How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: Mastering Artful Interpretations 👌

visual analysis

Setting itself apart from other essays, visual analysis essays necessitate a thorough examination of design elements and principles. Whether it's the mysterious smile of the 'Mona Lisa' or a striking photograph capturing a fleeting moment, visual art has the power to move us. Writing this kind of paper is like peeling back the layers of a visual story, uncovering its meanings, and unraveling its impact.

Think of it as decoding the secrets a picture holds. Imagine standing in front of a famous painting, like the 'Mona Lisa' in the Louvre. Millions are drawn to it, captivated by the tale it tells. Your essay lets you share your perspective on the stories hidden in images.

If you're feeling unsure about tackling this kind of essay, don't worry—check out this blog for a straightforward guide. The expert team at our essay service online will walk you through each step of writing the essay, offering tips and examples along the way.

how to write a visual analysis essay

What Is a Visual Analysis Essay

A visual analysis essay is a unique form of writing that delves into the interpretation of visual elements within an image, such as a painting, photograph, or advertisement. Rather than focusing solely on the subject matter, this type of essay scrutinizes the design elements and principles employed in the creation of the visual piece.

Design Elements: These include fundamental components like color, size, shape, and line. By dissecting these elements, you gain a deeper understanding of how they contribute to the overall composition and convey specific messages or emotions.

Design Principles: Equally important are the design principles—balance, texture, contrast, and proportion. These principles guide the arrangement and interaction of the design elements, influencing the visual impact of the entire composition.

Purpose: The goal is not only to describe the visual content but also to decipher its underlying meaning and the artistic choices made by the creator. It goes beyond the surface level, encouraging the writer to explore the intentions behind the visual elements and how they communicate with the audience.

Stepwise Approach: To tackle this essay, follow a stepwise approach. Begin by closely observing the image, noting each design element and principle. Then, interpret how these choices contribute to the overall message or theme. Structure your essay to guide the reader through your analysis, providing evidence and examples to support your interpretations.

Tips for How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay Successfully:

  • Use clear and concise language.
  • Support your analysis with specific details from the visual piece.
  • Consider the historical or cultural context when applicable.
  • Connect your observations to the overall artistic or rhetorical goals.

Sample Visual Analysis Essay Outline

This sample outline offers a framework for organizing a comprehensive structure for a visual analysis essay, ensuring a systematic exploration of design elements and principles. Adjustments can be made based on the specific requirements of the assignment and the characteristics of the chosen visual piece. Now, let's delve into how to start a visual analysis essay using this template.

I. Visual Analysis Essay Introduction

A. Briefly introduce the chosen visual piece

  • Include relevant details (title, artist, date)

B. Provide a thesis statement

  • Express the main point of your analysis
  • Preview the key design elements and principles to be discussed

II. Description of the Visual Piece

A. Present an overview of the visual content

  • Describe the subject matter and overall composition
  • Highlight prominent visual elements (color, size, shape, line)

III. Design Elements Analysis

  • Discuss the use of color and its impact on the composition
  • Explore the emotional or symbolic associations of specific colors

B. Size and Shape

  • Analyze the significance of size and shape in conveying meaning
  • Discuss how these elements contribute to the overall visual appeal
  • Examine the use of lines and their role in guiding the viewer's gaze
  • Discuss any stylistic choices related to lines

IV. Design Principles Analysis

  • Discuss the visual balance and how it contributes to the overall harmony
  • Analyze whether the balance is symmetrical or asymmetrical
  • Explore the use of texture and its impact on the viewer's perception
  • Discuss how texture adds depth and visual interest

C. Contrast

  • Analyze the contrast between elements and its effect on the composition
  • Discuss whether the contrast enhances the visual impact

D. Proportion

  • Discuss the proportion of elements and their role in creating a cohesive visual experience
  • Analyze any intentional distortions for artistic effect

V. Interpretation and Analysis

A. Explore the overall meaning or message conveyed by the visual piece

  • Consider the synthesis of design elements and principles
  • Discuss any cultural or historical context influencing the interpretation

VI. Conclusion

A. Summarize the key points discussed in the analysis

B. Restate the thesis in the context of the insights gained

C. Conclude with a reflection on the overall impact and effectiveness of the visual piece.

An In-Depth Guide to Analyzing Visual Art

This in-depth guide on how to start a visual analysis essay begins with establishing a contextual foundation, progresses to a meticulous description of the painting, and culminates in a comprehensive analysis that unveils the intricate layers of meaning embedded in the artwork. As we navigate through each step of writing a visual analysis paper, the intention is not only to see the art but to understand the language it speaks and the stories it tells.

Step 1: Introduction and Background

Analyzing the art requires setting the stage with a solid analysis essay format - introduction and background. Begin by providing essential context about the artwork, including details about the artist, the time period, and the broader artistic movement it may belong to. This preliminary step allows the audience to grasp the significance of the painting within a larger cultural or historical framework.

Step 2: Painting Description

The next crucial phase in visual analysis involves a meticulous examination and description of the painting itself. Take your audience on a vivid tour through the canvas, unraveling its visual elements such as color palette, composition, shapes, and lines.

Provide a comprehensive snapshot of the subject matter, capturing the essence of what the artist intended to convey. This step serves as the foundation for the subsequent in-depth analysis, offering a detailed understanding of the visual elements at play.

Step 3: In-Depth Analysis

With the groundwork laid in the introduction and the painting description, now it's time to dive into the heart of writing a visual analysis paper. Break down the visual elements and principles, exploring how they interact to convey meaning and emotion. Discuss the deliberate choices made by the artist in terms of color symbolism, compositional techniques, and the use of texture.

Consider the emotional impact on the viewer and any cultural or historical influences that might be reflected in the artwork. According to our custom essay service experts, this in-depth analysis goes beyond the surface, encouraging a profound exploration of the artistic decisions that shape the overall narrative of the visual piece.

How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: A Proper Structure

Using the conventional five-paragraph essay structure proves to be a reliable approach for your essay. When examining a painting, carefully select the relevant aspects that capture your attention and analyze them in relation to your thesis. Keep it simple and adhere to the classic essay structure; it's like a reliable roadmap for your thoughts.

how to write visual analysis essay

Introduction

The gateway to a successful visual analysis essay lies in a compelling introduction. Begin by introducing the chosen visual piece, offering essential details such as the title, artist, and date. Capture the reader's attention by providing a brief overview of the artwork's significance. Conclude the introduction with a concise thesis statement, outlining the main point of your analysis and previewing the key aspects you will explore.

