Looking at Artists. The OCA study guide

“Time taken to browse exhibitions, books and internet galleries is not time wasted. It will feed your imagination and develop your technique.” (all quotes are from the study guide).


This study guide recommends looking at everything – amateur and professional exhibitions, art online, books, museums and galleries.

“At exhibitions you can always tell who the practising artists and photographers are. They are the ones right up at the canvas, closely scrutinising every brush stroke or mark made, to see what they can learn.”

The study guide suggests there is much to learn, even from not so good art. It is often better to focus on a few works in depth rather than try to take everything in. Always take a sketchbook and notebook. It may also be useful to take a friend to discuss the work with. Look at the art in context of the gallery and be open to what is there.

“..when you look at art to consider all the main elements that make up a work of art: shape, form, space, value (light and dark), texture, colour and line.” Also, look at composition, proportions, rhythm and balance.

“Make judgements:

  • First describe the art work; this will make you focus on it. You can do this in your head or make notes on paper.
  • Then analyse it, using the tips above.
  • Once you have analysed the elements, try to second guess what the artist intended. What do you think the artist was trying to convey? This is the most challenging part of looking at art, and is called interpretation.
  • Finally, draw your conclusions. This is much more to do with your personal response to the work. How does it make you feel? What reaction do you have to the elements and composition? Does the work feed your imagination? Does it intrigue you or does it leave you cold? “

It is useful to add your own notes to a postcard or sketch.

Art books: Make notes about the books you read in your learning log.

Online: Do not use Wikipedia as your main source. You will be penalised on assessment if your main source is Wikipedia. Use gallery websites such as Tate online and resources accessed through the OCA such as Oxford Art online.

To do:

  • incorporate the advice on visiting exhibitions into my learning log
  • make notes about books I have read in my learning log



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