40 total results
Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013
When getting a task to write a visual analysis essay for the first time, the very term is enough to get an inexperienced writer confused. So, what is a visual analysis essay? Putting it briefly, it is exactly what one may think just reading the term: it is an essay where you analyze a visual piece. Such essays are usually assigned in English, History, or Art History classes. You discuss the visual piece, as well as the tools and technique(s) that the author used to create it. You also have to try and reveal the message that the author put into this work at the time of creation, how well it worked then, and how well it holds up today.
Visual analysis essays can be quite diverse in terms of their purpose and focus of interest. For example, you can talk about Botticelli’s art and explain how it works as a prism that allows us to look into the historical events which served as its context. Alternatively, you can take a look at some of the more modern pieces, like Jeff Soto’s “Last Voyage” and try to see in which interior this painting will work best to please the eye.
The only thing that makes any visual piece (basically, anything you see) worth discussing and analyzing in an essay is the meaning that you, as an observer, see or are supposed to see in it. Sometimes, this meaning is rather subtle, and one must make an effort to have it revealed – as in most works of art. In other instances, this meaning is straightforward because the author intends to get a particular message through to the audience without requiring too much effort from the latter – for example, an advertisement. So, how exactly does one analyze a visual object.
There are several key elements to consider here:
Just as any other essay, a visual analysis essay will begin with an introduction. The introduction here has the same purpose as in any other type of essay – to present your subject to your reader and to get them interested. There are several most common ways to achieve this:
Mind that these methods are not mutually exclusive. Your visual analysis essay will be your original piece of work, you are the author, and you are welcome to combine two or more of these methods in the introduction to your essay.
The introduction also has to include the thesis statement which presents the main idea of your essay. Here, your thesis statement will be the claim you make regarding the meaning of the visual piece under analysis.
The introduction is always followed by the main body paragraphs. Each of the main body paragraphs is devoted to a particular point of discussion. In this case, the points of discussion may be the key elements of visual analysis that we have discussed earlier in this article. Usually, the sufficient number of main body paragraphs in an essay is three, but you may want to specify it with your instructor to be perfectly sure.
Concluding your visual analysis essay, you can always stay on the safe side and use framing technique – just restate your introduction. If you have written many essays throughout your years as a student, you know that this is the safest and most obvious way to conclude pretty much any essay you write. In this case, you will also probably think that this approach is boring. With visual analysis essays, there are several ways to make your conclusion more creative and exciting both to read and to write. Here is what you can do:
One may think that a proper education in art is necessary for putting together a visual analysis essay worth reading and that one cannot possibly analyze a visual piece properly without such an education. This is not entirely true. The truth is that, unless you are blind, you are surrounded by visual pieces all the time throughout your life – so, you should have a thing or two to say about how they look and why. Moreover – once again – you are the writer here, and this is your writing. So, if you were assigned to write a visual analysis essay, it means that your instructor is particularly interested in what you have to say about a visual object, how you perceive it through the lens of your experience, skills, traits, etc.
So, it is wrong to feel unfit or unprepared to write a visual analysis essay just because you are not entirely familiar with all the “artsy” terminology. Even if you are, there are surely some tricks that you have noticed creators of visual pieces (artists, advertisers, designers, etc.) use to achieve a particular effect on the audience. For instance, how they make the objects that they want you to notice first bigger and lighter, and how they minimize and fade out the rest of the picture. You are also sure to have some ideas about what colors can symbolize what objects or emotions – for example, how red color is associated with blood and symbolizes danger, how blue associates with the sea and symbolizes peace and tranquility, how green associates with nature, etc.
If you want to create a winning description of a visual piece, you need to make it as vivid as possible. To achieve this, you need to mention some details that one does not pay too much attention to at a glance, but yet they are so meaningful that you can claim that they create the meaning of the piece. To notice these details, you need to take a scrupulous look at the visual piece that you are analyzing and look for them specifically.
Curiously, many experts who specialize in analyzing visual pieces agree that it is best to put away the research about the history of the visual piece, its context, the author’s intentions, etc. It is your visual analysis essay, so your perception of the visual piece should be the focus of your writing. In other words, you should trust your eyes about what you have to write in your essay, rather than anything that other people may have to say on the subject. Of course, it may be beneficial to look for prompts and ideas in other people’s opinions and studies, but not before you take a scrupulous look at your subject yourself and come up with some conclusions of your own.
The meaningful details that make up the overall meaning of the visual piece that we have talked about earlier in this article may be somewhat challenging to spot with an untrained eye. One needs to know where to look for them. So, here are some prompts and brief descriptions of the design elements of any visual piece that one needs to consider when analyzing it:
We have discussed that not being familiar with “artsy” terminology should not stand in your way of writing your visual analysis essay. However, you should not understand it as though you should not use any specific terminology at all. Quite the contrary, the use of terminology is beneficial for convincing your reader of your authority to speak about particular matters. It is essential, though, that you only use a specific word when you are 100% positive that you know its meaning correctly and that it fits well in the particular context, as opposed to mindless throwing the “smart” vocabulary at your reader.
In case you were not familiar with any of such terminology related to visual analysis when you started reading our article, you are already a great deal more educated than you were because we have already given brief and comprehensive explanations of some terms, as you have noticed. Here are a few more that should help you with your visual analysis essay:
Throughout your work on a visual analysis essay, you will inevitably notice that there are so many details that draw your attention. You will focus on the details that you deem most exciting in the main body paragraphs of your essay. It is, however, very easy to get carried away and forget about the overall meaning or message of the visual piece, which you still need to determine and analyze to write the thesis statement of your essay. There are several ways to approach this objective:
Once again, there is no rule saying that you should pick only one approach. You can combine two of them or as many as you like for your thesis statement. All you need to remember is that the thesis statement cannot be too lengthy – usually, it will not exceed two sentences. So, your thesis statement needs to be laconic and concise.
Rather than moving on directly to writing such a massive (or relatively massive) piece of work that your visual analysis essay is, it is way more comfortable to divide the body of work into smaller auxiliary questions. By answering these questions, you can put together your essay with much less effort.