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Think of describing as taking a careful inventory of what you see. To take "inventory" of an image, it's helpful to know the language used to describe works of art. The building blocks of formal language are the Elements of Art and Principles of Design.

Describing can help you to identify and organize your thoughts about what you have seen. It may be helpful to think of describing as taking a careful inventory. What figures, objects, and settings do you recognize? You can begin the process by identifying and describing the Elements of Art within a composition.

Elements of Art


Principles of Design

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Imagine that you are a private investigator trying to gather clues to solve a crime. How would you start? Once you found a clue, how would you use it to piece the puzzle together? When "SEEING" the artwork, you used concepts to describe it, those are your clues.


There are six components of Critical Thinking. Try using this compass to help you think about the "clues" you find when seeing.

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Wondering about artwork can help you dive deeper into the artist's intentions. Wondering can look a lot like asking good questions. 

Why are there two-headed people in this drawing?

What are the dogs doing in this sculpture?

Who made this painting?

What made this artist want to draw in this way?

When was this made? Did the time period have an effect on the meaning?

Where was this art made?

Is there a larger theme in this group of paintings?


How can I learn from this artist?

What do I like in this drawing that I can steal?

Do the ideas being expressed relate to what I make?

What could I learn if I researched this artist?

How did they learn this or that technique?

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Good art takes hard work.

Great art takes passion.

Good artists practice.

Great artists play.

The only way to become an artist, even a bad one, is to make art. Make a lot of art. Bad art, good art, boring art, exciting art, art you keep, art you throw away. Just make art.

Find YOUR reason to make art. "My teacher told me to," is NOT a good reason for making art. Find another reason... there are many! Make art about something you enjoy. Make art as a way to ask questions about the world. Make art as a way to express your emotions, opinions, or desires. Make art to learn a new process or material. 


"Every Artist was first an amateur."

                  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be an amateur. Be a beginner. If you have to start somewhere... it might as well be right here, right now.

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