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How do I structure my Visual Analysis?

Maria-Luisa Marino
Artist Maria-Luisa Marino

There is no single correct way to structure a visual analysis, however, as with all good writing, it should engage the reader and convey a sense of the writer's views supported by appropriate evidence or examples. Your visual analysis is likely to be brief, but it should still have an introduction, a sequence of linked paragraphs and a conclusion, just like an essay. Quick Ref 5 'Writing Essays' offers useful information on task analysis and structuring your writing.

The introduction to your visual analysis could consist of just one or two sentences at the start of the first paragraph providing some context for the artwork or design. These sentences could also indicate your attitude toward the work or your response to it. Alternatively, you might like to begin your analysis with a strong statement that grabs the reader's attention before going on to explain why this observation is significant.

Most visual analyses typically include:

  • a description of the object
  • a description of the technique
  • an interpretation of the meaning or intention of the work
  • an evaluation of the work.

Often two or more of these aspects will appear together in the same section or sentence.

Check the notes you made during your gallery visit and your reading to see if you have a balance of these aspects, then think about the features of the artwork or design you wish to discuss. Try to identify any logical or causal connections between these features. For instance, will you start with the most striking quality of the work or will you gradually lead up to it? Will you describe what you see or what you feel first? Could you perhaps combine these elements, using your description of how the artist or designer has achieved a particular effect to explain how this impacts on the viewer? Should your evaluation of the work appear at the start of the analysis or would it be better placed toward the end?

Regardless of the structure you use, attention should be paid to paragraph construction. Each paragraph should develop one central idea and employ transition signals to guide the reader through the progression of your thoughts.

You are expected to develop an argument in your visual analysis based on your observation and evaluation of the object or artwork.

Simply by selecting particular qualities of the work to discuss, you are forming and expressing an opinion about their importance. In effect, your analysis should persuade your reader that your interpretation and evaluation are valid. Keep this idea in mind when structuring your paragraphs to ensure that the information they contain is relevant. Each paragraph should advance your argument towards the conclusion, where you will draw together and reflect on the observations you have made.

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