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GUIDELINES FOR FORMAL ANALYSIS OF VISUAL IMAGES IMPORTANT: Good writing matters a great deal and this will factor significantly in your grade! No one (even professional writers) writes well enough to consider the first or second draft a finished paper. Give yourself time to write a draft, set it aside and then return to it for editing and rewriting—several times. See below for writing suggestions and dos and don’ts. The analysis of a visual image should begin with a careful examination and discussion of its formal qualities. Begin with a basic description of the object to orient your reader to its overall appearance before moving into more analytical observations. The questions and points under each heading below will not apply to every work, nor is it necessary to follow their order exactly. Part of the effectiveness of your analysis will be in how you choose among them to fit your subject. Although this is in outline form you should frame your observations through paragraphs that are conceptually and grammatically linked. Attention should be given to clear organization so that your analysis is thorough but not repetitious or tedious. Try to be precise in verbalizing your visual impressions and ideas about your subject, always remembering that you must be able to support your opinions with objective observations that can be checked by others. Be sure to distinguish what you actually see from your reactions, tastes, and associations. Write your paper as a single essay; do not use subtitles or numbers that you find in this outline. IDENTIFICATION AND INTRODUCTION Introduce your work of art with the basics. What sort of work is this? (painting, sculpture, etc.) Who was the artist? What is the title, date, location? What is the subject? (Biblical, mythological, historical, genre, portrait, etc.) Give the source of the subject if known. (Hint: it is often useful to rewrite your introduction after you have finished the whole paper and incorporate an indication of your thesis/conclusion that will follow.) THE ELEMENTS OF FORM Start with description ; do not assume that we can even see the art. Order your ideas logically from most basic and most dominant or important to secondary issues. Then move to analysis which is observing how the elements work together. 1. General Observations . What are the general shape, scale, and proportions of the work? 2. Composition . What are the major elements of the composition, and how are they related to each other? Is the composition compact and contained, or are the elements loosely arranged? In a painting, how does the composition relate to the size and shape of the canvas or panel? 3. Line . Line can be actual or implied. It can function as contour or be suggested by the composition. How is line used by the artist? Be aware of the presence of line in
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sculpture and architecture.
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