Art 101

Are you feeling in the mood to learn??

People on Ep often make comments to me about how they don't know how to write about art- its not too hard!  Though I have spent about 10yrs of my life learning how and I struggle sometimes.... Anyway, I thought I would share something that helped me alot when I first started, that I still do as a mental checklist when I come across something I have never seen before.  Get your notebooks out: Its called SiT and C3FILMS.

Subject, (the i is nothing it just makes the word easier to remember) Technique, Colour, Composition, Context, (thats the 3c's get it?) Form, Influnence, Light, Movement and Space.  So lets break these points down:

Subject - basically, what does the painting show, what is the painting 'of' in the plainest terms.

Technique - What is the medium used?  Sculpture, paint, pastel, photomontage etc etc etc How is it handled?  Thick, thin, loose and gestural, or brushstrokes imperceptible, that sort of thing.

Colour - not a list of all the colours in the painting - just features that stand out - is there one colour used predominatly?  Is the canvas largely cool or warm colours?  Is colour used to highlight any particular point?

Composition - basically, how is the subject arranged?  Where are the figures grouped in the canvas - where is the 'action' focused?

Context - now, this one is where you might need to do further research to develop if you wanted to be more accurate or were writing an essay.  This is trying to get at the socio-political or historical points of the work - what time was the work painted and when?  Who was the artist?  Do these things have any relevance to the art work?  Sometimes they are extremely important, other times, not at all.  This is also the part where any history of the work might be relevant - who commissioned it?  Where was it exhibitied?

Form - this refers to the 3D nature of the work - Are the forms given realistic modelling? - can you imagine them as real 3 Dimensional objects?

Influence - another aspect which might need further research.  Influence basically refers to what other artists and artistic traditions the artist was themselves thinking about or looking at that reveal themselves in the work.  Sometimes - and espesh as you study and see more and more art - you can see how artists adapt, borrow, blend and are inspired by their fellow artists almost instantly- other times you might have to look it up and examine several works by the same artist to get a feel for it.  Influnence is a really problematic word - the relationship is not as simple as that so do be careful how you use the term.

Light - like colour, this is about how light is used to highlight a particular point - and also can refer to the atmospheric conditions of the work.  Does the painting seem bright and breezy?  Is the light white and bright, yellow, or cold and blue?

Movement - does the work have a sense of movement?  Or is it still and static?  Where does the movement travel?

Space - this aspect works in with form and composition - it concerns again, how objects are arranged but in space as 3D objects - so is perspective used?  The picture plane is the flat front of the painting - how far back from this are objects/figures placed? 


These things are the building blocks of a painting or any type of art work.  They dont all apply to all art - obviously this type of analysis is better suited to figurative art as opposed to abstracted - but you can use it to get a way into any type of art.  Also, if you were to turn these points into an essay you would group them better so they flowed into paragraphs.  I really appreciate SiT and C3FILMS because it taught me how to really look at art - not just see it, but Look.  That skill has been (and will continue to be) incredibly important and valuable in my study and eventually my career.

Anyway, I hope this was interesting for you.

auroraaustralis auroraaustralis
8 Responses Mar 20, 2009

I enjoyed what you wrote.<br />
<br />
The Avatar (you were "warm":<br />
<br />
Woman Reading in a Garden - Artist: Mary Cassatt

Thanks I really enjoyed reading that. Very helpful and plainly put.

Well, its a starting point. Art does make people feel things, produce emotional responses - but there are reasons in the work that make you feel a particular way. And where I will always believe yes I like, no I dont is the most valid response - there are reasons why/why not. You can't explain how you feel without having a really good look - and this tool helps you look.<br />
Glad you liked!

I enjoyed that. It seems very analytical of art, but I like analytical. :D

Welcome :)

Very interesting way to put it. It can help in other areas too like creating art. About the only other thing I throw in is proportion. Thanks!

Hehehe glad you liked :)<br />
No, there isnt alot of art programming on TV, a little bit of local stuff but its usually on really late and so not very accessible. It is a shame.<br />
Your avatar.....impressionist...its hard to see....its definatly not a Renior or Degas....maybe Pissaro, or Cassatt or maybe a Monet, though Im not sure! :)

Yes, I enjoyed your short lecture. Hadn't quite heard it put that way before. I love art too. Take a look at my atavar? Do you recognize the artist? I wish American television did more to educate and that we had regular programming on art. Maybe you do have this where you are.