Why the fear of writing essays:
Once students have produced an art and design essay they usually appreciate the effort they have made to really understand an artist and designer or a particular piece of work, but there are a few issues to consider before starting.
There are many reasons why art and design students may prefer not to write essays. Some compare the practice of writing with practical production and find that written work looks physically smaller and less significant. Others might not be able to see the impact and relevance to their practical work.
Most students focus on the length of the work and are daunted by the scale, such as 1,000+ words for a personal study in an art and design GCE. At the outset they find it difficult to break up the essay into manageable pieces and confront each as a bite size component. Being able to do this is a particular kind of study skill, which a lot of students haven’t had the chance to develop.
Breaking up the task into components:
Essays in art and design education can have different expectations, so the first thing you need to do is identify the components the essay is expected to cover. A typical essay for a GCE Art & Design Special Study is frequently set in order to provide students with an in depth view into an artist or designer’s work. Below is an outline of components that would support in depth analysis and articulation of viewpoints for an art and design essay on a single artist or designer:
- Details of the artist’s life and career
- A Picture of the work and other relevant pictures
- Reason for choosing the work
- Social/Cultural influences on the work
- Political influences on the work
- How a specific development in art may have affected the work
- Artistic influences on the work
- Quotations about the work by other writers and your opinions of them
- Visual analysis of the work
- Personal interpretation of the work
Variation in art and design essays:
It is important to realise that not all of the above elements will always have an impact on an art and design essay. It clearly depends on the artist or subject area.
For example, some artists and art movements are clearly impacted greatly by world politics. As such, you need to look at political influences on the work. Yet other artists are more affected by the economy and will need more exploration in relation to social and economic impacts on the work.
The outline provided, of components for essay writing, is flexible, which means that you need to have an overview of the components and be able to decide which elements should be included. If you go through the different sections above and reflect on how important they are, you will quickly be able to identify which ones you will need to include.
You could do this in mind-map form or just making a simple list. Try researching each of the sections in the library and online. Some will give much more information than others. This will help you determine the weight to give to each section.
Some essay topics will be set as a hypothesis, which is essentially a question format. The beauty of this kind of essay structure is there will be no right or wrong answer. The hypothesis will also enable you to steer the essay more clearly and be more selective about the kinds of research you do.
Remember to keep going back to the original question. Ask yourself: “am I sticking with the point.” As it is easy to get engrossed in information, especially if you are really passionate about the artist’s work and want to know more about it.
Having a hypothesis within an essay can actually really help you progress, so you may consider putting a hypothesis whenever you write about an artist’s work.
This is one of the easiest kinds of written pieces to undertake. Essentially, take two artists and compare their work. You can be quite critical about each, but do need to remember to have a balanced argument. Keep your own personal opinions to the end and justify them in the conclusion.
A simple way of structuring the comparison is to keep it quite logical. You could almost have a paragraph covering each artist one after the other.
This is the first thing people will read, it sets up the scene and helps determine if the reader is clear or not as to the content of the rest of the essay. Getting it right can be tricky, many students find it really useful to write a draft introduction and then go back to it at the end of the essay and re-write it. You may have changed your opinions or found something really new that you want to include in the introduction.
A good introduction sets out exactly what you are going to cover. It does this by explaining the aim or purpose of the essay. There is no harm in including a sentence like: “The aim of this essay is to…” Moreover, because there will be different methods of interpreting any kind of art, it is really useful to indicate the kinds of methods you will use. Will you be looking at the cultural impact on the work or comparing the art to another artist?
While the conclusion is your opportunity to put in your own opinions, it is really easy to forget about the essay and jump to something completely new. The essay as a whole should be aimed at finding out something, discovering and clarifying your thoughts. It should serve a purpose for you personally, giving you a new insight or helping you to answer questions about the art you have investigated. It is these very answers that you should be including in the conclusion.
Don’t think you have to make a formal black and white document. Adding personality to your writing makes it even more interesting. It is not uncommon for art and design students to write their essays in Word to get all of the spelling correct and then have a printed copy and a creative copy. The images above represent essays that have tried to break the mould, but still have critical content.
What is the purpose of an art essay?
Generally, an art essay is an essay that talks about art in sculpture, paintings, architecture, music and portraits.
These kinds of essays are used for:
- Painting visual pictures: an art essay is an essay that showcases visual arts and creative ideas that people have come up with.
- Improving creativity: the whole purpose of art essays is to provide a platform for students to tap into their creative side and vividly paint a picture of a certain image using words.
Art essay topic choice
Like every other essay, there are general tips that should be considered when coming up with an art essay writing topic.
