Process Essay Assignment #1 – An Analysis

A Visual Arts Paper

A visual arts paper focuses on one or more works of art used to explore some topic. Oftentimes the topic is something determined through analyzing the work of art, and there are a wide variety of themes that are explored through art. I will ask you to attempt to pull a thematic idea from the work you choose, but this paper will focus more on basic critique. As you look at, analyze, and then research the work you choose, you will develop your own understanding of the intention of the work (i.e. why it was created/what is it for?) Ultimately, the question you will answer with this paper will be: How well does the work of art achieve its intention?

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The most basic aspects of any visual arts paper are the description, visual analysis, and contextual research. This first portion of the paper will focus on description and visual analysis, something you’ve spent the last two weeks learning about through the course content.

Basic Research

Research is focused on learning about some topic and to do that you need sources. The types of sources you will get are very important because they are not all created equal! This first part of the process does not require much research from you because it’s about selecting your work and doing some visual analysis.

However, you must ALWAYS keep track of your sources. Any time you look something up about this work, even if it’s just to get an image of it, you need to note the source and cite it, so keep a running list. We use the internet every day and sometimes all day long, and we are constantly looking at sources of information. Keeping track of your sources is just as important as having good sources and citing them properly in the paper.

Activity Objectives

This activity is designed to support the following Learning Objectives:

Analyze characteristics of, list and identify important art media and styles.
Discuss and describe through written essay important art media, styles, artists, and aesthetic values.
Instructions – Part 1: An Analysis

This week, you are going to choose a work of art to analyze and research for this paper and will get started by doing some simple observational tasks with it. Basically, once you make your choice you’ll give a detailed description (refer back to this week’s video “The Skill of Describing” https://youtu.be/h_pWZBOR4ec)

and then you’ll conduct a visual analysis using the Formal Elements (last week’s reading and videos)






and Principles of Design (in this week’s readings).

Balance, symmetry, and emphasis

Movement

Proportion and scale

Pattern, repetition and rhythm, variety and unity

Choice of Topic
You may choose one of my suggestions below.
Here is a list of my suggestions, all of them historical and from different times and cultures, and most of which we will cover in weekly content between now and when the final draft of the paper is due. Their titles are linked to a Smarthistory.org
(Links to an external site.)
page with basic information about them.
August of Prima Porta
(Links to an external site.)
from Early Imperial Rome
Basilica of Santa Sabina
(Links to an external site.)
from Early Christianity in Rome
Dome of the Rock
(Links to an external site.)
from Early Islam in Jerusalem
Todai-ji
(Links to an external site.)
from the Nara period of Japan
Merode Altarpiece
(Links to an external site.)
from the Northern Renaissance in Flanders
Pieta
(Links to an external site.)
by Michelangelo from the Southern High Renaissance in Rome
The Great Wave
(Links to an external site.)
by Katsushika Hokisai from the Edo period of Japan
Raft of the Medusa
(Links to an external site.)
by Theodore Gericault from the Romantic period in France
The Child’s Bath
(Links to an external site.)
by Mary Cassatt from the Impressionist period in France
Power Figure (Nkisi Nkondi)
(Links to an external site.)
from the Kongo Peoples of Central Africa
Female (pwo) Mask
(Links to an external site.)
from the Chokwe Peoples of Central Africa
To-Do
Write a detailed description and analysis of the work you chose in 550 words. Your work should be in complete sentences and organized into paragraphs
Include the title, the artist’s name (if known), the name of the patron (if known), the materials it’s made from, the date it was created, and it’s location
Give a thorough and detailed description of the entire work
If you’re doing architecture, focus on the overall interior and exterior rather than small individual parts of the building.
Conduct a formal analysis where you discuss formal elements and principles of design
Look for evidence of each of the formal elements (FE) and principles of design (PD) and focus on what stands out
FE: line, shape, color, texture, space, form, value
PD: balance and symmetry, movement, proportion and scale, pattern, repetition and rhythm, unity and variety

Look closely and carefully, take your time, and use your own words. This part of the assignment does not require any sources beyond where you found the picture of the work. I’m interested in what you see and notice, not someone else’s interpretation.

This assignment is worth 20 points. Your score is based upon your completion of the tasks; identify, describe, and visually analyze the work you chose. I will give you feedback to help you make it better. It’s part of the process that each time you turn in another part of the paper you get to revise what you’ve done previously. Do the best you can each time and I will help you to improve along the way.

Rubric
Process Essay Part 1
Process Essay Part 1
Criteria Ratings Pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome
Writing
The writing is in complete sentences and is organized into distinct paragraphs.

5 pts
Full Marks

3 pts
Partial Completion

0 pts
No Marks

5 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome
Identification
The work of art chosen is identified in the writing by a combination of multiple things that may include: title, artist, patron, materials, location, culture, style, or period.

5 pts
Full Marks

3 pts
Partial Completion

0 pts
No Marks

5 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome
Description
An attempt is made a a detailed description of the work of art. There is evidence in the writing that the student took their time to look closely and carefully at the work.

5 pts
Full Marks

3 pts
Partial Completion

0 pts
No Marks

5 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome
Visual Analysis
Elements of the work of art are carefully considered and analyzed using the formal elements and principles of design. At least 2 of the formal elements and 2 of the principles of design are present in the writing.

5 pts
Full Marks

3 pts
Partial Completion

0 pts
No Marks

5 pts

Total Points: 20

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