How to Appreciate art when you're not an Artist

Guide on how to appreciate art, interpret art, discuss art, understand art. How to compliment an artist, checking art in art gallery.

'Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. '- EDGAR DEGAS.

Viewing and collecting art is a wonderful experience that offers the opportunity to not only appreciate the visual beauty but also to understand the meaning behind it. Art serves as a powerful medium of expression that can inspire, educate and evoke emotions in the viewers.

An artist uses various elements like color, line, texture, composition and symbolism to communicate a message or a story through their work. It is essential to appreciate and acknowledge the artist's hard work and creativity.

However, for someone who is not well-versed in art, understanding and interpreting a painting can be challenging. This article provides you with some basic tips to help you appreciate and understand art better.

By observing and analyzing the art piece, you can start to identify the elements used by the artist, such as color palette, brushstrokes, composition, and subject matter. This information can be used to decipher the meaning behind the painting.

What are the things that you should be first looking at in a painting? 

Egyptian art with detailed work

When analyzing a painting, it is essential to take the time to observe and identify the significant features of the artwork before drawing any conclusions. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Identify the medium: Is it a painting, mural, sculpture work, or graphic work? Knowing the medium can give you clues about the artist's technique and style.

  2. Note the size: Is it a miniature or medium-sized, or large piece? The size can give you an idea of the artwork's impact and the artist's intention.

  3. Consider the color scheme: What is the color scheme and tone used? The artist may have used specific colors to create an emotional response or to convey a particular message.

  4. Observe the composition: Are the objects or forms organized, or is it a random design? The composition can tell you about the artwork's balance, movement, and emphasis. 

Check the elements used

Landscape painting with sea, building and peope in foreground

Observe the fundamental elements used by the artist, line, shape, tone, color, pattern, and texture. A straightforward, simple painting might give out different meanings to different men and women.

Now check whether the painting follows figurative design or abstract fashion. The figurative design uses material topics like people, animals, etc., to portray emotions. Colors, shapes, and lines are utilized to depict emotions in conceptual design.

There are different styles of artwork painting, such as realism, surrealism, impressionism, etc. For a beginner, do not get into this complicated subject and keep it straight and simple. 

Know the Art and Artist

Girl in art gallery looking at painting

What is the age of the artist, and where do they live?

Is the painting signed, and does the signature signify anything about the artist?

The above questions certainly give some insight. When you learn something about the artist, it undeniably adds to the appreciation.

To understand the work of art as a whole might be challenging.

Consider the composition

Texture Painting with two human figures

Do you see the focal point? The artist wants the viewers' eyes to fall on a specific area in the painting. There can be multiple focal points. Look for them.

Reading a figurative painting is comparatively easy due to the right and fair depiction of emotion. Still, it doesn't imply that what you comprehend from the painting is what the artist wanted you to. 

Things are a bit different with abstract paintings. It's impossible to understand the emotions simply by looking at the lines drawn and the colors used. These abstract paintings perform their magic with colors and lines, not with physical life objects.

What you find interesting in the art

When you look at the painting for the first time, does something strikes your imagination? Is it the color, the depth, the pattern, the symmetry, the bold brushstrokes, the kind of texture, or something else?

If nothing strikes, give it more than a glance, like spending a few mins, and it may stir your senses. There will be some factors that got your attention.

See through different angles

Try looking at it from different angles. Discover new ways to see the same thing. Switch to see what it looks like from a new angle.

Consider what the topics or symbols meant to this artist when they created the art. Check the color scheme and see if it reflects anything about the artist.

Know the Story behind

Meditating Budha with sunset in background

It is important to note that every piece of art conveys a story. Understanding this story is a process that requires some effort. One way to start is by reading the descriptions provided by curators or the artists themselves. By gathering information and connecting the dots, you can gain a better understanding of the artwork.

Once you have a clear understanding of the story behind the piece, you can begin to decipher its meaning and message.

However, it can be challenging to figure out the story behind an artwork, and it requires a certain level of insight. To be insightful, you need to pay close attention to the details and identify the key features that stand out.

How do you compliment the Artist?

It's essential to be sincere and specific with your compliments. By acknowledging specific aspects of the artwork, you show the artist that you have paid attention and understood their work.

Say, 'I love your style', or 'I like the color scheme used' or 'It is a beautiful piece of work, or 'I am impressed with the composition', or 'I am inspired by your work, it’s wonderful. ' etc.

Suppose you feel you want to say something specific, mention it positively, and keep it short. You do not have to go to an art exhibition to practice this. You can start by observing artworks in the magazine, novel, signage, or online websites.

Sum up

The primary point to keep in mind is that there is no right or wrong about interpreting a painting. It's your imagination that works, and it can never fail.

Once you understand these pointers, appreciating a painting will be easy. After spending some time with the paintings, you will begin to spot the artist and the meaning.

When you visit an art gallery or see a work of art, remember these points, the story will unfold before your eyes.