Crafting a robust thesis statement is pivotal in guiding your analysis. Clearly articulate the primary message or interpretation you aim to convey through your essay. Your thesis should serve as the roadmap for the reader, indicating the specific elements and principles you will analyze and how they contribute to the overall meaning of the visual piece.

The body is where the intricate exploration takes place. Divide this section into coherent paragraphs, each dedicated to a specific aspect of your analysis. Focus on the chosen design elements and principles, discussing their impact on the composition and the intended message. Support your analysis with evidence from the visual piece, providing detailed descriptions and interpretations. Consider the historical or cultural context if relevant, offering a well-rounded understanding of the artwork.

Conclude with a concise yet impactful conclusion. Summarize the key points discussed in the body of the essay, reinforcing the connection between design elements, principles, and the overall message. Restate your thesis in the context of the insights gained through your analysis. Leave the reader with a final thought that encapsulates the significance of the visual piece and the depth of understanding achieved through your exploration.

In your essays, it's important to follow the usual citation rules to give credit to your sources. When you quote from a book, website, journal, or movie, use in-text citations according to the style your teacher prefers, like MLA or APA. At the end of your essay, create a list of all your sources on a page called 'Sources Cited' or 'References.'

The good news for your analysis essays is that citing art is simpler. You don't need to stress about putting art citations in the middle of your sentences. In your introduction, just explain the artwork you're talking about—mentioning details like its name and who made it. After that, in the main part of your essay, you can mention the artwork by its name, such as 'Starry Night' by Vincent van Gogh.

This way, you can keep your focus on talking about the art without getting tangled up in the details of citing it in your text. Always keep in mind that using citations correctly makes your writing look more professional.

Visual Analysis Essay Example

To provide a clearer illustration of a good paper, let's delve into our sample essay, showcasing an exemplary art history visual analysis essay example.

Unveiling the Details in Image Analysis Essay

Have you ever gazed at an image and wondered about the stories it silently holds? Describing images in visual analysis papers is not just about putting what you see into words; it's about unraveling the visual tales woven within every pixel. So, how do you articulate the unspoken language of images? Let's examine below:

steps visual essay

  • Start with the Basics: Begin your description by addressing the fundamental elements like colors, shapes, and lines. What hues dominate the image? Are there distinct shapes that catch your eye? How do the lines guide your gaze?
  • Capture the Atmosphere: Move beyond the surface and capture the mood or atmosphere the image evokes. Is it serene or bustling with energy? Does it exude warmth or coolness? Conveying the emotional tone adds layers to your description.
  • Detail the Composition: Dive into the arrangement of elements. How are objects positioned? What is the focal point? Analyzing the composition unveils the intentional choices made by the creator.
  • Consider Scale and Proportion: When unsure how to write an image analysis essay well, try exploring the relationships between objects. Are there disparities in size? How do these proportions contribute to the overall visual impact? Scale and proportion provide insights into the image's dynamics.
  • Examine Textures and Patterns: Zoom in on the finer details. Are there textures that invite touch? Do patterns emerge upon closer inspection? Describing these nuances enriches your analysis, offering a tactile dimension.
  • Cultural and Historical Context: Consider the broader context in which the image exists. How might cultural or historical factors influence its meaning? Understanding context adds depth to your description.

Final Thoughts

As we conclude our journey, consider this: how might your newfound appreciation for the subtleties of visual description enhance your understanding of the world around you? Every image, whether captured in art or everyday life, has a story to tell. Will you be the perceptive storyteller, wielding the brush of description to illuminate the tales that images whisper? The adventure of discovery lies in your hands, and the language of images eagerly awaits your interpretation. How will you let your descriptions shape the narratives yet untold?

Keep exploring, keep questioning, and let the rich tapestry of visual storytelling unfold before you. And if you're looking for a boost on how to write a thesis statement for a visual analysis essay, order an essay online , and our experts will gladly handle it for you!

how to write a visual analysis essay

How Do You Make a Good Conclusion to a Visual Analysis Essay?

How do you write a visual analysis essay thesis, what is a good approach to writing a visual analysis paper formally.

how to write a visual analysis essay

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How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: Format, Outline, and Example

11 December 2023

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Writing a visual analysis essay is an exciting and challenging academic exercise for art students. As a priority, before writing such an essay, learners need to familiarize themselves with design elements and principles. In this case, standard design elements are color, shape, size, and line, while common principles of design are proportion, balance, texture, and contrast. Basically, understanding these concepts would help a writer to provide an in-depth description of an image. In turn, such descriptions must make it possible for the audience to develop a mental picture of an image or visual display. Hence, students need to learn how to write a visual analysis essay correctly to shape knowledge of art.

Definition of a Visual Analysis Essay

One of the essay types that students write is a visual analysis essay. Basically, this academic writing exercise requires learners to provide a detailed description of a specific image or visual display. In doing so, students analyze an image or visual display by describing this visual in detail and explaining how different concepts fit together to make a picture in a way as it appears. Moreover, these concepts include visual elements and principles of design. Therefore, when writing a visual analysis essay, students must understand these basic concepts and relate them to an image or visual display in question before providing a detailed description. In turn, the most common subjects that writers address are drawings, paintings, sculptures, and architecture objects. Besides, the time when scholars need to write a visual analysis essay is when instructions require them to describe a given or any image, taking into account visual concepts named before.

How to write a visual analysis essay

11 Visual Elements in Writing an Analysis Essay

Based on the preceding section, one of the concepts that students must consider when writing a visual analysis essay is visual elements. In essence, these elements give an image of its visual characteristics. For example, common visual elements are composition, elements of design, focal point, color, line, texture, shape, form, value, size, and symbolic elements. In turn, it is practically impossible for a student to analyze an image or visual display without describing how some of these elements exemplify the subject’s visual characteristics.

1. Composition

When analyzing a visual display, students must address how a subject is put together. Basically, this is what is termed as composition. When talking about composition by describing a visual display, a writer must cover the placement of things in an image. Also, this aspect means describing how things relate one to another within a canvas. When analyzing an image, a student must focus on answering several questions related to composition. In turn, these include what entails a primary figure, how artists place other figures relative to a primary figure, and what they left out.

2. Elements of Design

When creating an image, artists use different approaches to bring their works to life. Basically, these approaches are what entails elements of design. Therefore, when writing a visual analysis essay, students must familiarize themselves with these elements by answering specific questions. In turn, these aspects include understanding design elements – color, shape, size, form, and line – that exemplify an image or visual display the most.

