ten questions to ask yourself when looking at art

okay, i'm going to be completely up front with you about this. these are actually questions that i ask kids when they are looking at art. i volunteer for a program that encourages children to simply look at art and tell us what they see.* and it really is as simple as that. so i have adopted a series of questions i use in the classroom to create this list. i encourage you to call upon the child in you and answer these questions next time you are admiring a classical work of fine art or peering at a befuddling contemporary piece.

jan van eyck. untitled (arnolfini wedding portrait). oil on oak panel. 1434.

one | what do you see?

two | what else do you see?

three | how does it make you feel?

four | why does it make you feel that way?

five | what do you think the story is if there is one?

six | what do you think happened right before this "moment" occurred?

seven | what do you think the artist was feeling?

eight | if you don't recognize any real life shapes, then what do you see?

nine | do you like this?

ten | why do you like it or not like it?

and voila! you have just deconstructed a masterful work of art. and the secret is...there are no wrong answers!

* my husband, who calls himself a neanderthal when it comes to art, has put his stamp of approval on this method of mine.


  1. I think I don't like this particular piece of art because it looks as if she has horns and it just makes me feel uncomfortable.

  2. Anonymous2.7.11

    @ mg: haha thanks for being honest! this used to be my favourite painting!

  3. This is fantastic! I find it hard to explain even to myself why I like a piece of art (umm..it has pretty colors and stuff?) so I'm sure this list will come in handy. Funny thing is, I'm sure you'd get more honest and meaningful answers from the kids!

  4. I'm totally digging those sandals. they look unrealistic yet fashionable.

  5. Love this! It really helps me to understand art better. I've always been an art lover (even though I'm not good at it. haha!) But I will now always use these steps. :)


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