How to describe a painting

 How to explain an painting

I guess all laymen, who appreciate art, are dumbfounded when asked an opinion on a particular painting. Somehow the words don’t flow as we expect them to. The most people can think of is ‘Nice’ or “Beautiful” or even worse “I think the green should be a darker shade”. Well in this article let me take try to make us all seem art smart and sound like we know what we are talking about.

It’s quite simple once you follow some fundamental tips. A painting is made up of different elements that come together to make the work what it is.

First start with the simple fact of knowing the artist’s name and the type of painting – its either Figurative, where the subject of the painting is discernable or Abstract, where its mainly colour, shapes and lines arranged in a harmonious correlation.

Second, describe what type of material was used to create the work of art. For e.g.: the artist could have used acrylic / oil paint on canvas, water color on paper etc. The most common working materials are canvas, paper and board and the most common mediums are oil paint, acrylic paint, pen and ink, charcoal etc. Some artists use more than one media and then its called Mixed Media. It’s not unusual to ask the curator or the artist as to what medium and materials were used in the paintings. And while you are at it, you are also welcome to ask them what the painting means or conveys. You usually tend to get an answer for figurative paintings than abstract ones. Take it from me; no abstract artist can actually explain the abstract work.

Explain the one thing, so striking in the paintings or some aspect that makes you keep staring. Explain the objects in the painting, or what actions are being done by the subjects, e.g. walking in the park hand in hand. Every body is welcome to interpret the painting in their own way. There is no right and wrong, let your imagination run wild.

Next would be the colours used in the painting and the semblance of light and shade. It good to learn the different shades of colours, this helps you explain the painting more accurately. Turquoise, Fawn, Pastel, Azure are some of the colours that could give the listner a better picture, depending on how ‘colour educated’ the listener is.

I guess if one goes through all the above points, one could describe an artwork to a friend and share the joy of the painting.

Some useful links:

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