3. Focal Point

By definition, a focal point is a part of an image or visual display that an artist draws the audience’s attention. In this case, when writing a visual analysis essay, students must address this visual element by understanding this focal point and design elements, such as line, form, color, and shape, that an artist has used to exemplify this part of an image. 

When creating an image, artists use an element of color to exemplify a visual aspect of their works. In this case, the term “monochromatic” means that artists have used one color to create an image, while the term “complementary” means that they have used colors opposite each other on a color wheel. Also, when writing a visual analysis essay, students must describe how an element of color affects a visual image, focusing on colors that artists use and how they affect the tone, mood, and meaning of an image.

An element of line entails actual lines presented in an image. Typically, these lines result from the artist’s effort to place different objects in an image or visual display in question. Hence, when writing a visual analysis essay, students must describe how lines help grab the viewer’s attention toward or away from specific parts of an image. 

An element of texture refers to how smooth or rough an object is or a pattern thereof. In particular, when writing a visual analysis essay, students must understand that a texture can either be real on a three-dimensional art or represented on two-dimensional art. Besides, when analyzing an image, students must focus on a place where an artist exemplifies an element of texture and how it influences the audience to expect a particular touch sensation.

An element of shape refers to how an artist uses various shapes, including circles, ovals, rectangles, and squares, to bring their artworks to life. Basically, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should describe specific shapes that artists use to exemplify their works and where those shapes direct the viewers’ eye. In other words, they should describe how artists use specific shapes to exemplify a focal point. 

An element of form refers to an aspect of light and shading and how artists use them to bring their creations to life. Through this element of form, artists can make a two-dimensional object appear like a three-dimensional object. In turn, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should focus on where artists have applied light or shading to exemplify their work’s specific aspects.

A value element refers to a degree to which an artist has exemplified light and dark aspects in specific parts of their works. Basically, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should describe how artists have applied these aspects in their works and whether there is an indication of these concepts’ symbolic use.

An element of size refers to the overall size of an image or visual display with a relative size of figures provided in an image. In this case, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should explain why they believe an artist chose the image’s particular size and why different objects in a picture have different sizes. Notably, when an artist applies different sizes concerning lines and shapes, it means that an image is of relative significance.

11. Symbolic Elements

An element of symbolic elements refers to using objects with symbolic or historical meaning in an image or visual display. In particular, an example of these objects is the cross, which exemplifies the Christian faith. Also, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should explain whether the image has any symbolic objects and if there is, whether an artist intends to use such directly or by inverting it.

9 Visual Principles of Design in Writing an Analysis Essay

Besides visual elements described in the preceding section, artists also apply design principles when creating images or visual displays. In turn, such principles help to exemplify the visual characteristics of an image or visual display. For example, some of the common design principles include balance, emphasis, movement, pattern, proportion, variety, contrast, hierarchy, and rhythm.

A principle of balance refers to a distribution of different visual elements in an image or visual display to enhance stability or instability. Basically, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should describe images by addressing a symmetrical and asymmetrical balance. In this case, the former indicates that both sides of an image are even, and the latter means that a picture is weighted on one side. Moreover, radical balance means that an artist has organized objects in an image around a central point. Therefore, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should address these aspects of balance to give the audience a perfect understanding of an image.

2. Emphasis

An emphasis principle refers to an object that catches the viewers’ attention when they look at an image. In this case, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should describe how an artist in question has used elements of size, color, texture, shape, and others to exemplify one part of an image and make it a focal point. Moreover, when looking at an image, a viewer can identify an extent to which an artist has applied an emphasis principle by studying a focal point.

2. Movement

A principle of movement refers to an extent to which an image fosters a movement of the viewers’ eyes in a path as they view an image or visual display. In particular, a movement aspect explains why a viewer may focus on specific parts more than others. Besides, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should describe how an image influences a direction in which the viewer’s eyes move. In turn, they should also explain visual elements, such as line, color, shape, or size, which influence this eye movement.

A principle of pattern entails the use of objects in an image repeatedly. Basically, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should identify specific objects or symbols that artists use repeatedly in their works. Typically, repetition indicates that an object bears a significant meaning, and a student must explain this meaning to the audience.

4. Proportion

A principle of proportion refers to how sizes relate one to another in an image or visual display. Moreover, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should explain this principle by addressing whether the relationship among objects in an image is realistic or distorted. In either case, they should explain the meaning that an artist intended to communicate when creating an image.

A principle of variety refers to an extent to which an artist uses different visual elements to influence the audience’s perception of an image as dynamic. Basically, this principle of variety enhances an active rhythm in an image or visual display. In turn, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should explain to the audience how different elements of design, such as color, size, shape, and size, are combined to create a mood or meaning.

6. Contrast

A principle of contrast refers to a juxtaposition of opposing elements. In particular, an example of contrast in an image is the use of colors opposite each other on a color wheel, like red versus green or blue versus orange. Then, another example of contrast is a tone or value in an image, such as light versus dark, and direction, such as horizontal versus vertical. Hence, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should explain to the audience abut a significant contrast in an image, which tends to be exemplified in a focal point. In turn, an image that has too much contrast undermines the quality of unity and is likely to disgust viewers.

7. Hierarchy

A principle of hierarchy refers to a degree to which people viewing an image can process it. As such, this aspect indicates the significance of color, size, line, shape, and other elements of design in an image or visual display. Moreover, visual elements that appear prominently in an image are the most significant. In this case, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should analyze the use of titles and headings in an image. For example, the term “title” denotes a significant aspect of an artwork. Hence, artists should make it a prominent element in their creations. In turn, when describing an image in an analysis essay, a student should explain this aspect with the meaning that it bears.

A principle of rhythm refers to an extent to which an artist has used spaces between repetitive elements. For example, this aspect is similar to how a musician uses spaces between notes when composing a piece of music to create rhythm. Typically, artists create five types of rhythms in an image: random, regular, alternating, flowing, and progressive. In this case, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should describe how an artist has used these rhythm types. Moreover, what they should understand is that these rhythms differ in patterns. For instance, while random rhythms lack a discernable pattern, regular rhythms have a pattern, where an artist adopts the same spacing between elements with no variation. Consequently, alternating rhythms have a pattern where an artist adopts a set of repetitive elements but with no variation between them. About flowing rhythms, an artist uses bends and curves, like sand dunes or ocean waves.

