Critiquing art is easy. Especially if you fake it.

Most people encounter times when there simply doesn't seem to be anything new or interesting to do. Everything has been done before, ad nauseum. All the movies have been seen, there's nothing good on TV, and for heaven's sake, you don't want to go bowling...again. That'll be four times this week.

Copia Magazine: Art Analyst But there is one activity that is oftentimes overlooked. It's right there in front of you, in every state in almost every town, and that is visiting an art gallery. And it doesn't have to be a museum either. It can be an art or antiques store, or a preview at an auction, or, in a pinch, even a poster shop.

Now, this isn't many people's idea of a good time, but I will suggest that most of us don't enjoy art because we don't understand it, nor do we want to appear ignorant about such high-falutin human expression. Surprisingly, you don't have to be an art scholar to understand art, to appreciate it, and to even talk and write about it, and I'm going to teach you how in one easy lesson.

To appreciate and critique art, you simply go through the four steps of DAIJ. That stands for Description, Analysis, Interpretation, Judgment. Don't get freaked out about DAIJ. Just kind of stick to the principles and you'll be fine. And you'll be surprised how much it helps you enjoy art. Okay? Lets get started. Copia Magazine: Art Analyst


Describe what you see. Who is the artist? What kind of artwork is it? What are the literal objects in the painting; tree, rock, man, woman, etc? Now think about the first thing you noticed when you looked at the piece, like, "That Mona chick has a weird smile," or "Those clocks look like they're melting." Then describe the colors, shapes and textures. Is it day or night, what time, and how can you tell? Now explain what the mood of the piece is.


Now you'll expand your thoughts on what you've already noticed. How has color been used and what effect does it have? How has the artist used shapes and lines and are they dominant? What role has texture played and has the artist used real texture or just the illusion of it? How has the artist used light in the work, e.g., "Only the dogs playing poker are lit. The rest of the room is pretty dark."


Next we'll uncover the meaning of the artwork. What is the artist trying to say and what does it mean to you? How does the work relate to you and your life? How does it make you feel, such as "Makes me horny," or 'I feel kind of sick.' Now ask why the artist create this work. It's okay if your answer is, "He was hoping to trade it for a hamburger."

Judgment Copia Magazine: Art Analyst

Now that you've described, analyzed and interpreted the art, it's time to render your all-powerful judgment. What is the value of the work? Does it convey an important message or offer beauty or similar attribute? Will it bring this value to others? Alrighty then, why does it stink? Does it look like your 8 year-old could have painted it? (NOTE: Does not necessarily mean it isn't good.) What is your final answer and on what do you base your undeniably superior opinion?

Now you're ready to view art, critique it and even converse and write about it. If all this seems like a little too much to bother with, then here is how you simply look like you are appreciating art.

First, look at the painting from a reasonable distance. Now walk up close, staring at the painting. Now move far away and look at it some more. Remove your glasses and continue looking. Now, squint at the art. Frown. Now walk up really close until your nose is almost touching it. Now move back to your original, reasonable distance and look some more. Put your glasses back on, and for heaven's sake, don't stop looking at the art. Shake your head in an exasperated fashion and move to the next work.

And to converse intelligently about the art, or write about it without really appreciating it, use this handy Instant Art Critique Phrase Generator that is sure to be useful with friends, at a party, or writing about art for the N.Y. Times. You art appreciator, you.

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How To Be An Art Know-It-All - by Christopher Reilly