Art appreciation 101: A beginner’s guide
Art can feel intimidating, especially if you feel like you don’t know the context of what you are looking at. Sometimes, you might feel like you lack the vocabulary to understand and discuss visual arts. It could be because you aren’t aware of the different mediums or techniques used. Or you feel you don’t have the knowledge about the different cultures and backdrops that inspire art. It’s not unusual for people to be intimidated by museums and art galleries, thinking it’s a place reserved for professors, gallery owners, and artists. But you needn’t have taken up a course on art appreciation in college to be able to view and enjoy art. Some simple techniques can help you view art with a more critical eye.
First up, take your time
At an art gallery or museum, don’t rush from one piece to the next. Take your time to properly look at an artwork. According to studies, a person spends roughly 15 to 30 seconds looking at a piece of art. This isn’t enough for you to be able to grasp the concept of the art. Read the wall text that accompanies the art and think it over. It helps if you do a little research before visiting an exhibition. You will know the artist and his/her style and be able to make an informed opinion. Don’t overthink it. Let your thoughts flow. How does the work of art make you feel? Does it calm your anxious mind or do you feel overwhelmed? What might be going on in the artist’s mind when working on the piece? These are some things you can reflect on as you look at art.
Focus on the shape and color
Artists often use the flow of shapes to show you what’s important in their pieces. If something catches your eye, it’s possible that this is where the artist wants to draw your attention. So, look for possible shapes and lines and figure out what it’s trying to convey. Different colors evoke different feelings. Try to look at the colors used by the artist. Are they bold or are they subtle? What emotion does it stir in you? Do you feel there is a color there shouldn’t be in the subject matter? Are there any hues that stand out from the other colors in the piece? Notice the play of light as well. Do some colors appear darker or paler than others? The use of colors is often an artist’s way of delivering certain messages.
Don’t be shy to voice your opinion
Art is all about perspective. What appeals to you might not have the same effect on your friend. It’s always a good idea to go to exhibitions alone or at least move about alone so that someone else’s opinion doesn’t cloud yours. Then, when something strikes you or you feel a certain emotion while looking at a painting, don’t be afraid to let that thought come. Don’t try to think or feel a certain way because you know the artist’s history and feel obliged to like the work. You can like or dislike a certain work without having to justify why. But it helps if you have some knowledge about artists so you can be more critical in your judgment.
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