A principle of layout refers to how an artist has used objects in an image. In other words, it entails the placement or distribution of objects, such as symbols, in an image. In this case, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should explain specific objects that an artist has used in an image under analysis and how they are placed in the work. Also, the layout is related to other principles of design, such as pattern and proportion.

How to Analyze the Meaning of an Image for Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

Based on the preceding sections, when writing a visual analysis essay, students should consider how an artist has applied different visual elements and design principles. In turn, these elements and principles exemplify an image, bringing to life specific parts, particularly a focal point. Therefore, when analyzing the meaning of an image or visual display for their essays, students should pay attention to elements and principles of design and explain to the audience their effect on a visual.

1. Visual Composition

Visual composition entails how an artist has arranged or composed an image. Basically, when analyzing such an image in a visual analysis essay, students should explain the composition’s aspects that enhance a claim. In this case, they can describe a layout, and it means specific objects in an image that an artist has used to grab the viewers’ attention. For example, they can explain how visual lines draw the viewers’ attention to a focal point. Also, writers student can describe balance. In turn, this aspect means describing the size of images and how they compare one to another. Besides, scholars should talk about a focal point by describing its placement – centered or offset.

When describing an image in a visual analysis essay, students should explain the image’s claims to the audience. Typically, there are five claim types: fact, definition, cause, value, and policy. Firstly, when talking about a fact claim, writers should explain whether an image is real, and, when talking about a definition claim, they should explain its meaning. Then, when talking about a cause claim, learners should explain the causes, effects, and relationships between these effects. In turn, when talking about a value claim, students should explain the importance of an image, and it should be evaluated. Finally, when talking about a policy claim, writers should explain a solution and how it can be achieved.

When analyzing an image in a visual analysis essay, students should interpret its meaning by explaining its genre – whether it is a movie, fine art, poster, graphic art, photograph, or pamphlet. Consequently, they should explain to the audience whether it aligns with that genre’s rules or an artist has disregarded them. More importantly, writers should explain to the audience how a genre affects the image’s meaning.

When analyzing an image in a visual analysis essay, students should address an appealing aspect. Basically, this feature means how an image appeals to the audience and influences them to believe intended claims. Here, students should explain to the audience whether an image or specific parts of it appeal to logic, emotion, authority, or character. More importantly, they should explain whether any of the appeals are deceptive.

5. Context and History

When writing a visual analysis essay, students can analyze an image by addressing its historical context. Basically, the good approach is to explain the image’s rhetorical situation to the audience. In this case, writers must familiarize themselves with the artist’s intended message and how the audience reacts when looking at this image. Moreover, the writer’s response to an image can differ from that of the initial audience. In turn, learners should use such difference as the main idea (a thesis statement ) of discussion in their visual analysis essay.

Writing a Visual Analysis Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide

Like any paper, writing a visual analysis essay requires students to observe specific strategies of persuasive writing . Basically, these strategies include preparation, stage set-up, actual writing, and wrap up. Moreover, these strategies enable students to create works that satisfy academic writing conventions, such as having a thesis statement, citations, appropriate formatting, and free from errors and mistakes.

Step 1: Preparation for Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

Preparation refers to an aspect of planning how to go about executing a task. In academic writing, preparation is the main first step to persuasive writing, and it entails reading a story or reviewing an object or subject, finding a visual, defining a topic, preparing ideas, and considering the needs of the audience. Therefore, one can argue that preparation is the stage where students develop a frame of mind necessary to conduct an in-depth analysis of an image or visual display.

A. Reading A story or Reviewing an Object or Subject.

In many instances, an image that students analyze in a Visual Analysis essay is found in texts, such as books, journal articles, reports, or novels, or galleries. Therefore, reading a text is the first activity that a writer should undertake when analyzing an image. Also, students may go to museums to observe specific artworks. In turn, if it is a text, learners should read an article at least twice to grasp essential details that are pertinent to their visual analysis essay.

B. Finding a Visual

As students read a text, they should focus on identifying an image or visual display that they should analyze in a visual analysis essay. While it is standard practice for instructors to guide students on where to find an image, sometimes, they may have to choose an image for themselves. In the latter context, identifying an image that writers find understandable to them in terms of its visual elements is the best approach in writing a visual analysis essay.

C. Defining a Topic

Although the objective of a visual analysis essay is to describe an image or visual display’s visual characteristics, students should come up with a topic that best describes this endeavor. By considering the essence of elements and principles of design that apply to an in-depth analysis of an image, students have a broad scope when it comes to defining a topic for their visual analysis essays. As such, the secret to finding the right essay topics is to decide on what aspect of analysis – elements or principles – they intend to focus on.

D. Preparing Ideas

It is common practice for students to come up with ideas when writing any type of academic text. Basically, this phase of preparation helps learners to develop a mindset about a task at hand. In essence, ideas that students generate should align with a topic they have already defined. In this case, writers cannot think about aspects of writing that would not further their agenda. For example, learners cannot develop ideas about the significance of design elements when their topic is about values that principles of design provide in a visual display.

E. Considering Readers

When writing a visual analysis essay, students should not only think about an image from the perspective of elements and principles of design. Basically, writers should think about how their visual analysis essay would help the audience understand this image better. In this case, learners should understand the audience and what might be of interest to them. For example, students of history might want to know how a particular image influenced the perception of those who saw it first. To address this need, a writer may have to address the image’s rhetorical situation more than its visual characteristics.

Step 2: Stage Set-Up for Organizing a Visual Analysis Essay

After preparation, the second step in writing a visual analysis essay is setting up the stage for the actual writing. Here, students spend time finding credible sources , making notes, creating an essay outline , and writing an annotated bibliography. Moreover, it is a stage where writers get down and start doing some work to bring their goal to fruition.

A. Finding Credible Sources

Unlike other academic texts, visual analysis essays that require students to analyze an issue, phenomenon, or object require some degree of research. In particular, when writing a visual analysis essay, learners may have to find reliable sources that help them to conduct an in-depth analysis of an image at hand. For example, writers may have to find out what critics have said about an image with the meaning of applicable concepts, such as balance, movement, shape, size, and proportion. As such, finding academic sources that can provide some insight into these essential details is a crucial step when writing a visual analysis essay.

B. Making Notes

As students read through study sources that they identify for writing a visual analysis essay, they should make notes relevant to a task. In this case, learners should read through their sources while making notes about important concepts that they find relevant to their analysis, such as proportion, context, and balance. Also, these notes are essential in supporting points that writers generate, influencing new ideas.

