Art moves us. Whether it makes us feel joy, sorrow or revulsion, art has the power to affect us and express ideas that transcend rational thought and language. Art communicates these primal experiences not just through an artist's inspiration but also through very clear, recognizable visual communication techniques. Writing a picture analysis essay requires a basic understanding of essay structure and these visual communication techniques. Excellent picture analysis essays combine both these elements while addressing the more ephemeral ideas and experiences communicated by a picture.
Note how the picture makes you feel. Do this before you make any intellectual analysis of the picture. Immediate, unprepared and unguarded observation will often tell you more about the content communicated by the painting than rigorous analysis.
Next, address the age of the picture. Take note of the period from which it comes, what styles dominated that era, what techniques artists used and who commissioned the work. Consider the current events going on at the time of the picture's creation and what social or cultural elements or changes may have affected its content.
Now it's important find out the dimensions of the picture. A large picture communicates very differently from a small one. Generate reasons why the picture communicates well or poorly due to its size. Look for the composition of the picture. Composition refers to the way the elements are oriented in relationship to one another. Observe if the objects seem crowded or sparse, symmetrical or asymmetrical. Consider why the objects in the picture have their specific orientation.
Take note of how the picture is cropped. Cropping refers to images that only partially appear in the picture, as if someone "cropped" them out of the picture. Address how cropping focuses the viewer on certain aspects of the picture and what ideas the cropping may help communicate.
Observe the levels of light in the picture. Take note of the visible and obscured objects and where the picture draws the viewer's eye. Think of the role light and darkness play in communicating feelings or ideas in the picture. Look for color. Observe the way the picture utilizes color or lack of color. Address the effect different colors in the painting have on the ideas it communicates.
Whether an image has clearly defined lines and boundaries representing a real object, or has no defined shape can communicate very different ideas and emotions. Address the reasons why the image has or does not have a clearly defined shape.
Pictures with completely flat surfaces may communicate differently than pictures with highly textured surfaces. Address how the texture or lack of texture conveys ideas and emotions in the picture. Take note of your gut reaction to the painting after your thorough analysis. Address how the various elements came together to help form your initial impressions and how analysis either strengthened or weakened your initial impressions.
Choose a thesis. A thesis represents the main idea of your essay, the point you wish to communicate. Use your thorough analysis of the picture to make a list of opinions you wish to assert about the picture. Choose the strongest idea that most clearly communicates and unifies your assertions as your thesis.
Introduce the first idea of your essay with a topic sentence. Develop the idea in the next few paragraphs by citing specific examples that back it up. Conclude the essay with a restatement of your thesis, and finish with a sentence or two stating what you have proved with the essay.