Gallery Tour, Step 4: Well, Technically Speaking. . .
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
METHOD: IS IT SKILLFULLY MADE?
So was the "Creation of Adam"* by Michelangelo or God? (Attempt at humour.) Every human has value based on the fact that they EXIST. So every artist's handiwork has intrinsic value based on the fact that is was created from the artist's hand. The process of making in itself has value. We will be discussing the whether or not we personally value a piece in the last step. But before we do, we need to determine if the piece was made WELL or not.
After you have collected information on a piece by describing the use of the elements of art and its context, you can look at how the elements interact with the "Principles of Design" (standards of beauty) and decide if they create a harmonious composition. You are trying to NOTICE the relationships then determine if the artist used a skillful hand at it or not. HERE are the Principles of Design:
CONTRAST - EMPHASIS - RHYTHM - BALANCE - UNITY - MOVEMENT - PATTERN
(These words basically mean what they suggest).
You might like to memorize this handy acronym
to help you along in finding relationships between the elements and principles.
Need a reminder of the elements? Let Visual Sharpening Come To Serendipitous Fruition!
(line, value, shape, colour, texture, space, form)
I will use the previously mentioned Picasso's "Girl Before a Mirror" (in Step 2) to mention a few examples of analysis in a DISORGANIZED but free flowing fashion (you are free to go on forever, or just find a few relationships... or you can sign up to my blog to get my free handy dandy printable analysis sheet):
The rhythm of the repeating circles in this oil painting causes the viewer's eyes to move around the subject. The fact that the circles on top have eye and nose shapes, we assume they are faces. Then the pairs of circles below appear to be breasts. Finally, since the image on the right in confined to a large oval and its colours are more muted, it appears that the one on the right is a mirror, reflecting the image of a lady on the left.
I decide the setting is inside, since the patterned diamond shapes looks like a wallpaper pattern. The two curved, long parallel rectangles with little loops on the end must be arms and hands (yes, speaking symbolically here, like young children draw) --these hands are adjusting the mirror, so it must be a free standing mirror. The wallpaper also defines the background with the overlapping mirror in the middle and the figure on the left in the front. She may be wearing a striped outfit. The piece looks fractured due to the incomplete shapes.
The piece appears to have different perspectives of the same object (side view and front view of the faces, for example). The emphasis of the simple figures are defined by using outlines and bright, contrasting and various colours. The quick drawing style suggests movement of the hands in adjusting the mirror. The near symmetrical balance (similar on each side) gives the reflection as heavy a visual weight as the actual figure on the left.
Pick a piece. Describe the elements and know its context. Apply the principles -- CER-BUMP --to decide if it was executed well or not. . . Is it balanced or does it look disturbingly off-balance? What makes it look that way? Does it flow visually (does your eye naturally move around the piece) or does it get stuck? Do the materials look like they were handled professionally? Do the parts interplay to make a harmonious whole?
Detail of "The Creation of Adam" Michelangelo, 1511.*
We have still just focused on the TECHNICAL aspects regarding method. So NOW we are ready to consider the intended meaning of a piece in Step 5.
*Public Domain. Wikimedia.