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FAQs for visual analysis

Ken Smith
Ken Smith by Osian Grant 2007
What is a visual analysis?

Visual analysis is a way of writing about an artwork in order to understand it better. It involves looking closely at the visual qualities of the work and considering how the various elements come together to create a particular effect or experience. A visual analysis is like an essay in that it has an introduction and paragraphs that develop the writer's ideas, explore perceptions and lead toward a conclusion.

What is the difference between describing and analysing?

Description and analysis are related, but describing is only one aspect of analysing. When you analyse anything, you first need a description of the several parts that you have distinguished in some coherent work. In other words, you need not only to identify the constituent parts but also to explain how they relate to one another. Analysis thrives on description but includes something else that suggests how the parts (or elements) of an artwork are structured to make up a whole.

Is it okay to write in the first person (use the word 'I') in my visual analysis?

Yes, it is fine to use this excellent personal pronoun! It identifies the fact that the text has an author (you) and helps you declare your opinions, which are awkward to express in any other person or in passive speech.

How does writing a visual analysis relate to my studio practice?

The skills of observation, insight and expression required for writing a visual analysis are also important in your studio practice. Indeed, the more you are able to understand and explain how the various elements of a work of art or design combine to create a particular effect on the viewer, the more you will be able to translate that knowledge into your own work.

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