D. Writing an Outline and Annotated Bibliography

Like any other essay, a visual analysis essay should have an outline that follows an essay structure . In this case, the standard outline for essays entails three main sections: introduction, body, and conclusion. When writing a visual analysis essay, students should follow this outline. Then, an annotated bibliography is a text that summarizes each of the sources that students have identified and used to find critical information. Generally, learners do not need to write this summary in writing a visual analysis essay. However, to simplify their work for finding information, students may write an annotated bibliography when writing a visual analysis essay.

Step 3: Actual Writing of a Visual Analysis Essay

The third step in writing a visual analysis essay involves the actual process of writing a paper. Here, students should begin with the first draft. In this case, the advantage of this draft is that it is not a final document that students submit or publish, meaning that they have an allowance of making mistakes and correcting them. In short, the first draft enables writers to organize their thoughts and arguments in a paper and develop a working thesis.

Step 4: Wrap Up

The last step in writing a visual analysis essay is where students get to wrap up their work. In this case, students identify weak points in their papers and address them to come up with high-quality essays. Moreover, such a paper must have no spelling or grammatical errors, such as missing or wrong punctuation. In turn, it must not have notable inconsistencies, such as flawed arguments and illogical conclusions. Besides, students must use this step to revise and edit their visual analysis essays and ensure their papers satisfies all academic writing rules.

A. Revisions and Editing

Since it is natural for students to make errors and mistakes when writing academic texts, the final step of writing a visual analysis essay allows authors to identify them and make corrections. Firstly, revision entails identifying and eliminating all inconsistencies that undermine a natural flow of arguments and ideas. In turn, editing helps to correct spelling and grammatical mistakes, such as missing punctuation marks.

B. Topic and Concluding Sentences

When writing a visual analysis essay, students should ensure the first draft has paragraphs in the main text (body). Basically, these paragraphs should start with a topic sentence and end with a concluding sentence. In this case, the former introduces a single idea that writers intend to focus on in one paragraph, and the latter’s function is to link this idea in a topic sentence to the paper’s thesis.

C. Transitions and Formatting

One of the aspects that determine an essay’s quality is the natural flow of arguments and ideas. For example, some elements that foster this flow are transitions, which entail words and phrases like – “consequently,” “thus,” “hence,” “ more importantly,” and “meanwhile.” Then, another aspect that students should consider in the last phase of writing a visual analysis is the paper’s formatting. In this case, writers must ensure that they have formatted their papers according to appropriate formats – APA 7, MLA 8, Harvard, and Chicago/Turabian. Also, some of the formatting rules that must satisfy are citation and use of headings and subheadings.

D. Peer Review and Final Draft

After completing the first draft and making the necessary changes, students should subject their visual analysis essays to a peer review. Basically, this aspect involves giving their works to a friend, tutor, or mentor to identify any errors and mistakes. Then, if such errors and mistakes are noted, writers should revise their papers. However, if a visual analysis essay is found perfect, learners should proceed to write the final draft, which they must read and reread to make sure no mistakes have been made in the course of typing.

Outline Template for Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

I. Introduction with a Thesis Statement II. Body Paragraphs III. Conclusion

1. Defining Features of a Visual Analysis Essay Outline

As indicated previously and as exemplified in the visual above, an outline of a visual analysis essay entails three main sections: introduction, body, and conclusion. Basically, this structure’s defining features are the thesis statement that must appear in the introduction, main points in body paragraphs, and a restatement of the thesis and a summary of the main points in the conclusion.

2. How to Know if a Paper is a Visual Analysis Essay

As indicated in the introduction, a visual analysis essay analyzes an image or visual display by giving an in-depth description of how an artist has applied elements and principles of design. In this case, if students want to know that their texts are visual analysis essays, they need to evaluate how they address the use of these elements and principles in their papers concerning a given image.

3. How a Visual Analysis Essay Differs From Other Essays

The central point of difference between a visual analysis essay and other types of essays is the content. For example, while the content of an argumentative essay is the writer’s arguments in favor of a particular stand, the content in a visual analysis essay is the writer’s description and analysis of an image or visual display. Moreover, in an informative essay , the content is information that authors find insightful and necessary in educating the audience about a topic or an issue.

Easy Strategy For Writing Each Section of a Visual Analysis Essay

When writing a visual analysis essay, students should adopt a strategy that makes their work high-quality, meaning it satisfies academic writing rules. These strategies are as follows:

I. Introduction

  • Introduce an image, art, object, or subject under analysis.
  • Provide a brief background of this image and author.
  • Develop a thesis.
  • Create several paragraphs as appropriate.
  • Begin each paragraph by making a claim. It is a topic sentence.
  • End each paragraph with a concluding sentence.
  • Use transitions sufficiently and appropriately.
  • Observe a sandwich rule: introduce a claim in a topic sentence, provide supporting facts (evidence), and explain a specific connection between the claim and the thesis.

III. Conclusion

  • Restate the thesis.
  • Summarize the main points.
  • Ensure that no new information is presented.
  • Provide the writer’s objective opinion about a topic, such as new insight or criticism.

An Example of a Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin by Otto Dix

Otto Dix’s (German, 1891–1969) Liegenede auf Leopardenfell (Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin) , 1927. Oil on panel (70 x 99 cm), 55.031.

I. Introduction Sample of a Visual Analysis Essay

Analyzing an image or visual display is an exciting and challenging academic undertaking for many students. Unlike other academic texts that focus on what other scholars have said, written, and documented through research studies, a visual analysis focuses on an image. As such, the student’s work is to provide an in-depth description of how the artist has appropriated elements and principles of design in their work. Looking at Otto Dix’s “Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin” image above, it is evident the artist has appropriated contrast, color, size, and texture, among other elements and principles of design, to make a picture come to life.

II. Example of a Body in a Visual Analysis Essay

A. reclining position of a woman.

Dix’s image above reflects a woman in a dress and stockings in a reclining position. Besides two different types of textile around her, there is a leopard fur beneath her body’s upper side. Behind a woman is a snarling animal resembling a dog, and on the far right of the painting is wood flooring. Looking at the woman’s face, one can notice that this the focal point. Basically, it is where the artist has concentrated sharp detail, thus making her face confront the audience instantly. Concerning principles of contrast and emphasis, a red lipstick contrasts sharply with the woman’s light skin, while using her hand as a frame beneath her face emphasizes a focal point.

