your personal experience will not be counted towards the word count.

b) Your essay should include a discussion of all the elements and principles listed in the Formal Analysis Guide, and discussion of the medium used by the artist.

c) To organize your essay, your overall argument and conclusion should address how the artists used the principle of emphasis.

d) Your essay should be 1000-1500 words.

3) Turn in an image of the artwork with your essay.

4) Turn in a picture of yourself in front of the artwork or the museum as proof of having visited.

CHOOSING AN ARTWORK:

For the purposes of this assignment please chose your artwork carefully. No copies or reproductions! In other words, the work must be one of a kind.

It must be a work that is publicly exhibited and the main purpose of the object is to be art.

For this assignment, the work must be a painting, sculpture, or drawing.

Places where works of art can be found:

  • Parks
  • Public buildings such as churches, city and federal government buildings, and hospitals.
  • Museum of Art or an Art Gallery

This EXCLUDES items whose main purpose has some other function – Such as:

  • A car
  • Taxidermy
  • Furniture
  • Crafts
  • Holiday decorations
  • Historical exhibits at a history museum
  • Scientific exhibits at a science museum
  • Any other exhibit at a non-art museum or non art-related institution (such as NASA.)
  • Ballet or other dance performance
  • Music/ Musical concerts

If you have concerns about the art you have chosen, send a picture and ask before turning it in.

Some DFW Area museums and galleries are listed below. Always check out the website before you leave for hours, fees, and parking. Some places offer discounts for students.

  • Fort Worth Modern (Contemporary Art)
  • Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth, variety of art)
  • Dallas Museum of Art (variety of art)
  • Meadows Museum (Spanish art and modern sculpture on SMU campus)
  • Nasher Sculpture Garden (modern sculpture)
  • Amon Carter Museum (American Art – Fort Worth)
  • UTA’s Art Gallery (Student art)
  • Arlington Museum of Art (Local art)
  • For this assignment, visit an original artwork in person. REQUIREMENTS:1) Print off these instructions and the Formal Analysis Guide before you go.2) Perform a detailed formal analysis of a single work of art WHILE YOU ARE IN FRONT OF THE WORK. a) This is an exercise in looking. Therefore, any discussion of the artist’s biography, historical context, or your personal experience will not be counted towards the word count. b) Your essay should include a discussion of all the elements and principles listed in the Formal Analysis Guide, and discussion of the medium used by the artist. c) To organize your essay, your overall argument and conclusion should address how the artists used the principle of emphasis.
    d) Your essay should be 1000-1500 words.3) Turn in an image of the artwork with your essay.4) Turn in a picture of yourself in front of the artwork or the museum as proof of having visited.
    CHOOSING AN ARTWORK:For the purposes of this assignment please chose your artwork carefully. No copies or reproductions! In other words, the work must be one of a kind. It must be a work that is publicly exhibited and the main purpose of the object is to be art.For this assignment, the work must be a painting, sculpture, or drawing.Places where works of art can be found:
    • Parks
    • Public buildings such as churches, city and federal government buildings, and hospitals.
    • Museum of Art or an Art Gallery

    This EXCLUDES items whose main purpose has some other function – Such as:

    • A car
    • Taxidermy
    • Furniture
    • Crafts
    • Holiday decorations
    • Historical exhibits at a history museum
    • Scientific exhibits at a science museum
    • Any other exhibit at a non-art museum or non art-related institution (such as NASA.)
    • Ballet or other dance performance
    • Music/ Musical concerts

    If you have concerns about the art you have chosen, send a picture and ask before turning it in. Some DFW Area museums and galleries are listed below. Always check out the website before you leave for hours, fees, and parking. Some places offer discounts for students.

    • Fort Worth Modern (Contemporary Art)
    • Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth, variety of art)
    • Dallas Museum of Art (variety of art)
    • Meadows Museum (Spanish art and modern sculpture on SMU campus)
    • Nasher Sculpture Garden (modern sculpture)
    • Amon Carter Museum (American Art – Fort Worth)
    • UTA’s Art Gallery (Student art)
    • Arlington Museum of Art (Local art)

