Why Writing Matters

Why Writing Matters in Art

"Writing is the essential bridge between the artist and his or her audience."

~Hideki Kihata, Chair, Art Department

 

Why Writing Matters in Art

Art is often thought of as non-verbal, but that's a fantasy.  The purpose of art is public display.  Every time an artist prepares an exhibition of his or her work, the curators and general public look for an artist statement. The complete artist is more than just a technician.  To communicate the impact of his or her art on audiences, a responsible artist has to be able to explain his or her thoughts and processes and connect his or her own art to the art of others and to the audience.

Artists create art because they want to depict their ideas in an visual form, rather than verbalize them.  Ironically, however, to be responsible artists who can work in a society that is verbally-based, they must be able to do both.

Typical Writing Assignments

Art appreciation courses require significant writing. Assignments range from reports on exhibits to analysis of works of art either from the textbook or from local museums.

  • Example of a report on an exhibit: 
    - Tour a required exhibition. Choose three different works in three different media.
    Disucss why you chose them, then identify their style and content and three
    elements/principles of design for each.
  • Example of single object analysis:
    - Visit a museum or gallery and choose a single object. What message(s) or idea(s) 
    do you believe the artist wanted to convey through his or her work? Support this  
    idea through discussion of his or her use of lines, color, texture, shapes, etc.
  • Example of a comparative analysis assignment:
    - Compare and contrast the images titled " The Death of Marat" by David and
    "Grainstack" by Monet. Use the following four elements for your analysis: types 
    of shapes, color schemes, balance, symbolism.

 

Art and Understanding, which is a Communication Intensive course, requires the most writing. Assignments range from single object analysis, to comparative analysis, to research papers focused on single objects or structures. Assignments typically require historical analysis in addition to analysis of visual components.

  • Example of single object analysis:
    - Visit a museum or gallery and choose a single object. What message(s) or idea(s) 
    do you believe the artist wanted to convey through his or her work? Support this  
    idea through discussion of his or her use of lines, color, texture, shapes, etc.
  • Example of a comparative analysis assignment:
    - Compare and contrast the images titled "The Death of Marat" by David and
    "Grainstack" by Monet. Consider the use of elements such as space, line, color,   
    and light. What message(s) or idea(s) do you believe the artist wanted to convey 
    through his or her work? How do these relate to the ideals and artistic movements
    during the historical period in which each artwork was produced?
  • Research paper assignments vary significantly based on the class, but all require
    substantial analysis of elements such as space, line, color and light, as well as
    significant analysis of the historical period and motivations of the artist.

 

Art History courses require substantial analytical writing in both essay exams and papers. These writings primarily ask that students position art within its historical context. The only way to know if an artistic concept is new is to place it within a historical context and connect it to that context.

  • Example of single object analysis:
    - Visit a museum or gallery and choose a single object. What message(s) or idea(s) 
    do you believe the artist wanted to convey through his or her work? Support this  
    idea through discussion of his or her use of lines, color, texture, shapes, etc.
  • Example of a comparative analysis assignment:
    - Compare and contrast the images titled "The Death of Marat" by David and
    "Grainstack" by Monet. Consider the use of elements such as space, line, color, 
    and light. What message(s) or idea(s) do you believe the artist wanted to convey 
    through his or her work? How do these relate to the ideals and artistic movements
    during the historical period in which each artwork was produced?

 

Art Studio courses require participants to analyze and respond to art and artistic processes and relate them to their own type of work and use of materials.

Qualities of Good Writing

Effective writing in art positions the writer within the thinking process of the discipline.  Thus it requires that writers:

  • Incorporate appropriate art vocabulary and concepts
  • Display visual literacy (understanding shapes, colors, lines, textures)
  • Demonstrate logical thinking, intelligent reasoning, and critical analysis
  • Use organizational structure appropriate for the type of paper
  • Provide examples of concepts being discussed
  • Avoid distracting errors
  • Cite sources appropriately.

 

Appropriate Types of Evidence & Support

Evidence and support will be tied to the purpose for and the type of writing required.  See specific guidelines for each assignment.

Citation Conventions

Both Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) and Modern Language Association (MLA) citation formats are used, depending on instructor preference.