Adapted from Tatsiana Zhurauliova.
1. What is represented in the object? Make an inventory of items.
2. Materials: list the materials and describe their visual qualities.
3. Format and size: round? square? small? large? what is the support of the object?
4. Line: identify the linear elements. Are they emphasized or deemphasized? What kind of lines are there and where do they point?
5. Geometries and formal echoes: what shapes are in the piece and do they repeat?
6. Color: identify the colors and their qualities. Are they bright? saturated? How are they distributed?
7. Organization of forms: How is 3d space implied? Is it implied? Is there negative space?
8: Relation to viewer: how does the object engage the viewer? Where are you located in relation to the object and what it depicts?
9. Temporal extension: does the object imply a narrative or action? Does it attempt to invoke timelessness? How does it do those things?
This is the framework I use for performing and teaching art history and formal analysis. I learned it from Dr. Zhurauliova in her 20th Century Art class. One of the things that I think works really well is the way each element feeds into the next. I simplified the language to make it easier to use with children but did not rearrange any of the content. I find that by the first three questions are really good warmups for people that might be intimidated by art history or art. These elements are very easy to identify from the tombstone and has the effect of giving someone new to the process very concrete things they can identify. Once they get through those, looking for other elements doesn't seem as intimidating. I have applied this framework to 2d and 3d objects from painting to decorative arts and found it useful in all cases.
Interested in any of these? Use the Contact tab to be in touch!
You can also view the current state of these activities on my instruction menu: