How to Write a Visual Analysis Paper
Introduction. Tell the basic facts about the art (see citing your picture). Get the reader interested in the photo by using one of the following methods:
- Describe the photo vividly so the reader can see it.
- Tell about how the pic was created.
- Explain the purpose of the artist.
- Give interesting facts about the art or artist.
- Talk about a controversy or misunderstanding about the art.
Thesis: Your thesis will tell the meaning of this picture (see Analyzing the Meaning of the Pic)
Figure: Support your thesis with three or more main ideas which support your meaning. Use questions in the pre-writing sections for ideas.
Conclusion: Attempt to conclude rather than just repeating your thesis. Either give a final interesting fact or attempt one of the following:
What sort of photo will you be analyzing for your Visual Analysis Paper?
Student Paper Visual Analysis Sample: This is not a student from my class but I think the example is pretty well done and might be helpful. It is about Jeff Soto’s wood panel painting “Last Voyage”
Visual Analysis of Botticelli: Another student paper which does a nice job with using the format of explaining how the historical period and life of the artist is related to the meaning of the painting as well as discussing the visual aspects.
Describing an Pic in a Paper
Don’t have an art background? Don’t worry. You very likely know a lot more than you realize. Modern people are surrounded by pics every day.
Everyone Can Analyze Pictures: Even if you don’t know the terms of how people analyze art, you will be familiar with many of the tricks that artists use to create a reaction in the reader, such as making the most significant pics larger and light, and the less significant ones in the background or fading darker. You can also lightly recognize symbolic colors, such as: crimson means emergency or blood or danger; green means safe and close to nature; and blue means cool and relaxed.
Commence by Looking Closely. Most Visual Analysis Papers will require a clear and vivid description of the picture along with an analysis of the visual composition of the picture in order to explain how the artist put the picture together to create meaning. Just describe the photo you see and use the chart below to help you use the right terms.
Trust Your Own Eyes. You may want to do your own probe of the pic before you actually research the history of the pic, so that you can write out your own thoughts without being influenced by other people.
Use Chart and Questions for Help: Embark your visual analysis description by getting a good copy of the picture and looking at it cautiously. Look at the chart below and response the key questions in order to help you see the different visual elements.
Woman Suspending up Stocking (pre 1923). Compare to the photo of the boys below. | Source
What is main figure? How are other figures placed in relation to main figure? What is left out?
The way different parts of an picture are put together draws the viewers attention to some parts more than others. It also creates tone, mood and meaning.
Elements of Design
The different aspects the artist can use to put together the picture.
Which elements of design are most significant in this chunk (color, line, texture, form, form, value, size, text, movement)
Meaning comes from what the artist uses and also what they don’t use.
Elements of Design
Analyzing Meaning of Visual Pictures
Albeit Visual Analysis Essays often concentrate a lot on the details of describing the pic, you will also need a thesis which tells what the pics mean. There are several ways to do this and your assignment may tell you which direction to go. Here are some typical ways to analyze pics for meaning:
1. Claims: What claims does the photo make? What type of claim is it?
Two. Visual Composition: How is the pic arranged or composed? Which of the following aspects of composition help makes the claim? Examine:
Three. Genre: What is the genre of this photo? (examples: fine art, movie, advertisement, poster, pamphlet, news photograph, graphic art etc.). How does it go after the rules of that genre or break away from them? How does that affect the meaning of the photo for the audience?
Four. Text: How does any text or caption work to provide meaning to the visual?
Five. Appeals: How does it appeal to the audience to believe the claims? Are appeals to logic? Emotion? Character? Authority? Are any of these appeals false or deceiving?
6. Selling: Does the claim budge into a sales pitch? Does it use a cultural value or common cultural symbol in a way that exploits that picture?
7. Story: What story does this picture convey? How does this story help the claim or appeal to the audience?
To get ready to analyze the meaning of the picture for the artist and the people viewing the art, it helps to very first find out the rhetorical situation. That means you need to know what the artist was attempting to do at that particular point in time, and how the audience reacted. Sometimes the reaction of the audience that very first witnessed the chunk is very different from the reaction you might have. If it is, that can make an interesting paper thesis.
Starving Russian Children in 1922 famine. Photo postcard sold to raise money for famine victims. | Source
Analyzing Historical Photos
This historical photo is a good example of an pic with a specific purpose. The photo was taken by Fridtjof Nansen along with other photos of the Russian famine. The purpose of the photo was to raise money for Russian ease. The photo was published as part of a set of postcards which were sold to raise money and then sent to raise awareness of the problem in others.
Since the text is in French, the Photograph was very likely published to raise money from France and other French-speaking peoples. The text elucidates the photo by telling the boys are feeding one another in the fatal final stages of thirst. It describes their skeletal limbs and engorged bellies as having come from eating grass, tree bark, straw, worms and filth in order to get through.
