– Submit the artist, title, and date of the artwork you want to write about
– Submit your initial notes on the artwork or an outline. You do not have to submit a thesis – although you can – but evidence of you spending time with and taking detailed notes on the work.

The essay is due Sunday by 11:59 PM CST.

Choose an artwork. Your options are:

A. Romare Bearden, Piano Lesson, 1983, oil with collage

Look at it – for a long time! We are not used to looking at images for long periods of time because we see so many every day. For this assignment, I am asking you to look at an artwork for 5 minutes. Yes, 5 minutes! Print it, look at it right-side up, upside down, close-up, far-away – just look! 

Take notes on what you see. What stands out the most? What colors, patterns, and lines, are being used? What textures, patterns, and lighting has the artist created? What’s implied? What’s explicit? Refer back to your textbook to make sure you are considering all possible formal elements and correct vocabulary! (This is what you are turning in on Thursday!)

Consider what is not so obvious. What is the underlying composition or structure of the piece? Is it balanced, asymmetrical? Has the artist created depth or shallow space? Why or why not? 

Note the content. What are we looking at? What is the subject matter

Finally, consider out about how FORM and CONTENT work together. What visual elements and/or principles of design are the most important for expressing the content of this artwork? Choose 3-5. These will be the basis of your thesis.


  1. Write a thesis. You dont have to make an original argument, but you do have to let your reader know how you think 3-5 of the artists formal choices effect meaning. For example, “In the painting x, the artist uses implied diagonal lines, contrasting colors, and thick layers of paint (impasto) to emphasize the violence of a fight between a hunter and the prey.” You are welcome to email me to your thesis.
  2. Write the Introduction: Clearly identify the work of the art, the artist, the date, time period and materials. Give a very brief description of what is happening in the artwork and introduce key visual elements and principles of design you will address. You are not required to have biographical information, but you may include it here (cited) if you think it helps your thesis. Of course, include your thesis statement.
  3. Write the Visual Analysis: Each element and principle of design you have identified as important can be analyzed in its own paragraph. You may find it helpful for each paragraph to have a topic sentence relating information about the element and how it contributes to meaning. You should NOT focus on the content aka what it is about. You may weave in details about the content as it relates to you discussing formal elements. Dont forget to mention why you think the artist chose to work in this medium. Why does this medium suit their subject best?
  4. Write the conclusion: Summarize your ideas and relate it back to your thesis. Refrain from just repeating your introduction. Instead, offer the new insights you gained from spending a lot of time with one artwork.


  • Refer to artists by their first name and last name the first time you mention them; after that, you may refer to them by their last name
  • Be careful with your terms! Refer to paintings as paintings (not as pictures) and refer to sculptures as sculptures (not as photos, even if it is IN a photo)
  • Any information that is not your own must be cited. However, you are not required to use outside information. In fact, I want all or nearly all of your paper to be in your own words.
  • Read your paper aloud to catch errors