When it comes to design elements, the artist has used the green, red, white, and brown colors to exemplify the image. In this case, a closer look indicates that Dix has contrasted red and green, a warm and cold color, respectively, particularly on the woman’s skin and face. Moreover, he has contrasted dark and light, whereby her face and body exemplify a light theme, while other objects in a picture exemplify have a dark theme.

Regarding a line element, Dix has used smooth curves around the woman’s lower body, particularly around her hip and thighs. In particular, doing so has helped bring out the aspect of “femininity.” Interestingly, the use of angular lines around the face, jaw, fingers, and shoulders emphasizes the “masculine” aspect. Besides strong lines that make the cheeks and jaw prominent, the artist has also used a line element to exaggerate the woman’s eyes, which takes the shape of cat eyes or curved almonds.

About an element of texture, it is evident that the artist has gone into great lengths to create an illusion of texture. Notably, an image has no literal texture because it is a two-dimensional painting. Moreover, Dix’s effort in creating texture is evident by many objects that he includes in his painting. In turn, these objects include the leopard fur; the woman’s dress, stockings, and hair; the materials that look like velvet; and the fur of the dog-like animal. Besides, all these objects create a temptation to touch. In this case, the texture of the woman’s evening wear and the curtain in the background with a velvet-look suggest a sense of costume and luxury. Collectively, they enhance a visual and material richness of an image.

III. Conclusion Sample of a Visual Analysis Essay

There is doubt that analyzing an image or a visual display is an exciting and challenging academic endeavor for students of art. In particular, Dix’s “Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin” image shows a master with which the artist has appropriated contrast, color, size, and texture, among other elements and principles of design to make his work come to life. About a painting, the artist has used these concepts to exemplify the woman’s face, which is the painting’s focal point.

Summing Up on How to Write a Good Visual Analysis Essay

Writing a visual analysis essay is an essential academic exercise for students. Since such an essay aims to analyze an image or visual display, learners must familiarize themselves with elements of design, such as color, size, and texture, and principles of design, such as emphasis and contrast. In essence, students use these concepts to provide an in-depth description of an image. Hence, when writing a visual analysis essay, scholars must learn the following tips:

  • provide a vivid description of an image, so that the audience can have a mental picture of it;
  • give a rhetorical situation of an image – its historical context;
  • explain the artist’s intended message;
  • cover details about any controversy or misunderstanding regarding a visual object or subject.

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how to write a visual analysis essay

Learn How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: An Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Learn How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay An Ultimate Guide for Beginners

A visual analysis essay is not your typical everyday task, but students taking art history and communication will have to write it in their academic journey. For example, you may be asked to analyze an advertisement, painting, or photograph. How do you decipher hidden messages, cultural nuances, or symbolisms within visual media??

Whether you’ve handled a visual analysis essay before or not, this post will give you fresh and helpful ideas to help you write a winning visual analysis essay. It can seem hard at first, but following the right technique will help you complete it quickly and efficiently. Read on to learn how to write a visual analysis.

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What is a Visual Analysis Essay?

A visual analysis essay is a type of academic writing in which the writer analyses and interprets visual elements in a piece of visual art, such as a sculpture, image, painting, or other visual objects. The essay goes beyond a mere description of the subject to explore the artistic choices of the creator and the effects of the choices on the audience.

The primary goal of a visual analysis essay is to help the reader understand the elements, techniques, and context of the artwork under study. Here’s a detailed list of the purposes of the visual analysis essays:

  • To critically analyze artwork or any visual work.
  • To discuss the elements of visual display in detail.
  • To unfold interesting facts about the artists and art
  • Assess the effectiveness of the art/image in current times
  • Explain the historical relevance and meaning
  • Evaluate existing literature on the subject

To achieve the goals above, students must incorporate different principles and elements of visual analysis. Also, the language used should be clear, descriptive, and simple.

Elements of Visual Analysis Essay

You can’t write a visual analysis essay without mentioning the visual elements of the subject under review. Below are common elements to consider when writing a visual analysis essay:

  • Composition — Composition refers to what the main figure is, what the other figures are, how they are placed, and what is missing. Composition is a mandatory element to consider in a visual analysis.
  • Elements of design — Usually, artists incorporate various elements of design in their work, such as different sizes, colors, lines, shapes, and other design features.
  • Focal point — To write a visual analysis paper, you need to know what the artists used to grab the audience’s attention. To know the focal point, you must understand the main goal of the piece.
  • Color — Describe the colors used and how they affect the tone and mood of the art.
  • Lines — Consider the actual lines used in the object and how they help grab the audience’s attention towards parts of the art.
  • Texture — This is the smoothness or roughness of the object. Consider if it’s real in two-dimensional or three–dimensional art.
  • Value — In art education, value refers to how and why the artist has used light and dark aspects in specific parts of their work.
  • Shape — What shapes are in the image, and what do they represent ?
  • Form — It refers to how the shadows and lights in a piece of art are used to create illusions and colors.
  • Size — This is about the overall size of the image. Artists choose a particular size so that you can see what they want you to see better.
  • Symbolic elements — If the art represents a certain art history or carries a symbolic meaning, you will need to find it and tell the reader what it means.

Principles of Design in Visual Analysis Essays

To write a winning visual analysis essay, you must also consider the principles of design. The principles help you to identify and explain various aspects of the visual display.

  • Balance — Balance is the distribution of visual elements in the art. Consider if the elements have symmetrical, radial, or asymmetrical balance.
  • Emphasis — It refers to what draws immediate attention when the audience looks at the art.
  • Movement — This refers to the use of objects or symbols repeatedly in a visual display. 
  • Pattern — Here, explain the colors of the image and how they affect the art. Discuss if they are dark or light and their impact on the mood.
  • Proportion — This principle refers to the realistic relationship between objects in the visual and their comparative link to the art.
  • Variety — How has the artist used different elements to influence the audience’s perception of the picture? Explain how different features create a certain mood or meaning.
  • Contrast — It refers to opposing elements in the visual. Describe them and tell how they affect the quality of the picture.
  • Hierarchy — Hierarchy refers to how people viewing the object can process it to different degrees. The hierarchy depends on color, size, and other elements in the images under review.
  • Rhythm — This principle refers to the use of spaces between repetitive elements.  
  • Layout — Layout is the way objects and symbols are placed in the piece of art. Explain it in detail.

How to Write a Stellar Visual Analysis Essay Step by Step

Collect all the information you can.

