Chat with us, powered by LiveChat The purpose of this assignment is to develop your ability to turn what you see into words and use visual material as evidenc - School Writers

The purpose of this assignment is to develop your ability to turn what you see into words and use visual material as evidenc

The purpose of this assignment is to develop your ability to turn what you see into words and use visual material as evidence, some of the basic building blocks of art historical writing.  The paper should be between 1000 and 1300 words (approx. 3-4 pages double spaced).


Pick one (1) of these objects and write a paper where you translate what you see into words in a structured piece of writing: (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)


Detailed instructions:


The basic process involves: 1) Observing the object closely, noting both details (down to counting and noting individual elements/motifs) and its overall structure, and 2) analyzing how these elements interact to make the whole.  Now the challenge is to convert you observations into an organized, well-structured piece of writing.  You should consider, among other things, such elements as the material, all the surfaces you can see given the restraints of its exhibition or online presentation—front, back, top —patterns, shapes, as well as indications from the piece as to the techniques that were used to create it.  I would suggest taking notes first, perhaps even making a few cursory sketches of the image.


Impose some sort of structure on your observations and use it to organize your paper (top to bottom, left to right, etc.); before you begin writing I would suggest creating an outline to map out how you will organize the paper. Be sure to tell the reader in the introduction how you will go about analyzing the artwork in the body of the paper.  A few preliminary writing suggestions: try to limit your use of the passive voice, avoid cleft sentences, colloquialisms, limit non-descriptive modal verbs etc. [‘serves to, ‘seeks to’]). You can identity iconographic elements but, remember, the focus of the paper is on the close description of its formal elements: do not fill up the paper with extended discussions of symbolism beyond what you see on the object itself


Make use of the critical vocabulary you have gained from class and your readings though be sure that you are aware of the meanings of the words that you are using.  Do not hesitate to develop your own descriptive vocabulary, as long as you are consistent and define your terms if necessary.

This is not a research paper and you should not do any library work for it.  If there are issues or ideas that any of the required readings raise and you believe are relevant, feel free to introduce them but do not . The focus, however, should be on your treatment of the formal elements and that is what you will be primarily evaluated on. 


Notes on the Process of Description

Writing is not a passive reflection of what you see, but a tool for seeing in the first place. Therefore you should plan to write the bulk of your first draft while looking at the object itself. Plan to spend several hours with the object. Remember; anything left out of your description will be lost to interpretation forever! If you have the time (and it is on view) you could even go up to the Getty and look at it in person.

Avoid passive voice unless you are attempting to express some passive quality of the object itself. Active verbs help you to establish the dynamics of interrelation among the different parts of the object. Also: watch your ‘to be’ verbs: these tend to signal missed opportunities for precision. Restructure the description so that you are forced to think of a more vivid and specific evocation of the object. In the process you will be defining your own response to it more clearly and bringing to mind larger questions, themes and implications.


As you examine your image or object, consider each of the following categories of description. This process will produce reams of raw notes and observations that will then need to be filtered, edited, and organized into your paper. Your paper need not address all of the categories below, but should, rather, focus on those observations that you found most interesting, surprising, or otherwise productive. I include these here as things to consider if you feel you are stuck in the writing process.


1) Measurement and proportion: what are the overall dimensions of the object (in both two- and three- dimensions)? Provide precise measurements if possible. What proportional relationships define the object, both in its overall form and among major internal elements?


2) Materials used: identify, if possible, all materials used to create the object. If you cannot identify them describe them as fully as you can. Note their patterns of distribution.


3) Fabrication: how was the object created? Can you determine the processes used to fabricate the object? (For a metalwork, pay attention to the toolmarks etc.).


4) Line: Identify and describe all linear elements, actual or implied, in the object. Are lines emphasized or deemphasized? What line weights are used? Is there an emphasis on smooth or rough lines, short or long lines, nervous or confident lines, choppy or sinuous lines (etc.)? Where are the prominent horizontal lines? Vertical lines? Diagonals? Are there lines (actual or implied) that connect different parts of the object or different objects represented?


5) Geometries and formal echoes: Look for an emphasis or deemphasis on basic geometrical units like circles, triangles, cones, squares, etc. Look for patterns: repeating shapes, nesting shapes, symmetrical arrangements, etc. Identify relationships of scale and number among similar forms.


6) Organization of forms in 3D space: For an object: how are forms arranged in actual 3-D space? For a representation: how is 3D space implied, if at all? What about ‘negative space’? Think about both how the object inhabits space as well as what it portrayed on it.


7) Color: Identify (with as much precision as you are able) the different colors used. Then examine saturation and brightness. Examine patterning, distribution, and echoes much as you did with geometrical elements in step 5.


Optional or in the conclusion:


8) Representational and textual content: Produce an inventory of everything represented ‘in’ the image or object. Note any text.


10) Mobility and manipulability: How easy is it to move or manipulate your object (for representations: how easy would it be to move through the space? To move or handle the objects in it?) What leads you to these conclusions?


11) Function: Based on your observations so far, speculate as to the intended function of the object.  (most of these objects you know the function from class)


12) User profile or implied viewer: Based on your observations so far, speculate as to the status and characteristics of the implied user or viewer. (How does the object create its viewer or user?) Is the viewer a man or a woman? An individual or a group? Where is the viewer? What kind of a body does he/she/they have?


13) Temporal extension: think about the object’s relationship to time. Does it imply or require a narrative or an action? Does it assume that something has already happened? Or that something will happen? How do the formal elements of the object itself manifest how it has existed through time? (wear, destruction etc.)

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