What goes into a work of art?

ingredients of art working carltonartsThis is an infographic I developed to help me understand all the elements, physical or otherwise, that goes into art. I had never found anything like this in any book so I developed this myself.

This graphic can also be a tool for “deconstructing” or formally analysing any art piece. It helps you see questions such as “what is the subject matter of this piece?” “What’s the message or theme in this work?” “What brought the artist to make this work?”

For those who dismiss this is as overthinking art... Sure I can understand your view that art should be fun, free, and loose but my perspective is, like Plato said, “ An unexamined life is not worth living.” So I analyze everything so I can know more and embrace things deeper. 

So here are the ingredients of art with its definition of parts.

  • Medium used

What physical tools and supplies did the artist use? Oil, acrylics, clay, pencil.

  • Technique of medium

How did the artist apply the tools and supplies? Pencil hatching, impasto paint, mixed media, watercolor resist with acrylic paint.

  • Functions or Purposes of Art

A work of art usually has one or more of these purposes and often the artist may not have consciously been aware of or intentionally decided on the purposes of their art.

  1. Personal Expression
  2. Ritual, Spiritual, or Cultural expression
  3. Decorative or General Utilitarian Expression
  4. Informative, Social, or Persuasive Expression
  5. Aesthetic and Beautiful and Reactionary Expression (Art for Art Sake)
  • Story, Message or Theme

 This is as wide as the human bouquet of emotion. Any art history book will explore the full range.

  • Inspiration or Impetus of the work

 Similar but not the same as Function of art, this is about why the artist is driven to make the art. The distinction is about the source cause to make the work, not the end result.

  • Subject Matter (implicit or explicit)

 What you see is what you get, except abstract works. Portraits, Landscapes, still lifes, food, architecture and celebrations.

  • Compositional Concept (informal and formal)

The composition includes aspects of layout, design principles, and elements of art such as color, contrast, foreground and background, movement, and perspective.

  • Studio Work or Spontaneous, Live Work

Where and how was the work produced. Was it made in the studio or out in the real-time, real-world conditions like a plein air painting or life drawing.

  • Background Development to produce the work (time invested)

This addresses how much experience the artist has in make the specific piece of art in question. Was it an experiment? Was it a refined work of art? Is it a lifetime invested piece of work? Is the work for a new artist? Or a new medium for an established artist?

Now the recipe for an art composition is another thing.



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