Visual essay assignment
The Visual Essay
The goal of this assignment is to construct a sequence of ten images as a visual essay that explores a media/technology theme of the student’s choice.
The goal of this assignment is to construct a sequence of ten images as a visual essay that visualizes a media/technology theme of your choice.
Ten images, drawn from your original pool of 25 images, arranged in a sequence, with possible captions or comments. On flickr, arrange your images as a set called “visual essay.”
1,000-word project statement explaining your theme and conceptualization of your visual essay (if applicable, include a bibliography).
The project statement provides an insight into your thought processes and decisions during the construction of your visual essay. In 1,000 words, address the following questions in a cohesive statement (i.e. do not answer each question individually):
What is your theme?
How do your images visualize your theme?
Why did you arrange these images in this particular sequence?
If you chose to add quotes to your images, why did you choose these particular quotes? If you cite from a text, please provide a bibliography with your statement.
What is your strongest image? Where in the sequence did you place it, and why?
Remember that you are trying to “write” with these images—your visual essay should have a beginning, middle, and end. The first few images should set up your theme in the clearest way possible, the middle images provide details, and the final images offer a conclusion.
You may add up to 100 words of text per image. You can add the text as a description (comment underneath the image) or as a note on the image itself (to highlight a particular detail). The text can be written by you, or it can be a quote from readings we have done in class or from any other text. Text and image must be in tension with one another. This means that the text cannot simply be a description of the image, or the image an illustration of the text. Rather, the interaction between image and text should encourage the viewer to think about how image and text relate to one another (consider Rene Magritte’s painting This Is Not a Pipe as an example of how image and text exist in tension with one another: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_is_not_a_pipe ).
You may edit your images with Photoshop/other image editing software or with picnik, flickr’s built-in image editor (you can access it by clicking “edit photo” in the menu above each image). If you completely distort an image, you need to explain why you chose to do so in your project statement.
You may change the size of your images (in fact, you are encouraged to re-size them to less than 1000×1000 pixels). You can re-size your images or crop them to highlight details.
Overall Conceptualization (max. 50 points):
Focuses on the relationship between theme and images. Is the theme well-defined? Do the images visualize it, rather than simply illustrating it?
Project statement (max. 25 points):
Focuses both on form (grammar, organization, style) and content (explanation of your theme).
Visual sequence (max. 25 points):
Are the images arranged in a cohesive way—is there a beginning, middle, and end? If applicable, do quotes or captions add another, thought-provoking dimension to the images?
Sample Student Project: Information Overload
by Hayden Monfette | Fall 2009
Excerpt from Hayden’s project statement:
The idea of “Information Overload” came up when I looked at some of my pictures and saw that some of the students, when they were studying, had multiple books and notebooks out and opened at one time . . . .The ten particular photos that I chose to make up my visual essay actually tell a story. From the browsing of a bookstore to the failure of a student’s technology, this story follows one students study time from start to finish.
I chose to put the images in a sequential order so that they would tell a story because we started this project briefly after our class watched a French film in class titled La Jet�e .
La Jet�e is a film that tells the story of a man whose mind travelled time during post-World War III. But I didn’t get my inspiration from the plot of the film, but from its composition. Then entire 28-minute long film was comprised of almost all black and white still photos. The photos, along with some narration, successfully told the story with only one very brief scene of actual cinema film, but it wasn’t used to advance the story, only add another artistic element. Dialogue was another unnecessary element that wasn’t used in La Jet�e , as well as my visual essay. I composed my essay in a way that tells a story similar to how La Jet�e tells its.
How to Make a Visual Essay
VirginiaLynne has been a University English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.
A Visual Essay
Uses images along with words in order to:
Tell a personal story
Explain a literary text
Illustrate a social problem
This Article Includes:
1. Types of visual essays
2. Step-by-step instructions
3. Student samples
4. Links for free use images
5. Help in finding quotes, graphs, and clip art
6. Instructions for how to use Windows Movie Maker or iMovie
Example: Depression Slideshow
Why Make a Visual Essay?
Sometimes this kind of essay is an assignment for a class, but it might also be an option your instructor gives you. If you have the choice, you might find making a visual presentation more interesting and more powerful than just writing a regular essay.
Why? By using music, video, quotes and powerful images, you can have a more powerful emotional effect on an audience than any written essay.
Better yet, these sorts of essays can be shared online to make your argument to a larger audience. For example, not too many people will read your essay on homelessness, but many people might want to see your essay on the lives of homeless people in your town and the people who help the homeless in a soup kitchen (see “Depression Slideshow” or “My Photo Memory: Helping Others” Video).
