The Rapidian

How to Look at Art, Part 3

This is the third in a four part series on how to look at art, using the DRIO process: Description, Relationships, Interpretation and Opinion. I discuss the "interpretation" step in today's article.
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DRIO series

This is the third of four steps that will be published in four installments this week.

How to Look at Art: Part 1

How to Look at Art: Part 2

How to Look at Art: Part 4



For a single page version you can print out the full four steps here.

This is the third of a four-step process that can be remembered using the acronym DRIO.

DRIO is:

Description - What is there?

Relationships - How do the parts work together?

Interpretation - What is it trying to say?

Opinion - 1) Do you like it? 2) Is it successful?

Interpretation step in a nutshell: Start guessing and responding! Use your information from steps 1 and 2 to try to figure out what the work is about (remember it is possible for a work to just be about circles). Describe the feelings and sensations you get from the work. This step is all about ideas and emotion.

Here are some questions you can ask:

Is there a major concept or theme? What is the artist trying to say? What idea might sum up the work? For instance you could say “this painting appears to be about war,” or “this painting appears to be about beautiful colors.” Do you feel like there is some kind of message the artist is trying to convey?

What information from step one and two stands out? Is one figure larger than another? Does this make the bigger figure seem more important? Do all the shapes have jagged edges? Is it significant that they are all jagged?

How does the work affect you? Describe ideas, sensations and feelings you get from the work. Does the work make you feel uncomfortable? Does it stir feelings of happiness or sadness? Do you think the artist expects you to respond in a certain way?

Feel free to propose an interpretation and then revise it, or discard it altogether. Keep in mind that most artwork can have a range of interpretation. 

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