Tools for Looking at an Artwork

Did you know that the average amount of time a person looks at a work of art is between 15 and 30 seconds? Do you think that is enough time to really engage with an artwork? We encourage you to use the guidelines below to help you really look at a work of art, and create your own opinion. You can share your thoughts with your teacher and peers.

Continue reading below or download these tips as a PDF.

BEGIN by looking over the whole work of art—very quietly.

Begin to notice what you see.

FIRST, ask yourself: "What’s going on?"

Be specific! Think to yourself:

  • What clues within this work of art makes you think that?
  • What did the artist add or leave out that makes you think that?

NEXT, make a list of words that come to your mind when you look at this work of art.

Look over those words—do they have anything in common?

NOW, look at the title, when the work was created, and the media.

  • Do you like the material the artist chose for this work of art?
  • Does when the work was created change what you think?
  • Does the title add, take away, or change nothing about the work of art?

LASTLY, ask yourself:

  • What is your favorite part of this work of art? Why?
  • Why do you think the artist chose to focus on that topic/idea/thought?
  • If you could display this work of art anywhere, where would that be?