A Picture Paints a Thousand Words
This old saying is true. A great example is the “Texting and Driving” video. The audience will understand the author’s strong stand against texting when they see this essay that includes pictures of the author’s high school friends who died because someone was texting while driving.
Example: Texting and Driving
Choosing a Topic
Thinking about moving personal experiences can help you choose a topic. The student who created “Texting and Driving” experienced the grief of losing 5 friends because of texting. He used his own emotions to help him craft a moving visual argument and included the story of his friends as part of his essay.
What to Include
Like an argument paper, visual essays can use written words and quotes, but they also can include:
- Professional video
- Personally filmed video
- Graphic Images
- Tables, charts and graphs
- Spoken words
Step One: You need to brainstorm, plan and research for your essay. Follow my steps below to plan your essay. I also give you links on where to find images to put in your essay and quotes to use.
Step Two: Gather your images and video. You can make your own videos and pictures, or use those available from the sites I give below. I also give you a link for software that lets you download YouTube videos that you can splice into your own essays.
Step Three: Put your essay together using iMovie, Windows Movie Maker or other video software. You can include music, your own voice, captions, and quotes.
Step Four: Publish your essay by uploading it to YouTube or showing it to your classmates and instructor.
How to Start
Visual essays are a different format from a written ones, but they require many of the same processes to make. Just like when you write, you will need to decide what you want to explain or argue.
Choose a topic and then decide what kind of essay you are writing. Here is a list of types:
1. Explaining: when you want to describe and paint a picture of something but not argue a point.
2. Analysis and Evaluation: when you want to take something apart and analyze the different parts. Often used for literature, songs or movies. Part of your analysis will be evaluating whether this is effective for the audience.
3. Argument: when you want to prove a point or move your audience to think or do something. There are several types of argument claims.Typically, argument essays make a claim which answers one of the following questions:
- Fact: Is it true or not? Does it really exist? Did it really happen? (example: Is climate change Real? Does domestic violence happen in my community?)
- Definition: How should we define it? What is it really? (example: What is love? or What was the great depression really like?)
- Cause: What is the cause? What are the effects? How are these related? (example: What causes homelessness? What are the effects of teens texting and driving?)
- Value: How important is this? How should we value it? (example: How important is Family for college students? or What is the value of a college education?)
- Policy: What should we do about it? How can we solve the problem? (example: How can we help friends with eating disorders? How can we solve the problem of child labor?)
You may need to do some research to find the answer to your argument question. You can Google to find out some information on your topic, or look at YouTube videos. Once you find your claim answer, try to write it in a single sentence. That sentence is the thesis for your essay.
What is your Visual Essay about?
- 14% Personal story
When you are looking for images on the Internet, you need to understand that there is a difference from just viewing those images and using them yourself. Luckily, there are many great sites with images which are offered free for anyone to use. Here are some of the best free use sites:
- Wikimedia Commons: All of the images on Wikimedia are available for free use and don’t have copyright. Moreover, they have a lot of interesting historical images and famous pictures and art which can really make your visual essay unique. The link lands you on the “Topic” page, but you can also use the search engine to find photos.
- Flickr: includes many categories of photos, including “The Commons” which are photos uploaded from collections, as well as personal photos uploaded by people around the world.
- Open Clip Art:a gallery of graphic clip art which is free to use. You can search for many objects here that can help you convey your story. Also includes humorous images and cartoons.
- Pixabay: professional photography images which are often quite stunning. These free use images can be explored by topic, by the photographer, or by searching for a term. This site also includes clip art.
- Slideshare: contains many PowerPoint presentations on lots of different topics. You can get ideas for your own essay as well as look for graphics and quotes you could use. This site gets many uploads from companies, professors, and businesses, so it is a great resource for charts and graphs.
Wordle Graphic Images
Need a great quote to make a point in your essay? Or maybe you remember a quote but don’t know who said it. Use one of these sites to help you out:
- Brainy Quote: Get quotes on many topics like love, friendship, wisdom, or quotes by author. A good quote can be an excellent way to end your essay.
- Good Reads Quotes: Another source for quotes from famous people. You type in the topic and many different quotes appear along with a picture of the person who said it.
- Wordle:Create a beautiful design of words that are important for your topic. This can be a great graphic for an introduction or conclusion. All images you make are your own to use in any way you want.
Visual Essays and Humor
As “America Needs Nerds” demonstrates, you don’t have to be serious. Humor, satire and irony can be a great way to convince your audience about your ideas. In the case of this essay, the humor comes from the pictures and contrasts with the seriousness of the voiceover. The pictures help the audience accept the claim of the essay that “geeks” and “nerds” should be valued rather than shunned.
