Introduction to a Visual Analysis Essay
Let’s start from the basics, which in this case are briefly defining a visual analysis essay. There are familiar elements you can find in the subject of our discussion with other types of essays, yet a visual analysis is not identical to a descriptive essay as one might think.
This type of academic writing does require a detailed description of an artwork, yet there’s more to it than simply writing down what you see on a painting, photo, music video, ad, sculpture, architecture, etc. There’s a reason why it is called a visual analysis essay, and so you are expected to analyze how various elements relate to each other, what they might mean, what was the idea an author tried to convey and what artistic means he used to do that.
The Purpose of Writing a Visual Analysis Essay
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this type of an essay is usually assigned to art students, who can also analyze pieces of art using their knowledge of art history, various movements, and practices used to achieve a certain effect. If you are not an art student, however, you may be wondering what you are getting assigned a visual analysis paper for.
There are various advantages of writing this type of paper, but if for whatever reason you do not have time to explore this guide or not in the mood to work on your art analysis essay, we have professional writers who are ready to take care of that as they have done so multiple times before. If you are interested in writing this essay yourself, please continue reading, we have lots of useful tips and explanations for you, as well as a visual analysis essay sample for better understanding.
Now, carefully preparing and conducting a visual analysis can broaden your outlook and perhaps expand your range of interests. Depending on whether you are given a subject for a visual analysis essay or free to choose one yourself, you may learn about some artist that will make you want you to explore more of his works, artistic movement, or a historical period.
In the second case, you get to write about something near and dear to your heart. Not only will you practice describing it to someone else in a fascinating manner by writing an analysis essay, it’s also possible to discover some elements and meanings that you’ve been unaware of until now.
Either way, this task requires thorough observation and creativity, and as a result, a visual analysis essay will be a test of your critical and analytical skills. Besides, there’s a challenge to not simply describe an object in a matter-of-fact manner but to do it in an engaging way.
Now let’s get down to the business and learn how to write a visual analysis essay.
Stages of Writing a Visual Analysis Essay
How to Come Up with a Subject for Analysis
Unless you were given a topic, or, in our case, an object for analysis by your teacher or professor, the first step will be establishing that. There may be other requirements provided with your assignment, but in any case, it is best to select an object based on one of the following principles for a successful visual argument essay.
The first option would be to choose a piece of art that causes a strong emotional response for you. That way, you can explore in more detail which elements are responsible for that.
Another visual analysis essay example of approaching a topic would be to look for an artwork that has stirred some controversy recently. An author’s intention can often be misunderstood at first, so you get to analyze his or her work and see whether the reaction was justified or whether it was a result of false interpretation.
The next approach to selecting a topic for a style analysis essay is very similar to the previous one, only in this case, you should focus on a piece of work that is now perceived differently than it was in its time. You can also compare your own impressions and analyze what caused different perception in each case.
Obviously, you can mix those approaches, and these are not the only ways you can come up with a subject for a visual analysis paper. Now, let’s move on to the actions one should take once he or she already has a topic.
Examination and Description
Start by examining the image, photo, painting, video clip, or whatever it is you have. Do this with a notepad at hand and record the whole process of your discoveries. You will need to interpret and organize all these notes later, and an art analysis essay example can help you to see what a final result should be like.
Do not worry if you don’t know all the terms. Art is often subjective, and when trying to convey an idea, an artist uses all the known and intuitive tools that can help a viewer decode the message correctly. Or he or she may be trying to deceive you, but that may become evident after a little research, which should be your next step in writing an analysis essay.
Learning about the Context and History
After you are done with recording your impressions and observations, it’s time to research background information. Such research for a painting analysis example may include:
- the date of creation and possible sources of inspiration;
- the initial audience’s reaction and after some time;
- the author’s comments about that particular piece and general views on related subjects;
- the changes in the artwork’s importance over time.
How to Structure a Visual Analysis Essay
A visual analysis essay has the same structure as any other essay, the only difference is the contents, as usual. So, once you feel that you have enough notes and research materials to start writing, you can style analysis essay in the following way.
