Formal analysis worksheet about the art painting

| September 24, 2015

FAH287 Fall 2015 First Written Assignment: Formal Analysis Worksheet (15%)
(adapted from “Elements of Art” and “Principles of Design,” produced by the Education Department of The Paul Getty Museum, and from Art History Teaching Resources)
Using the worksheet (starting on page 2), you are to produce a very detailed formal analysis of one painting from the Art Gallery of Ontario. Select your painting from a separate document entitled “FAH287 Fall 2015 AGO List.” Take copy of the worksheet to the AGO with you – it is designed to both stimulate and help you capture on paper your first-hand observations. The worksheet is in a Word Document so that you may print out it, leaving yourself enough room to write directly on the paper. Then, produce a good copy of the worksheet with more polished responses typed in, and submit this in class on Wednesday, Sept. 30, along with a colour image of the painting from the AGO. Also, submit your ticket from the AGO or a photo of yourself with your painting at the AGO, if a ticket is not available.
The purpose of the first written assignment is twofold: first, to provide you with an opportunity to learn about and put into practice all of the ways that one can perform a “formal analysis” of a painting – a fundamental element of art history writing. The second purpose is to provide you with a variety observations about the AGO painting that you can use as a jumping off point for the second written assignment – an essay, due Wednesday, Nov. 25, that will focus on this painting along with two comparative works.
For the first written assignment you will be graded on the basis of the level of detail that you provide for each category on the worksheet. (If particular categories are not pertinent to your painting, simply say “not applicable.”) You should plan to spend AT LEAST an hour in front of your painting at the AGO. Use each category of the worksheet to look hard – and then look again.
Include each category and explanation in your final submission, with your comments for each directly underneath. Do not group your answers together in a long section or sections. If you do this, you will not be meeting the goals of the assignment, and your grade will reflect this. Also, note that this is not a research paper; you should only provide your own analysis of the work.
Your assignment should be 8-10 typewritten pages, single-spaced. Your responses for each category may be in either short paragraphs, or in point form.
You do not need to submit this cover sheet. Submit the worksheet only (including each category/explanation). Be sure to put your name and student number at the top. On the due date, Wednesday, Sept. 30, submit a hard copy of the worksheet in class and also submit the assignment to
Late written assignments will be penalized at a rate of 5% per day. See the course syllabus for more details.
Student Name and Student Number:
FAH287 Fall 2015 First Written Assignment: Formal Analysis Worksheet
(adapted from “Elements of Art” and “Principles of Design,” produced by the Education Department of The Paul Getty Museum, and from Art History Teaching Resources)
Part 1: Overview of Painting
Artist’s Name:
Painting Title:
Size (exact if known, or approximate):
Date of Painting:
Begin by briefly recording your first impressions of the artwork:
Briefly describe the subject of the painting based on your initial impressions – i.e. what/who is portrayed in the work?
Now consider the title: does the title of the painting change or affect your first impression?
If there is a descriptive wall card about the painting, how does it help you to refine your first impression?
How big is the artwork? What is its shape? Are the figures or objects in the work life-sized, larger or smaller than life? It is bright, dark, or somewhere in between? Do you sense an overall mood in the artwork? Perhaps several different moods? If so, describe them.
Part 2: Elements of Art
The elements of art are the building blocks used by artists to create a work of art. Using the categories below, describe how the artist has used the elements of art in this work:
Line is a mark with greater length than width. Lines can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal; straight or curved; thick or thin. How does the artist employ line in the painting? For example, are the lines (or outlines) (whether perceived or actual) smooth, fuzzy, clear, very precise? Are the main lines vertical, horizontal, diagonal, or curved, or a combination of any of these? Are the lines jagged and full of energy? Sketchy? Geometric? Curvilinear? Bold? Subtle? (Don’t just repeat these adjectives in your answer – explain clearly how the artist uses line to delineate shapes or subject matter.)
If the artist doesn’t emphasize the use of line, what does he or she do instead to give the painting form?
Shape is a closed line. Shapes can be geometric, like squares and circles; or organic, like free-form or natural shapes. Shapes are flat and can express length and width. What are the predominant shapes in the work? Are they repeated in any way throughout the canvas?
Forms are three-dimensional shapes expressing length, width, and depth. Balls, cylinders, boxes, and pyramids are forms. What are the predominant forms in the work? Are they repeated in any way throughout the canvas?
Space is the area between and around objects. The space around objects is often called negative space. How and where does the artist employ negative space in the painting? How does the artist’s use of negative space have an impact on the depiction of objects in the work?
Space can also refer to the sense of depth in the painting. Has the artist provided a sense of depth in the work? If so, how? If there is no sense of depth, how would you describe the articulation of space in the painting?
Color is light reflected off of objects. Color has three main characteristics: hue (the name of the color, such as red, green, blue, etc.), value (how light or dark it is), and intensity (how bright or dull it is).
White is pure light; black is the absence of light.
Primary colors are the only true colors (red, blue, and yellow). All other 
colors are mixes of primary colors.
Secondary colors are two primary colors mixed together (green, orange, 
Intermediate colors, sometimes called tertiary colors, are made by mixing 
a primary and secondary color together. Some examples of intermediate 
colors are yellow green, blue green, and blue violet.
Complementary colors are located directly across from each other on the 
color wheel (an arrangement of colors along a circular diagram to show how they are related to one another). Complementary pairs contrast because they share no common colors. For example, red and green are complements, because green is made of blue and yellow. When complementary colors are mixed together, they neutralize each other to make brown. 