America Needs Nerds
Before you gather images, video, music and other research, you will need to think about what you want to say and how you want to present it. Start by writing down your main point or your claim question and answer. Then answer the following to help you develop your ideas and think about what sort of materials you need to gather for your project.
- What are the reasons for believing your thesis?
- What are some examples to back up those reasons?
- What are the other views on this topic?
- What objections would people have to your ideas?
- What are your most convincing arguments to refute those objections?
- What images would you like to find to illustrate your thesis?
- What quotations or phrases could you use that would be memorable?
- Are there any familiar sayings that you can reuse or repurpose to get your meaning across?
- What music (if any) could help you convey your message?
- Do you want to use long sequences of pictures with music, sounds or silence?
- Do you want to write a script that you speak over the visual images?
- Will you include video? If so, will you take it yourself or use clips of other videos?
Creating a Plan
Looking at your answers to your pre-writing questions, you can start to plan how you will put together your piece. Just like a written essay, you will need and introduction, body, and conclusion. You may want to think of this as a story with a beginning, middle and end. Before you start to gather images, you might want to make a rough outline of how you want your essay to come together.
Title: Often your claim question can be your title, or you may want a single word or short phrase title that tells your subject and use your question in the opening. The font, animation and color will set the tone of your piece, so spend some time trying out different styles to see what you like best.
Introduction: How will you interest your viewer? Your first few images need to tell the viewer the subject and the question and grab their attention.
Body: How will you present your thesis? Will you tell it in a voice over? Write it on a picture or on a screen by itself? Would it be more effective to tell your main reasons first and then put your main idea at the end in the conclusion?
What types of images could help you to prove your main reasons for your claim? Remember that it is usually important to order your ideas from least to most important, so put your best reasons last. You might want to make a list of the types of images you want. Be sure to indicate any images you already have.
Conclusion: What do you want your audience to think, do, or believe after they have watched your essay? How will you draw the audience with you to believe your claim at the end? Will you use a specific image? A repeated idea? A quote? A challenge? A question?
Using Images to Create an Argument
In “Religion Essay” the images about children are the argument. The arrangement of the pictures, along with the repetition of so many instances of children being exploited is a powerful argument which implies the thesis that we need to do something to stop it.
Sometimes pictures without text can be more powerful. Consider having some part of your essay being images alone.
Some essay assignments ask you to respond or explain some work of literature, or a quote or scene. The student making the video below was responding to an assignment to take a scene from Hamlet and explain the importance of that scene in the play. She chose Act 5, Scene 1, the suicide of Ophelia and her presentation shows how Ophelia’s death leads to much of the actions and violence in the rest of the play.
Questions & Answers
Easy Argumentative Essay Topics for College Students
by Virginia Kearney 5
How to Write a Proposal Essay/Paper
by Laura Writes 43
How to Write an Interview Essay or Paper
by Virginia Kearney 7
150 Topics for Essays That Explain
by Virginia Kearney 11
Easy Words to Use as Sentence Starters to Write Better Essays
by Virginia Kearney 172
100 Argument or Position Essay Topics with Sample Essays
by Virginia Kearney 40
How to Write a Personal Experience Essay With Sample Papers
by Virginia Kearney 20
Very useful link
This is great. Thank you for sharing this.
Dianna Mendez 4 years ago
Wow, this is a really interesting post and opens a whole new world to writing an essay for the younger generation. It would keep the interest high and promote excellent writing skills. The videos are so well done. Voting up and sharing!
Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales
Interesting and so very useful.
Voted up and thanks for sharing.
Levy Tate 4 years ago from California, USA
Awesome tips — and massive thanks for providing great examples! Voted up 😉
Wow, well organized hub. Thank you for sharing this
Prithima Sharma 4 years ago from Delhi, India
Copyright © 2018 HubPages Inc. and respective owners. Other product and company names shown may be trademarks of their respective owners. HubPages ® is a registered Service Mark of HubPages, Inc. HubPages and Hubbers (authors) may earn revenue on this page based on affiliate relationships and advertisements with partners including Amazon, Google, and others.
Connect with us
Copyright © 2018 HubPages Inc. and respective owners.
How to go about preparing visual essays
Essays are usually based on verbal or written communication. This is done using words or figures. But a visual essay works on visual illustration. Understanding the objective and nature of the essay is necessary for preparing impressive ones. There are various aspects to be considered and various factors to be put together while preparing an essay of this genre.
First and foremost you must understand what makes a visual essay, unique.
• This type of essay deals with effective communication through visual images.
• Some of them are prepared exclusively out of visual images where as some others use a combination of words and images to present the matter.
