Visual thinking: (Arnheim, 1969)
Creating art and viewing art both require visual thinking. Creation poses problems of selection and organization;
viewing poses problems of attention, decoding, and
To make an object visible, one must grasp its essential
traits. (P. 296) The artist understands how to make
thought visible using visual elements.
When viewing a work of art, assume that every work of
art is a statement or a series of statements. Every visual
pattern makes a declaration about the nature of human
existence and the world.
This message cannot be directly be translated into words,
any more than a symphony can be translated into words.
But you CAN talk about what you see in a work of art,
and point to what you are seeing (connect your
interpretation to the visual evidence in the work).
Analyze HOW the artist conveys their message.
View art on its own terms, looking at how shapes, line,
color, texture, space, value interact another; how the work
guides the eye and establishes focus, movement, balance,
Graphs & Diagrams:
1. Make sure you can "read" what
they are saying. What is the
overall message? How is it
On a diagram, what does each
element represent? What
relationships are shown?
On a graph:
What do the x-axis and y-axis
represent? Does y-axis start at
zero? If not, evaluate the
magnitude of differences against
the whole scale.
2. Now look for what is NOT
shown. What selection choices
did the person make? What did
they chose NOT to show you?
3. How might missing information change the message?
Analyzing a political cartoon:
1. Identify the main message of
the cartoon and specify which
visual elements convey this.
(Often, cartoons also rely
partially on words & title to
indicate what represents what)
2. Now look at the details.
Which convey important
3. What is the political
position of the cartoonist on
this issue? What evidence in the
cartoon supports this?
4. If you wanted to change the cartoon to support a different position, what would you change?
Difference Between Art and Scientific
A diagram that represents a logical relation is
both highly abstract and very general.
The same diagram can be drawn in somewhat
different ways and yet represent, and be
understood as representing, the identical
Art always relies on abstract relations as well,
but the impact and message is highly specific.
The abstract relations of visual elements are always essential to conveying thought and emotion. Art is particular, not general; if you change a line, a shape, a color, a relationship, the content changes.