While the photo undoubtedly affected the original audience, the pathos of the picture also speaks to an audience today who may be downright unaware of this famine. For viewers today, the picture may bring to mind the many famines in other areas around the world, as well as photos of Holocaust survivors.
Pre-Writing for Visual Analysis Essay of Historical Context
Reaction the following questions to get ready to write an analysis of the photo and the audience response. While each of the questions can have a single sentence reaction, you can use that single sentence as the topic sentence of a paragraph and give examples and explanation to pack out that paragraph.
- Who is the artist?
- What is the purpose of this lump? Why did the artist create it?
- Who did the artist create the picture for?
- What was going on at that time in art or in the culture that the artist was either reacting against or reflecting?
- How did the audience in that historical moment view this work?
- Where was it published? How would the pic appeal to that audience?
- What was the reaction to this chunk of art when it very first appeared? Since then?
- Did the audience understand what the artist was attempting to say with the photo?How did the artist feel about the reaction of the audience?
Principles of Design
Virginia Kearney 7 days ago from United States
Taro–Look at my articles about argument strategies for more information, but here is the basic idea: pathos is the emotional appeal, logos is the logic or reason appeal, and ethos is the character appeal. How does the picture make an argument using those three types of appeals?
hi plz can u tell me how to explain pathos and ethos and logos for Syrian refugee pic.
Jigme Tenzin Two months ago
Wonderful! Glad that I came across this chunk of yours at the right time when I had to submit my visual Art response papers which I was null about it. Thank You!
Virginia Kearney 8 months ago from United States
Excellent points, Mandi. You are fairly correct that we are doing analysis all the time, whether we know it or not. Understanding the terms and contraptions of analysis can help us communicate our evaluations more effectively. That is the purpose of this article. Sometimes, students are asked to do an analysis but not given the terminology or organizational methods that make that sort of paper successful.
mandi 8 months ago
Knowing what an analysis is and being able to write one can mean a difference inbetween passing and failing a course. In addition, here is why:
• Your professor may ask you to write an analysis without even mentioning that it is, in fact, an analysis
• Any time you discuss a work of fiction or even a film or a work of art, you’re doing an analysis
• Being able to do it may count for as much as 80% of your grade, especially in a Humanities course such as Literature, Art, or Sociology
Writing a picture analysis essay requires a basic understanding of essay structure and these visual communication mechanisms. Excellent picture analysis essays combine both these elements while addressing the more ephemeral ideas and practices communicated by a picture.
Virginia Kearney 9 months ago from United States
Alex–I’m so glad you stopped by to tell me that my work helped you! I’ve worked hard to make my articles as finish and effortless to understand as possible. Having used many different textbooks in my career, I’ve noticed that many of them explain how to analyze writing but are not as good at explaining how to do that sort of writing yourself. My aim has been to provide step by step instructions of how to write different kinds of essays.
Thank you so much for this article! It’s very helpful.
Mary Norton Two years ago from Ontario, Canada
I wish I had these guidelines when I was in university. It would have been effortless to write all those art analysis papers required in our Humanities class.
Virginia Kearney Two years ago from United States
Hi Paul–The movies affixed to this article are one kind of example and I actually just finished an example of doing a visual analysis on an advertisement for my own class but haven’t posted it yet. I will have to do that soon. Can you tell me what your assignment is like? Are they analyzing their own photo? That would be interesting. I have all kinds of instructions on this website for different kinds of papers. Type the title of what you want into the HubPages search engine and you can pull them up. Or you can look at my “index” of articles: https://hubpages.com/literature/College-English-He.
This article is so helpful. I am instructing an Expository writing course (very first time!) and i am having my kids attempt this, but with a private photograph. Would you have an example essay that I can demonstrate them as a model?
Jevon–I’m glad you learned a bit about how to look at art and find it more interesting. We spent a lot of time going to art galleries this summer on vacation, and I truly appreciated being able to use what I’ve learned about visual analysis when I was looking at the paintings.
Jevon Wiley Two years ago
Even however this article was meant to train me how to write a better Visual Analysis Paper, this article indeed instructed me how to better appreciate art. I’m not the type of person to go to an art gallery just to look at art, but now I believe I can actually give an intellectual thought on any painting I see.
Virginia Kearney Trio years ago from United States
Thanks for the comment nic. I most likely need to add a link to my ariticle about organizing essays:
I also have tips on structure in most of my articles on types of essays like Argument, Problem Solution or Cause. For a total list of all of my Essay Writing Articles see:
was hoping for an essay structure but this still helped
Colin Neville Three years ago
Excellent article; very comprehensive and useful, not just for students, but for anyone visiting an art gallery, too.
K. R. H.Grace Three years ago from Fairbanks, AK
I had to do one of those in my English 111 class way back when. It was joy but I wish I’d read this sooner. college teachers don’t make a eat of sense :(. but good hub ;D
How to Write a Visual Analysis Paper
Virginia Kearney 8 days ago from United States