Before you start writing your visual analysis essay, you need to know what the artwork is about and who created it. This step involves collecting as much useful data as you can for your visual analysis. Questions to consider when gathering information for visual analysis essays include:

  • What does the artwork represent?
  • Who created the piece?
  • When and where was the visual work created
  • Who was the intended audience?
  • Where was the art displayed for the first time?
  • What elements are used?

This first step is the most time-consuming and confusing for many students, taking anywhere from several hours to many days. Yet, missing crucial details can lead to a poor paper that won’t impress your readers. If you don’t know where to begin your research or have trouble crafting a high-quality visual analysis paper, just get high-quality essay writing help with a few clicks typing “ write my essay online ” into the search bar. You can find the most-suitable service, like CustomWritings, which will take care of everything for you and help you complete your paper on time. Visit the site to receive all necessary information and talk to an expert who will help you with your assignment.

Collect all the information you can

Describe the object or subject

In the next step, you need to identify what the art depicts. You must summarize all the elements you can observe in the piece. To know the essential elements to search for, ask yourself these questions:

  • What does it show?
  • What story is the artist trying to tell?
  • What characters are in the artwork, and what do they stand for?
  • What’s the primary setting?
  • What mood does it give off?

Perform detailed analysis of visual elements

Next, you will need to consider the design elements and principles discussed above and perform a detailed analysis of each. This step is another time-consuming part of writing a formal visual analysis essay. You may want to check with a professional essay writer before completing this step to speed up the process. Remember, each visual element is unique and can be interpreted differently by different people. So, don’t copy someone else’s analysis.

Perform detailed analysis of visual elements

Develop a thesis statement

Visual analysis essays typically have a thesis statement that represents the main ideas or interpretation you’ll convey in the essay. Ensure you write a thesis for a visual analysis paper that aligns with what you have observed and analyzed in the previous steps. The elements and principles you pick must support your thesis.

Create an outline

There are many aspects to be discussed in a visual analysis essay. The best way to order them is to follow a five-paragraph format for each discussion. A winning essay should contain the following sections:

  • Introduction . This is where you provide background information about the piece and the creator. Include interesting facts that will hook your reader, and highlight the main elements and principles you want to analyze. You will end the paragraph with a thesis statement.   
  • The main body . The body section can have 3 or more paragraphs that explore the artwork in detail. Choose the most significant elements you find during your research and discuss how they support your thesis statement. Present all details logically and explain how they relate to each other. Also, add your opinion about the visual argument made by the artist.
  • Conclusion . In the last section, mention the key points that strengthen your thesis. Also, reflect on the overall impact of the piece. This section must be well-done and not too short or too long.

Create an outline to good visual analysis essay

Write the essay draft

Follow your outline to write a good essay. When writing the draft, focus on the substance instead of wanting to produce a specific style. Review the first draft by identifying weak points and addressing them to create a high-quality paper.

Visual analysis papers must follow citation guidelines used in academic writing. Include citations of any external sources used in the text. Ensure you follow the correct citation style specific to the assignment guidelines e.g., APA or MLA.

Proofread and edit your essay

Once you’re done writing your essay, proofread and edit it for clarity, coherence, and logical flow. Revise it many times to make sure it is error-free. Also, delete any irrelevant details and confirm that you have cited all sources correctly. If you’re not proficient with editing, you can get fresh eyes from a friend or professional editor.

Things to Keep in Mind When Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

Do not make general claims.

Your visual analysis essay can be subject to criticism from the audience, so don’t make your claims sound like the gospel truth. Another student can have a different visual rhetorical analysis in their essay that also stands. The most important thing is to employ observable elements and principles to justify your claims and strengthen them with secondary sources.  

Avoid using excess information

If your goal is to use the elements and principles to cover the word count, it will be hard to prove the main idea. Choose only the strong features that will help you to drive the point home. Excess information can mislead or confuse the reader.

Select a good topic

The topic is the first thing a reader sees, so make it catchy. A good topic is concise, clear, and informative. You don’t have to get the topic right the first time. Edit it as you proceed with writing until you have an engaging and interesting topic.

Write a catchy introduction

A catchy introduction will hook your readers and make them want to read more of your essay. You can hook your readers using interesting hooks, such as a question, statistic, quote, interesting statement, or metaphor.

Employ a strong visual argument

The way you write your visual analysis essay should leave the reader visualizing the image you’re discussing without seeing it. Use words that bring out strong visual imagery because it adds to the reliability and authenticity of your paper.

Understand the central point of your essay

You must identify and describe the focal point of your piece. Identifying the main idea helps you to understand the meaning of the art and the overall conclusion. Also, your interpretation should convey the correct message you want the reader to know.

Follow instructions

To write a successful visual analysis paper , you must follow the instructor’s guidelines. This includes selecting the recommended visual work, following the required essay structure, applying the correct citation format, and adhering to the recommended word count.

Sample Visual Analysis Essay Topics

  • Analyze the symbolism and religious themes in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling.
  • Analyze the visual storytelling and cinematography in a memorable film scene from a classic movie.
  • What was Pablo’s intention in “Guernica”?
  • Generate a written report on social class shown through art.
  • What is special about Cleo Award-winning ads?
  • Review your favorite movie and analyze the visual arts in it.
  • Examine the use of space and perspective in M.C. Escher’s “Relativity.”
  • Discuss the controversy surrounding the Monalisa painting
  • Impact of ‘“The Last Supper” on religious imagery
  • Who was the audience of “The Night Watch”?

Wrapping Up

Writing a visual analysis essay can be intimidating. However, you now have all the information you need to create an outstanding visual analysis essay. Use our guide to successfully create a paper that appreciates the depth of various forms of art.

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How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay In a Short Time and Enjoy It

Essential Tips and Tricks to Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

Introduction to a Visual Analysis Essay

Let’s start from the basics, which in this case are briefly defining a visual analysis essay. There are familiar elements you can find in the subject of our discussion with other types of essays, yet a visual analysis is not identical to a descriptive essay as one might think.

This type of academic writing does require a detailed description of an artwork, yet there’s more to it than simply writing down what you see on a painting, photo, music video, ad, sculpture, architecture, etc. There’s a reason why it is called a visual analysis essay, and so you are expected to analyze how various elements relate to each other, what they might mean, what was the idea an author tried to convey and what artistic means he used to do that.