Use any relevant terms from the above list to discuss the artist’s use of color throughout the painting.
Texture is the surface quality that can be seen and felt. Textures can be rough or smooth, soft or hard. How does the artist employ texture in the painting? Is it consistent throughout the work, or does it vary? Does the artist exploit the texture of the medium used, or downplay it? Is there a dichotomy between the application of medium and the sense of texture in the subject matter? I.e., even if the paint application is smooth, does an object still appear to be “rough”? Even if the paint is roughly applied, does the object still appear to be “smooth’?
Part 3: Principles of Design
The principles of design describe the ways that artists use the elements of art in a work of art.
Balance is the distribution of the visual weight of objects, colors, texture, and space. If the design was a scale, these elements should be balanced to make a design feel stable. In symmetrical balance, the elements used on one side of the design are similar to those on the other side; in asymmetrical balance, the sides are different but still look balanced. In radial balance, the elements are arranged around a central point and may be similar. How has the artist created – or denied – a sense of balance in this work?
Emphasis is the part of the design that catches the viewer’s attention. Usually the artist will make one area stand out by contrasting it with other areas. The area could be different in size, color, texture, shape, etc. The area that is most greatly emphasized is generally referred to as the focal point. What is the focal point of this work? Is there more than one? If so, how does this decision on the part of the artist affect the viewer’s experience of the work?
Movement is the path the viewer’s eye takes through the work of art, often to focal areas. Such movement can be directed along lines, edges, shape, and color within the work of art. Describe the key “paths” the artist has incorporated into the composition to move the viewer’s eye through the work: are these straight, curved, diagonal, etc.? Does the artist position any objects (including portrayals of people) to also guide the viewer’s eye through the work?
Pattern is the repeating of an object or symbol all over the work of art. Repetition works with pattern to make the work of art seem active. The repetition of elements of design creates unity within the work of art. How does the artist employ pattern and repetition in the work? Does this also contribute to the way the viewer’s eye is “guided” to move through the work?
Proportion is the feeling of unity created when all parts (sizes, amounts, or number) relate well with each other. When drawing the human figure, proportion can refer to the size of the head compared to the rest of the body. Are the parts of the work in proportion? If so, how does this decision on the part of the artist have an impact on the overall impression or mood of the work? If not, what elements are out of proportion, and how does this have an impact on the overall impression or mood of the work?
Rhythm is created when one or more elements of design are used repeatedly to create a feeling of organized movement. Rhythm creates a mood like music or dancing. Does the artist imbue the painting with a sense of rhythm? If so, how does this affect the viewer’s experience of the work?
Variety is the use of several elements of design to hold the viewer’s attention and to guide the viewer’s eye through and around the work of art. Is the painting filled with variety, or lacking in variety? Again, how does this affect the viewer’s experience of the work?
Vantage point refers to the imagined position of the viewer of the painting. What is your vantage point – are you looking straight on, from above, from below, across, etc.? How does your vantage point affect your response to the work and your feeling of inclusion or exclusion from the subject matter of the work?
Part 4: Summing Up
Once you have worked through the above categories, notice if your first impressions of the painting have changed, now that you have looked at it very closely. If so, how have your first impressions changed? What elements of art and principles of design that you identified in the work led you modify your first impressions?
Would you like to make any additional observations, not covered by the above categories?
What questions do you have about this painting, now that you have looked at it very carefully? This list of questions may be helpful in developing ideas for your second written assignment, an essay about this work and two comparative works. (Note that the comparative works can be by the same artist at your AGO work, or other artists. You do not have to select your comparative works at this point.)

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Formal analysis worksheet about the art painting
Formal analysis worksheet about the art painting


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