• This kind of essay is based on visual imagery. Hence, writing skills alone will not help much in preparing this type of essay.
Writing an essay of this nature is quite challenging intellectually, because you will need to put your essay through various levels of visual communications in order to prepare a good essay of this genre. There are various stages to writing visual essays.
• Start by finding your thesis. Think of what you want to present and how you want to present it.
• Think of what medium you wish to use. You may either use images and text or only images.
• Choose the kind of images you would like to use. You are permitted to use any kind of images for the purpose. You can draw it or you can use those done by others or you can even use photographs for the purpose. What matters is that your points are conveyed effectively.
• Study the guidelines to see what format should be used for presenting the images. Jpeg is one of the most commonly used formats for presenting images. But you must use only the format given in the guidelines.
• Choose your images wisely. A well chosen image can replace a million words. And, the same way, a poorly placed image can ruin the entire presentation. Hence be very careful while choosing images for an essay of this kind.
• If in doubt, consult someone knowledgeable or find someone who can assist you through the process. If you are not familiar with writing this particular type of essay, you may not be able to make much headway with it, without help from someone.
• Once you are through with your work, recheck to see if the sequence of images are all correct and if the essay you have put together makes sense.
Visual essays are not at all easy to handle. If you are extremely good at communicating using images, you may find it possible to handle the assignment without much effort. But there are very few who are skilled in this area. You can develop the skill of using visual medium for effective communication but it will definitely take time. If you end up with a visual assignment unexpectedly and if you don’t have time to learn the procedure and prepare the essay, there is no need to despair. We have expert academic writers who will be able to help you with your assignment. we can offer you an outstanding custom essay for you as per the specifications of your assignment.
Graphic Design Education
Design Pedagogy by Adjunct Professor John P Corrigan
The Visual Essay
What Does Creating a Visual Essay Imply?
To begin with, a visual essay appears to stand out of the crowd. Actually, it is a totally different assignment from a classic essay. The point is that while covering this written task, you shouldn’t write anything at all except for some short informative statements!
In fact, this academic assignment requires expressing your thoughts on this or that topic using:
Moreover, to present your point of view on the required topic you may combine all above-mentioned means with some short informative statements related to the theme.
Handling Visual Assignments
Clearly, the most difficult and challenging step while fulfilling this task is finding really suitable and gripping visuals, pictures and images to use. Obviously, it presumes using creative approach and skills. In other words, ability to generate fresh ideas seems to be a determinant factor on your road to success.
Recommendations on Composing a Visual Essay
Are there any clear effective hints, which can help you to create your visual paper with ease? Of course, there are! And you shouldn’t seek for them, because they are posted below:
- Surf the web and use camera to collect the data for your essay.
- Incorporate thought provoking visuals, images and pictures in your paper.
- To make your presentation more griping feel free to use graphs, various charts and bars.
- All the data you want to use should be up-to-date and relevant.
- Don’t forget about numerous visuals aids while defending your paper.
- Show your paper to your relatives of friends before submitting it. They may give you favorable advice as well.
Competent Help with Visual Essays
Still feel a little bit frustrated because of these academic assignments? Don’t fall into despair! There is always a way out from any tough situation! Visual papers are not an exception.
How to Write a Visual Essay
By Marlene Inglis, eHow Contributor
Visual essays tell a story either by using text or props.
A visual essay can be a group of pictures depicting or exploring a topic without any text or it can be a combination of visuals or images plus text. Your essay can be a commentary on ideas ranging from gardening to social uprisings and can focus on political or environmental issues. Pictures used in your essay can be current pictures or ones collected over a period of time and the essay can be presented either as a word document or as a .jpeg image file format with some accompanying text.
- Create your visual essay by deciding which format you will be using for your essay. Remember that the purpose of your essay is to inform, persuade or enlighten your reader. Create an essay that is factual but not boring, lots of images or pictures but not enough to overwhelm, thought provoking but not thoughtless.
- Use charts, bars or graphs to tell your story. Select a subject such as statistical processing control (SPC), a process used in the manufacturing industry to monitor product quality, and create graphic charts, bars and graphs. Use vivid colors in your presentation so your audience can observe and compare the variations in manufacturing the product over certain times of the year. Create comparative charts and graphs to show the current year’s product quality compared to previous years. Using the appropriate visuals for your subject matter is paramount in keeping your audience interested and informed.
- Write your essay on a topic such as “uprisings” and use current pictures or images of an uprising in a country. Collect dozens of pictures pertinent to your subject matter and save them in a .jpeg format. Select pictures that can tell your story such as individuals looting and hauling store merchandise across their backs, people of all ages being unceremoniously dragged across roads, tanks lumbering through city streets while people run for cover and cars and buildings ablaze. Accompany the pictures with suitable background music and your visual essay would not need much text since the pictures by themselves will speak to your audience.