The Purpose of Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this type of an essay is usually assigned to art students, who can also analyze pieces of art using their knowledge of art history, various movements, and practices used to achieve a certain effect. If you are not an art student, however, you may be wondering what you are getting assigned a visual analysis paper for.

There are various advantages of writing this type of paper, but if for whatever reason you do not have time to explore this guide or not in the mood to work on your art analysis essay, we have professional writers who are ready to take care of that as they have done so multiple times before. If you are interested in writing this essay yourself, please continue reading, we have lots of useful tips and explanations for you, as well as a visual analysis essay sample for better understanding.

Now, carefully preparing and conducting a visual analysis can broaden your outlook and perhaps expand your range of interests. Depending on whether you are given a subject for a visual analysis essay or free to choose one yourself, you may learn about some artist that will make you want you to explore more of his works, artistic movement, or a historical period.

In the second case, you get to write about something near and dear to your heart. Not only will you practice describing it to someone else in a fascinating manner by writing an analysis essay, it’s also possible to discover some elements and meanings that you’ve been unaware of until now.

Either way, this task requires thorough observation and creativity, and as a result, a visual analysis essay will be a test of your critical and analytical skills. Besides, there’s a challenge to not simply describe an object in a matter-of-fact manner but to do it in an engaging way.

Now let’s get down to the business and learn how to write a visual analysis essay.

Stages of Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

How to come up with a subject for analysis.

Unless you were given a topic, or, in our case, an object for analysis by your teacher or professor, the first step will be establishing that. There may be other requirements provided with your assignment, but in any case, it is best to select an object based on one of the following principles for a successful visual argument essay .

The first option would be to choose a piece of art that causes a strong emotional response for you. That way, you can explore in more detail which elements are responsible for that.

Another visual analysis essay example of approaching a topic would be to look for an artwork that has stirred some controversy recently. An author’s intention can often be misunderstood at first, so you get to analyze his or her work and see whether the reaction was justified or whether it was a result of false interpretation.

The next approach to selecting a topic for a style analysis essay is very similar to the previous one, only in this case, you should focus on a piece of work that is now perceived differently than it was in its time. You can also compare your own impressions and analyze what caused different perception in each case.

Obviously, you can mix those approaches, and these are not the only ways you can come up with a subject for a visual analysis paper. Now, let’s move on to the actions one should take once he or she already has a topic.

Examination and Description

Start by examining the image, photo, painting, video clip, or whatever it is you have. Do this with a notepad at hand and record the whole process of your discoveries. You will need to interpret and organize all these notes later, and an art analysis essay example can help you to see what a final result should be like.

Do not worry if you don’t know all the terms. Art is often subjective, and when trying to convey an idea, an artist uses all the known and intuitive tools that can help a viewer decode the message correctly. Or he or she may be trying to deceive you, but that may become evident after a little research, which should be your next step in writing an analysis essay.

Learning about the Context and History

After you are done with recording your impressions and observations, it’s time to research background information. Such research for a painting analysis example may include:

  • the date of creation and possible sources of inspiration;
  • the initial audience’s reaction and after some time;
  • the author’s comments about that particular piece and general views on related subjects;
  • the changes in the artwork’s importance over time.

How to Structure a Visual Analysis Essay

A visual analysis essay has the same structure as any other essay, the only difference is the contents, as usual. So, once you feel that you have enough notes and research materials to start writing, you can style analysis essay in the following way.

Introduction

Start by providing the basic information like an author’s name, the object itself, whether it is a painting, a sculpture, a photograph, an art installation, or else, its name, date of creation, size, materials used, being part of a series of works, a gallery or other place where it’s currently stored or displayed.

An art analysis essay is also not different from the rest in the sense that your introduction has to end with a thesis statement.

Body Paragraphs

As you will see in any visual analysis essay sample, each body paragraph is dedicated to some particular elements of an artwork. For example, you can start by describing what is shown on a painting and what the idea behind it all is. In further paragraphs of your visual analysis essay, you should introduce a new aspect supporting that interpretation, like shapes, colors, light, contrast, the nature of lines, etc.

The number of body paragraphs may vary based on your visual analysis paper’s requirements and on the elements you can discover to support the claim.

To conclude your visual analysis essay, briefly summarize all the details that were topics of previous paragraphs, restate the thesis, and provide the conclusion that would be a logical continuation of it and a final touch for your paper. Remember, no new information should be introduced in this paragraph.

What Visual Elements of Design Are There?

Knowing the structure and the steps is one thing, but you still can’t say you know how to write a visual analysis essay if you keep staring at an artwork and don’t quite understand what it is you need to dedicate your body paragraphs to. Another potential problem is managing to complete your first style analysis essay. However, if you are assigned this work often enough, you can’t keep talking about the same couple of elements, and the following table will help you expand the number of an artwork’s components you can analyze.

A Visual Analysis Essay Example as an Icing on the Cake

Girl with a Pearl Earring

“Girl with a Pearl Earring” is a famous 17.5x15 inches oil painting on canvas by a Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It was created around 1665, and it has been a part of the collection of the Mauritshuis art museum in The Hague for over a century now. The painting was known under different names over its history, and the original title remains unknown. Its present title was deemed more appropriate than the previous ones in the 90’s of the 20th century and describes exactly what we see on the painting, although there have been objections to the material of the earring. There have been numerous interpretations of the painting and who the girl is, but my version is that it’s a portrait of a young servant who is facing a choice between remaining loyal to her master or abandoning her moral principles and giving in to the dark circumstances surrounding her.

The painting shows a young girl, her head and face fully visible, as well as her shoulder as she is presumably turning away from a viewer or a painter. The girl is likely of European descent and is wearing what looks like a Japanese coat of the time, an oriental turban completely covering her hair, and a large earring. The girl’s face is turned towards the viewer, and her eyes are either fixed on the painter or on what is behind him. The girl is surrounded by a black background, but her face and clothes are brightly lit, although only from the front. Starting from her left cheek, the darkness is already swallowing the rest of her body. The earring is only visible because of its size and reflection of the light  coming from the top left of the painting without the source been shown. The girl’s lips are slightly parted, and her facial expression reveals sadness and hesitance. Her gaze towards the person she is looking is soft, thankful, and somewhat regretful.

As you can see from this visual analysis essay example, there’s much to be written even about such an uneventful painting. So, don’t worry if there’s not much you can see on your object of analysis at first. As long as it has something fascinating about it and some mystery behind it, you should have enough to describe and discuss, just consult with our visual analysis essay guide.

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