2 to 3 pages. example included.

CHOOSE an original work of art from the Continuum exhibition on display in the Northcutt Steele Gallery or from the Charles Barstow Collection of Ledger Drawings in the smaller adjacent exhibition space. Both galleries are located on the first floor of the Liberal Arts building on the MSU Billings campus.

COMPOSE a two- to three-page formal analysis essay on the artwork. Formal analysis investigates the form of a work of art, which includes such things as composition, color, texture, line, shape, space, proportion, scale, mass and volume. It is also important to analyze the work of art in terms of style (realism, naturalism, idealization, expressionism, abstraction). Consult the “Starter Kit” in the “Welcome” section of Revel Art and my “Introduction” PowerPoint posted in D2L for more information on the visual elements. You may also consult Look!: The Fundamentals of Art History, A Short Guide to Writing About Art, Writing About Art, and Thinking and Writing About Art History, which are on reserve at the library for this class. A sample formal analysis essay is also posted in D2L for your reference.

Things to consider when writing a formal analysis:

  1. Record your first impression of the artwork. What stands out? Is there a focal point (an area to which the artist wants your eye to be drawn)? If so, what formal elements led you to this conclusion? Your impressions can help you reach your thesis.

2. Composition: How are the parts of the work arranged? Is it symmetrical or asymmetrical? Is it stable or unstable? Is it dynamic or static?

3. Pose: If the work has figures, are the proportions believable? Realistic? Describe the

pose(s). Is the figure active, calm, graceful, stiff, tense, or relaxed? Does the figure convey a mood? If there are several figures, how do they relate to each other (do they interact or not?)?

5. Proportions: Does the whole or even individual parts of the figure(s) or natural objects in the work look natural? Why did you come to this conclusion?

6. Line: Are the outlines (whether perceived or actual) smooth, fuzzy, clear? 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?

7. Space: If the artist conveys space, what type of space is used? What is the relation

of the main figure to the space around it? Are the main figures entirely within the space (if the artwork is a painting), or are parts of the bodies cut off by the edge of the artwork? Is the setting illusionistic, as if one could enter the space of the painting, or is it flat and two-dimensional, a space that one could not possibly enter? If perspective is used to create the illusion of space on a flat surface, what devices are used (overlapping, diminution of size, foreshortening, diagonals, etc.)?

8. Texture: If a sculpture, is the surface smooth and polished or rough? Are there

several textures conveyed? Where and How? If a painting, is there any texture to the paint surface? Are the brushstrokes invisible? Brushy? Sketchy? Loose and flowing? Or tight and controlled?

9. Light and Shadow: Are shadows visible? Where? Are there dark shadows, light

shadows, or both? How do the shadows affect the work?

10. Size: How big is the artwork? Are the figures or objects in the work life-sized?

Larger or smaller than life? How does the size affect the work?

11. Color: What type of colors are used in the work? Bright? Dull? What is the overall color scheme (Monochromatic, Analogous, Complementary, etc.)? Does

the artist use colors to draw your attention to specific areas of the work? How? If a sculpture, examine the color(s) of the medium and how it affects the work.

12. Mood: Do you sense an overall mood in the artwork? Perhaps several different

moods? If so, describe them.

Once you have spent some time analyzing your work, notice if your first impression of the work has changed now that you have taken a closer look. How? If you came up with a thesis statement before doing this in-depth analysis, you may want to change it if your impression of the work has changed. Your thesis statement should reflect your view of the object.

WRITE an organized, typed, double-spaced, paper with one-inch margins on each side. Use Times New Roman 12-point font. Your paper should have an introduction, middle and some sort of conclusion—even a brief paper has shape and is not just a string of random thoughts filling two to three pages. Think of an interesting opening line, one that will entice your reader. Do not start: “The work of art I chose to write about is . . .”

In the introductory paragraph, be sure to identify the work of art by artist, title, date (if known), medium, size (even if only approximate), and its location (where it is you are viewing it). Italicize the titles of works of art. Do not use quotation marks, unless they are part of the work’s title. In this first paragraph, also include what you think the subject of the artwork is, a brief description of the work, and a thesis statement (usually the last line or so).

PROOFREAD your paper. Excessive typing, spelling, and grammatical mistakes annoy and unnecessarily prejudice your reader. Have a friend proofread. You can also contact me for individual assistance. Another resource is the writing tutors in the Academic Support Center (ASC). Please refer to the information included on the course syllabus for ASC hours and services. I highly recommend consulting Angel Shandy (our course’s Supplemental Instructor) or another writing tutor before submitting your essay.

GRADING will be based on both content and writing proficiency, as stated in the syllabus. This paper is worth 15% of your final grade. Late papers will be accepted only with a documented excuse. You are to upload an electronic copy (Microsoft Word) of your paper into the Assignment Dropbox in D2L, where it will be evaluated by TurnItIn for originality.

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