Feldman (1972, 1981) proposed a formal, objective and open structure for viewing an artwork that encourages describing, analyzing and interpreting prior to placing a personal judgment on the work. This sequence of viewing steps ensures that the viewer has gathered information before leaping to like/dislike conclusions. It certainly isn't necessary to answer all the questions listed in each section. They are there to give ideas about what could be considered in each one.
Describe what you see in the work. This is a listing of facts without judgment statements.
- Note the title and the year created.
- Describe the materials used
- What type of work is it? e.g., landscape, still life, etc.
- What style is it? e.g., photo realistic, abstract, impressionist, etc.
- What is the subject matter? Describe it.
- If it is non-objective work, describe the art elements used (line, shape, colour, texture, value etc.)
Focus on the elements and principles and how they are organized. Separate the composition into its parts in order to determine the expressive power of each part and the relationship between the parts and the whole.
- Has a range of values been used ? Has a value dominance been established?
- Has colour temperature dominance been established? (warm or cool dominance)
- Has colour harmony been achieved?
- Are colours repeated throughout the work?
- Is there variety in the shapes represented? Have the shapes been grouped together to create a coherent whole?
- Is there a clearly organized structure to hold the viewer's eyes?
- If a centre of interest is included, is it effectively established? How?
- Are active areas balanced with passive areas?
- Does the design in this work break the rules, and if so, is it successful?
- What principles of design are used?
What does the artwork mean ? This is the viewer's opinion. Here you try to formulate a specific explanation of meaning that fits with the evidence gathered in the first two steps.
- How does the artwork make you feel? What does it make you think about?
- What do you think the artist is trying to say?
- What is the most memorable aspect of this artwork?
- Why do you think the artwork was created?
- How does this work relate to other ideas or events in the world or to other artwork?
Evaluating an artwork means ranking it in relationship to other works in its class; it is a way of deciding on its artistic and aesthetic merits. It moves well beyond I like, I don't like; it is about how well the artist has succeeded .
- How does this work relate to comparable works? Does it conform to or depart from other works in its class?
- What is original or compelling about the work?
- Does the artwork communicate any major feelings or ideas? (What value do you find in the work? ) e.g., beautiful image, conveys important social message, created insightful connections, connects with history etc.
- Are the ideas /feelings in the work historically or culturally relevant?
- Does the technique used support or diminish the impact of the artwork?
- What are the qualities of the work that engage you?
- Does the artwork come together as a whole?
- Has the artist created a successful image?
- How could the piece be improved on?