FORMAL/VISUAL ANALYSIS OF WORKS OF ART
A work of art is the product of the dynamic interrelationships between the various art elements
and principles as they are utilized by the artist. As you engage with a work of art, ask yourself
why the artist made such choices.
Elements of Art
Line: Do you see any outlines that define objects, shapes, or forms? Are lines used to
emphasize a direction (vertical, horizontal, diagonal)? Describe the important lines: are they
straight or curved, short or long, thick or thin? How do you think the artist utilized line to focus
attention on certain objects, forms, or people? Are any invisible lines implied? For example, is a
hand pointing, is the path of a figure’s gaze creating a psychological line, or is linear perspective
used? Do the lines themselves have an expressive quality, as in Van Gogh’s Starry Night?
Light: If the work is a two-dimensional object, is a source of light depicted or implied? Is the
light source natural or artificial? Do the shadows created by the light appear true to life, or has
the artist distorted them? In what way does he or she depict such shadows—through line, or
color? If the object shown is three-dimensional, how does it interact with the light in its setting?
How do gradations of shadows and highlights create form or depth, emphasis or order in the
composition?
Color: Which colors are predominantly used in this depiction? If the object is black and white, or
shades of gray, did the artist choose to do this because of the media he or she was working in,
or do such shades create a certain mood or effect? Color can best be described by its hue,
tone, and intensity (the hue is its basic shade, for example blue or red). Does the artist’s choice
of color create a certain mood? Does he or she make use of complementary colors—red/green,
violet/yellow, blue/orange—or analogous ones (those next to each other on the color wheel)?
Does the artist utilize colors that are “warm” or “cool”? In which parts of the work? Is
atmospheric perspective—in which cool colors recede, creating a blurred background, and
warm, clear colors fill the foreground—used? Do you notice any visual effects, such as optical
color mixing?
Texture: What is the actual texture on the surface of the object? Is it rough or smooth? What is
the implied texture? Are patterns created through the use of texture?
Shape: What shapes do you see? If the work has a flat surface, are the shapes shown on it
two-dimensional, or are they made to appear (illusionistically) three-dimensional or volumetric?
If the work is a three-dimensional object, how volumetric is its shape? Is it nearly flat, or does it
have substantial mass? Is the shape organic (seemingly from nature) or geometric (composed
of regular lines and curves)? Can you see any implied shapes? In representations of people,
how does shape lend character to a figure? Are these figures proud or timid, strong or weak,
beautiful or grotesque?
Form: Did the artist choose geometric or organic form, or a combination of both? Why do you
think the artist made these choices?
Volume and mass: Has the artist used volume or mass to express any feelings or
communicate any ideas? Is the work a closed or open volume?
Space: How does the form created by shape and line fill the space of the composition? Is there
negative, or empty, space without objects in it? If the artwork is three-dimensional, how does it
fill our space? Is it our size, or does it dwarf us? If the piece is two-dimensional, is the space flat,
or does it visually project into ours? How does the artist create depth in the image (by means of
layering figures/objects, linear perspective, atmospheric perspective, isometric perspective,
foreshortening of figures)?
Time and motion: Does the artwork in some way communicate the passage of time? For
example, it may tell a story or narrate a series of events. Consider whether the work involves
motion (implied or actual) in any way. Remember that even a static artwork, such as a painting
or a sculpture, can express motion.
Value: Are there any significant value changes (i.e. changes in the degrees of darkness or
lightness) in the work? If so, why do you think the artist used value in this way?
Principles of Art
Artists utilize the elements of art to produce these design principles.
Emphasis: The emphasis of a work refers to a focal point in the image or object. What is your
eye drawn to? Does the artist create tension or intrigue us by creating more than one area of
interest? Or is the work of art afocal—that is, the viewer cannot find a particular place to rest the
eye? Is there a psychological focus created through the elements of art?
Scale and proportion: What is the size of all the forms and how do they relate proportionally to
one another? Did the artist create objects larger in scale in order to emphasize them? Or was
scale used to create depth? Are objects located in the foreground, middle ground, or
background? Look at the scale of the artwork itself. Is it larger or smaller than you expected?
Balance: Balance is produced by the visual weight of shapes and forms within a composition.
Balance can be symmetrical—in which each side of an artwork is the same—or asymmetrical.
Radial balance is when the elements appear to radiate from a central point. How are
opposites—light/shadow, straight/curved lines, complementary colors—used?
Rhythm: Rhythm is created by repetition. What repeated elements do you see? Does the
repetition create a subtle pattern, a decorative ornamentation? Or does it create an intensity, a
tension? Identify the type of rhythm used: is it simple repetitive rhythm, progressive rhythm, or
alternating rhythm? Does the rhythm unify the work, or does it, on the contrary, seem a group of
disparate parts?
Unity and variety: Is the artwork unified and cohesive, or disordered and chaotic? How does
the artist use the elements to achieve this? Consider the work in terms of both its composition
and the concepts it explores, which can also unify an artwork. Is there diversity in the use of
elements that creates variety? Consider value, texture, color, shape, and other elements of art.
How does the artwork combine aspects of unity and variety?
Pattern: Can you identify any repetition of an element (such as shape, value, or color) in the
artwork that creates a pattern? A design repeated as a unit is called a motif. Can you see any
motifs in the work?

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