Start by providing the basic information like an author’s name, the object itself, whether it is a painting, a sculpture, a photograph, an art installation, or else, its name, date of creation, size, materials used, being part of a series of works, a gallery or other place where it’s currently stored or displayed.
An art analysis essay is also not different from the rest in the sense that your introduction has to end with a thesis statement.
As you will see in any visual analysis essay sample, each body paragraph is dedicated to some particular elements of an artwork. For example, you can start by describing what is shown on a painting and what the idea behind it all is. In further paragraphs of your visual analysis essay, you should introduce a new aspect supporting that interpretation, like shapes, colors, light, contrast, the nature of lines, etc.
The number of body paragraphs may vary based on your visual analysis paper’s requirements and on the elements you can discover to support the claim.
To conclude your visual analysis essay, briefly summarize all the details that were topics of previous paragraphs, restate the thesis, and provide the conclusion that would be a logical continuation of it and a final touch for your paper. Remember, no new information should be introduced in this paragraph.
What Visual Elements of Design Are There?
Knowing the structure and the steps is one thing, but you still can’t say you know how to write a visual analysis essay if you keep staring at an artwork and don’t quite understand what it is you need to dedicate your body paragraphs to. Another potential problem is managing to complete your first style analysis essay. However, if you are assigned this work often enough, you can’t keep talking about the same couple of elements, and the following table will help you expand the number of an artwork’s components you can analyze.
Element of Design
What to Look For
For a painting analysis example, noting colors is particularly important. They may complement or contrast one another.
Colors may be realistic or irregular, but they are most likely used to evoke certain mood.
The way objects are arranged on canvas or within a frame.
Artists want you to pay attention to certain things more and sooner than to others, so try to discover the compositional techniques they used.
The central object which is drawing the most attention.
For a visual analysis essay, it is crucial to analyze all the visual means an artist used to highlight the main object.
Images are created using lines. They can be of various lengths, sizes, intensity.
Different objects can be drawn using different lines, try to discover the reason for such choices.
How objects are shaped and which shapes prevail in the picture can tell a lot about the author’s intentions.
See if the author uses shapes to portray objects realistically or uses unconventional shapes for a specific effect.
Specific recognizable elements that usually hold some religious or cultural significance.
When writing an analysis essay, you should check other works by that author to see if there are some recurring symbols.
A Visual Analysis Essay Example as an Icing on the Cake
It’s time for an excerpt from a visual analysis essay sample that should help you solidify all the information and tips you have learned so far. In this case, it’s a painting, but if you have to write about a different form of art, you may need other examples. You can also order a paper from our skilled writers and later use it as an art analysis essay example whenever you are assigned this task again.
“Girl with a Pearl Earring” is a famous 17.5x15 inches oil painting on canvas by a Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It was created around 1665, and it has been a part of the collection of the Mauritshuis art museum in The Hague for over a century now. The painting was known under different names over its history, and the original title remains unknown. Its present title was deemed more appropriate than the previous ones in the 90’s of the 20th century and describes exactly what we see on the painting, although there have been objections to the material of the earring. There have been numerous interpretations of the painting and who the girl is, but my version is that it’s a portrait of a young servant who is facing a choice between remaining loyal to her master or abandoning her moral principles and giving in to the dark circumstances surrounding her.
The painting shows a young girl, her head and face fully visible, as well as her shoulder as she is presumably turning away from a viewer or a painter. The girl is likely of European descent and is wearing what looks like a Japanese coat of the time, an oriental turban completely covering her hair, and a large earring. The girl’s face is turned towards the viewer, and her eyes are either fixed on the painter or on what is behind him. The girl is surrounded by a black background, but her face and clothes are brightly lit, although only from the front. Starting from her left cheek, the darkness is already swallowing the rest of her body. The earring is only visible because of its size and reflection of the light coming from the top left of the painting without the source been shown. The girl’s lips are slightly parted, and her facial expression reveals sadness and hesitance. Her gaze towards the person she is looking is soft, thankful, and somewhat regretful.
As you can see from this visual analysis essay example, there’s much to be written even about such an uneventful painting. So, don’t worry if there’s not much you can see on your object of analysis at first. As long as it has something fascinating about it and some mystery behind it, you should have enough to describe and discuss, just consult with our visual analysis essay guide.