- The type of art: this may include a painting, a sculpture or just a simple hand diagram. The type of art is important as it sets out what you are supposed to write about.
- What intrigues you about the art: this is the most important part of the essay. The whole art essay is based on what you want others to know about the piece of art.
- Personal interests: what you, as a writer, love is very important as it narrows down the topic. It is easier to write on topics that are well-known to you.
There are a number of art essay writing topics to choose from.
Below is a list of topics for an art essay
- Differences between Picasso’s concepts and Matisse’s
- The history of art in the Netherlands
- Differences between Bernini and Borromini
- The inspiration behind famous painting
- The Mona Lisa
- Leonardo Da Vinci
- Ancient Roman structures
- The sculptures of nude women
- Impressionism era of art in Netherlands
- The graphics of modern day art
- Insinuations behind ‘The Thinker’
- The Pieta of Michelangelo
- The contribution of Vincent Van Gogh and Piet Mondrian
- Flemish Baroque in the 17th century.
The above are some of the good topics for an art essay.
Structure of an art essay
The art essay topics determine the kind of structure to build on. However, most have a standard art essay structure.
Sample of art essay outline
The Mona Lisa is one of the most known paintings in the world. This is the painting of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco Del Giocondo, believed to have been painted in the 16th century. It is the work of Leonardo da Vinci and it was purchased by King Francis I. The Mona Lisa is currently under the ownership of the French government.
The Mona Lisa has had a great impact towards the contribution of art in France:
(i) It is one of the most famous paintings in the world. The Mona Lisa is the painting that everyone wants to see. It is so precious that only a copy of it is actually showcased in the museum.
(ii) It has led to the growth of art. The Mona Lisa has inspired artists all over France. There has been a rise of many artists including Camille Pissarro, a painter, and Etienne-Jules Marey, a photographer.
It is clear that the Mona Lisa is the soft spot in France. The French take pride in it and have used it to improve their lives. Besides its contribution to art, it has also placed France among the leading countries that celebrate art. This has therefore created a culture of being drawn to art and it is reflected in their way of life.
The above is a sample of outline for an art essay.
Arts essay tips on writing the introduction
An art essay introduction identifies the art and the artist. Art is diverse, as it could be sculptures, architecture, performing arts or paintings in it. This is where you state why you chose that topic. It also contains a history of the said art and brief details, like who the artist is, the year, the location, etc.
The introduction for an art essay states the thesis. It may be a general statement about the art or a specific aspect of it.
Tips on thesis writing
The thesis statement should be simple and easy to write about. Too complex statements tend to be confusing.
- Pick a statement that is closer to your understanding.
- Ensure it is as simple as possible.
- To avoid irrelevancy, one can have an art essay draft that they can build on.
Tips on the body (transitions, paragraphs, and length)
This is the main part of the essay where you derive analysis based on your point of view. Describe why the art is so appealing to you. Ensure that your defense covers an angle that has not already been covered for uniqueness. For example, one can focus only on the strokes of a portrait. However, ensure that what you describe is relevant to the thesis of your art essay topics.
The essay should not be too long. The sentence construction should also be well done. For this reason, it is advisable to have your points arranged into paragraphs. Ensure that each paragraph is independent and speaks volumes. This ensures that the art essay hooks the reader.
The transition from one paragraph to the next should also be smooth. Using cliché transitions makes the essay boring; therefore, you need to be creative.
Tips on conclusion writing
In an art essay conclusion, one needs to state their opinion. What you think the artists` feelings were and why they decided to paint it the way they did. At this point, you can state the events that contributed to the artist coming up with that art. The conclusion for an art essay requires a lot of research into the background of both the art and the artist(s). For this reason, the references and sources of the information should be cited.
Advice for writers
In art essay writing it is important to first do your research. Art is so diverse and this can be sometimes confusing. The topic to write on should be related to your interests, for example, as a musician, you would find it easier to write about performing arts and music. Besides this, do not plagiarize any work done. Cite and state all sources, making sure that you observe all rules of patent and copyrights.
For you to be a good writer, these art essay tips will be very helpful. The best writer is the one who admits to being in a need of help. The art essay writing guide can also be used to find more about art essay writing steps. Different sources could give different art essay outlines so you need to be careful.
Finalizing the essay
After writing the art essay, it is important to have a clean essay. This calls for proofreading and editing. Proofreading ensures that you do not have any grammatical errors, the art essay outlining is as required, your sentence construction is good and the language used is the required one. Some sites offer art essay writing guide for use when one gets stuck. Proofreading also ensures that the art essay structure is followed. After this is done, ensure that the format used is correct whether APA, MLA or Chicago.