Saturday, August 17, 2013

How to Appreciate a Work of Art

As I wind down on my current painting, I take more time to contemplate the painting. It needs very little at this point. So, tuning deeper into the details is important.

As I did this today, it occurred to me that this is the way a painting or any other work of art should be appreciated. Why did I not think of this before?

So, using my own process as an example today, I offer you some tips on how to look and see a painting; thereby, appreciating it.


Take the entire painting in overall, the gestalt of the work.

  1. What do you notice? 
  2. Do you like it? Why? 
  3. Do you dislike it? Why? 
  4. Are the colors pleasing / displeasing? 
  5. Is the subject matter enjoyable to look at or difficult to look at?
  6. Psychologically, how does it make you feel?
  7. Do you think the overall composition works? This basically means: how do your eyes move around the painting? Do your eyes move around the painting and back again? Or do your eyes land on a spot and stay there? Perhaps the painting moves your eyes out of the picture plane, never to return?


Come in for a closer look, not physically, but looking for details.

  1. Is there a spot on the painting that is intriguing?
  2. Are there other places that give you pause to wonder?
  3. What is it about the certain details or areas of the painting that make you pause and look deeper into it, reflect, or make you appreciate it? 
  4. Can you articulate what you are seeing, thinking, or feeling? It could be a nonverbal response. Maybe you simply like it but don't know why. You are beginning to appreciate the work now. Or perhaps, you dont' like it, but now you can appreciate it somehow anyway. Fantastic!


Spend some more time with the painting; looking, sensing, feeling.

  • Quickly looking at any work of art robs you of a deeper experience. I had a deeper connection with my own painting as I looked at every part of it to discern if it needed anything else from me. As I ventured around the painting with my eye, I would land on certain parts that I had not noticed until now. I paused and appreciated and wondered about that place on the painting. Some parts, I realized needed more work. Other parts, I didn't want to change, but just appreciated the way the colors juxtaposed or the shapes met up together and formed something I could not put into words.

If you want to practice, take a look at my painting as it is now. Click on the image and you will get a larger view of it. I still have a few things left to do with it. But, go for it, if you want to learn more about appreciating a painting next time you visit a gallery opening or exhibit. Feel free to comment. Did this article help you?

Until Next Week
  • Create art 
  • Appreciate art 
  • Buy art 
Mary Rush Gravelle is an artist who resides in Tucson, Arizona with her beloved cat, Sir Kitty. Her art can be seen on her website, She can be contacted via email at:

No comments:

Post a Comment