Sample Questions to Ask Yourself as You Look at a work of Art Work


What is the title of the work of art?
Who created it?
Where was it created?
Where is it now, who owns it?
What is the medium of the work of art?  Acrylic, Oil, Pen & Ink. . .
Is it a painting, a lithograph, a piece of sculpture, a crafted piece of furniture, a drawing, etc?
What are the dimensions?
What do you know about the artist?
What is represented?
Who is represented?
A landscape?
A Portrait?
A Seascape?
A Religious Scene?
Take an inventory of what you see.  List everything that is in front of you.  Imagine that you are taking a report, do not leave anything out.  Write in such a way that the person who is reading the analysis can get a mind's eye view of what is in the painting.

Formal Analysis

What is the mood of the painting?
What is your initial reaction to it?
How has the artist utilized the elements of composition line, texture, space, color and shape to create this mood, or establish the content of the work?
How would you describe the line quality?
How would you describe the brushwork?
What is the focal point?
How do the elements of composition, draw you into the painting?
How does the line quality, color relationships, shapes, spatial considerations  textural surface contribute to the understanding of the painting's content?
Is the texture slick or matte?
Shiny or dull?
Describe the color harmonies and contrasts in the composition.
Are warm colors (those colors that are warm in nature, red-yellow-orange) used by the artist?
Are cool colors (those colors that are cool in nature, violet-green-blue) used by the artist?
Is there an overall color theme or tonality used?
Has the artist used dramatic light and dark lighting effects, much like stage lighting (chiaroscuro) effects in the painting or work of art?
Where are you the viewer in relationship to the painting?
Are forms organized on a flat plane or are they set deep into space?
How does the artist achieve this?
What objects are low on the compositional plane?  What objects are high?
What objects or figures are clear and distinct?  What object are blurry?
Is the composition closed or open?
Is harmony achieved in the composition through formal, asymmetrical, or intuitive balance devices?
Are the shapes biomorphic?  geometrical?
Are the shapes diffused? highly delineated? painterly?
What are the relationship of the elements of compostion to the overall meaning of the work of art?


What does the painting "say" to you personally?
How has the artist used the elements of composition-line, texture, space, color, and she to create meaning or content?
What is the function of this work of art?
What connection do you see between subject matter and the techniques used?
How successful has the artist been in presenting and synthesizing the elements of composition with the overall content of the work of art?
What is your subjective reaction to the work of art?
What is the cultural meaning and context of the work of art?
How does the work of art reflect the social, political, aesthetic, psychological, or cultural ideas of its time?
What do you know abut other works of art by this artist?
How are the attributes of artist's individual style examined and explored
in this particular work?
What is the function of the work?
Who might the audience or buyer be for this piece?
How do others react to this work?  How do they interpret it?