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.

Collecting and viewing a work of art is one of the many joys, along with understanding what it means. Art is a form of expression that allows the viewers to view, get inspired, or learn. 

The artist aesthetically tells a story  through art that is pleasing to the eye. Every artist deserves appreciation and recognition for their work.  

A person familiar with art will often know how to decode and discuss art. On the other hand for someone who has never studied art or has zero art background, it will be tricky to understand and appreciate the art and the artist.

Do you like the art but not sure how to compliment the artist? Fear not, you have come to the right place. In this article, we will study the basics of understanding art (painting here). So, next time you see an art piece, you can interpret, discuss and appreciate the art.

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

Egyptian art with detailed work

Look at the painting with more than a glance to draw any conclusion. Before stepping back and talking about the artwork, take a moment to identify the artwork's significant highlights:

Is it a painting, mural, sculpture work, or graphic work?

Is it a miniature or medium-sized, or large piece?

What is the color scheme and tone used?

Are the objects or forms organized, or is it a random design?

You must consider these question because artist did think of above factors when designing the artwork. 

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?

Any significant events which happened around that time? 

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

Above questions certainly gives 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. Often, artist find it difficult to describe their own work.

Consider the composition

Texture Painting with two human figures

Do you see the focal point? The artist wants the viewers' eyes to fall on 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.

But, 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 spend few mins, and it may stir your senses. There will be some factors which 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 reflect anything about the artist.

Know the Story behind

Meditating Budha with sunset in background

Almost every art tells a story. How to figure it out is the process you need to learn! You can start doing this by reading the description written by curators or the artist themselves on the side of the artwork.

Understanding and gathering all the information about the art piece will help you connect the dots and know the story. Once you know the story, you can understand what the object represents, where it fits, and what message the artist intended to convey.

Hence it is necessary to know that story. But it's always easier said than done! Being insightful will help to circle in on this one striking feature.

How do you compliment the art or the Artist? 

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 there is no right or wrong about interpreting an art 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.

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