Appreciating Artwork for Beginners

man in front of a fine art piece

A Beginner’s Guide to Art Appreciation

Some people might feel intimidated by the art world, thinking it’s a place reserved for erudite professors, gallery owners, and artists themselves. But, at FrameStore, we believe that everyone is able to appreciate artwork! If you’re interested in learning more about art, we have some helpful tips to equip you to look at pieces with a more critical eye. Whether you’re interested in fine art, contemporary works, or experimental pieces, check out this guide to art appreciation for beginners from the experts at FrameStore.

1. Explore Size

What does the size and shape of a particular work say about how you were meant to view it? Is the piece you’re looking at a large, life-sized sculpture or a small photograph? A larger piece is meant to be seen from a distance, overwhelming you with its power and emotion, inviting you to interact with it. A smaller piece creates a more intimate viewing environment that encourages you to examine the minutiae of the design.

2. Pick Out Shapes

Shapes and lines can tell you where the artist seeks to draw your attention. When trying to appreciate artwork, consider how the artist has used the flow of the shapes to show you what’s important in their piece. If one figure immediately catches your eye, this is likely where the artist wants you to look first. Secondary figures may be slightly smaller, darker, or outside of the main focal points.

3. Focus on Color

contemporary art exhibit

There are many layers to appreciating artwork. After looking at the size of the piece and the shapes within it, you can move on to focus on the different hues the artist uses. If the artist is working with traditional subject matter, is anything a color that it shouldn’t be? Are there any hues that stand out from the other shades in the piece? Are any of the figures darker or paler than others? All of these uses of color may be subtle indicators of what the artist is trying to say within the piece.

4. Move with the Piece

From painters to sculptors, many artists strive to create movement within a motionless medium. When looking at a particular piece, is there anything that indicates the figures are moving? Is there clothing swept back by a harsh wind? Blossoms falling from a tree? Extended limbs reaching towards a goal? The movement in the piece can show you how the elements are interacting with each other, convey emotion, and indicate the mood.

5. Find Cultural Meaning

Appreciating artwork can be a complex endeavor because many pieces are meant to address the cultural themes relevant at the time. You might need to do a little research to discover the cultural meaning of a piece and the intentions of the artist. The next step in this process is trying to apply our modern perspective to the piece and see how culture has evolved and shifted.

Now that you know a little more about appreciating artwork, you can enter any museum or gallery more thoughtfully. Try out these techniques on your next artistic sojourn to find deeper meaning in any piece.

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