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Sunday, June 16, 2024

How to view art

A step-by-step guide for making the most of your art-viewing experience


By SARAH HAN — arts@theaggie.org


Whether it is a sculpture or a painting, visual art comes in various forms. Regardless of the medium, many viewers overlook the specific and elusive parts of art; therefore, a step-by-step guide on how to view art may be a helpful tool for your next visit to the museum. 

Begin by choosing only a few pieces of art to look at. Oftentimes, the museum can be quite overwhelming at first, with sculptures, paintings and canvases scattered everywhere. Thus, select a few pieces that catch your eye — or just look at the ones in the front. 

Once you have selected a few pieces, I suggest leaving your phone behind. Although photos are great for preserving memories, looking at the art first might help you remember details that a mere photo can’t even capture. 

While viewing the art, focus on the colors, tone, style, theme and size. Also, ask yourself what message the artist is trying to convey. But keep in mind that art can have multiple messages; in fact, some artists even leave the message up to the viewer’s interpretation. Therefore, feel free to use what you notice to create any messages you think the art is trying to convey. 

But how exactly should you focus on all of these artistic components? For color, note the use of bright and muted tones and the color palette. You don’t necessarily need to know much about color theory to observe their effect on artwork; for a lack of better words, simply see how the colors speak to you.

As for tone, divide up the artwork into sections, and see how each section’s color palette complements the other. Asking yourself if the colors are warm (red, orange and yellow), cool (blue, green and purple) or neutral (brown, white, black and gray) can help determine what the overall tone of the art is.

Style may not be the most obvious for viewers. Every painting can be categorized into a certain time period in art history, which determines the style of art. Some may be realistic, baroque, abstract, avant-garde or something else entirely.

This leads to a step that requires a bit more effort: do outside research prior to your visit. If you really want to understand the works as best as you can, doing a little background research on a specific piece, or even just art in general, can give you an advantage before going to the museum. 

I personally recommend researching art history, since it can help determine style as well as the different colors and techniques used in each time period. In other words, knowing the different art movements in history can help you orient yourself with respect to the details of the piece.

Finally, always keep an open mind. Art is undeniably diverse: some pieces can be crowded and complex while others can be simple and minimalistic. Regardless of how the art is, be open to all types — you may even find a new favorite piece of work.

Beyond these steps, my best advice for truly appreciating a work of art is to view it in a way that does the artist justice. Artists put so much time and effort into their works that it’s important to fully take in their meanings as intended. Combining the steps outlined above with this respect of the artistic intent is one of the best ways to express your appreciation for the work of art.


Written by: Sarah Han — arts@theaggie.org