- Use visual aids or props. Purchase various fast foods such as hamburgers, fries, nachos, coke, etc. for your essay on “The obesity epidemic”. Research the fat content, the amount of sugar, salt and other ingredients contained in each food item. Prepare a power point presentation with text to accompany your visual essay and include information on the normal amount of fat, salt, sugar etc. each body requires per day compared to the amount that these items provide. Include some pictures of people in various body sizes. Your presentation should be informative but not preachy. Let your audience make their own decision.
How to Write a Picture Analysis Essay
By Tom Becker, eHow Contributor
A picture is always more than the sum of its parts.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Observe the form of the images in the picture. 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.
- Look for texture. 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 assertion of your essay with a topic sentence stating that assertion.
- Develop the assertion in the next few paragraphs by citing specific examples that back up your assertion.
- Conclude each assertion by restating the assertion and briefly summarizing the manner in which you have proved your assertion.
- Introduce your next assertion with a topic sentence and continue in this fashion until you have made all the assertions backing up your thesis.
- Conclude the essay with a restatement of your thesis statement, briefly restate your assertions and finish with a sentence or two stating what you have proved with the essay.
How to Start a Reflection Essay on Art
By Isaiah David, eHow Contributor
Because a reflection essay on art is your chance to go back and take an informal look at a substantial project you have completed, many people incorrectly assume that it will be the easiest part. In reality, it takes a mature perspective, a developed voice, and the ability to be simultaneously informal and articulate to write a good reflection essay on art. In this article, I assume that you are writing a reflective essay on art you have made yourself, but the instructions can be easily adapted to help you reflect on an art history unit or a report you did on an art exhibit.
- Consult the rubric. Generally, your teacher will provide a list of points you are expected to address. Jot down a few notes on each point. Don’t try to be comprehensive – keep it light and flowing at this stage. Think of the first things that come to your mind.
- Look at your art project. What does it make you think about? Do you like it? Hate it? Take a closer look at the details. Was there some part that you had to struggle to complete? Was there something that came easy or hit like a burst of inspiration? Write down as much or as little as you are inspired to.
- Think about the project as a whole. Find a moment that encapsulated the whole process of creating, refining, and finishing your work of art. It could be the first moment where you really felt engaged in the project, or it could be an obstacle that nearly stopped you dead in your tracks and that you had to overcome. That is where you should start your reflective essay.
- Use the drama of the moment you just thought of to begin your essay. You want your essay as a whole to tell the story of your project, and your first paragraph to tell a story within that story to draw the reader in. Use vivid descriptive to make the reader feel what you felt.
- Leave the reader hanging. Don’t tell the whole story of whatever moment you chose in your introductory paragraph – leave something for the ending. Then, you can keep the reader interested in the story within the story even as you lead them through the entire process.
- Step back to tell the rest of the story. For example, if you start with a description of a last minute problem you had to solve in your art project, you might start the next paragraph with something like “By that point, of course, I had been working on the project for 6 weeks.” This will take you right back to the beginning of the project, allowing you to reflect on each stage in order.
- 7 As you go through, use the details you thought about in step 2. If there are some aspects of your work that you are especially proud of, tell the reader how they came about. If there are other aspects that you don’t like, tell the reader why you don’t like them. Don’t just list them, but put them in at whatever stage of your project they occurred.
- Make sure to hit every detail on the rubric. Try to keep it in the back of your mind as you go through. Tat way, you can integrate it into the flow of your essay and make it sound more natural.
- For your conclusion, come back to the mini story and relate it to the project as a whole. If you found you had to trust your intuition to complete one aspect of your piece, explain what the project as a whole has taught you about intuition in art. If you had to scrap it all and start over at some stressful point, you might talk about what you learned about the need to plan, or the willingness to admit to yourself when you are wrong. Be humble. Show that there is something you had to learned, and that you learned it.
How to Write an Art Essay
By Melanie Novak, eHow Contributor
Writing an essay about a piece of art is best approached by considering two things:
- What did the artist set out to accomplish?
- How well did that artist achieve her goal?
This criterion is useful in a few ways. It’s relatively fair (you won’t be holding the work to unrealistic standards), it clearly sets up the basis for your critique, and looking at a work this way avoids a thumbs-up or thumbs-down review. You can use this approach to write about a book, movie, theatrical performance, painting, piece of music or any other creative work. The bulk of the work of writing about art is actually the time it takes to analyze the work and write the outline. There are some challenging steps in the first parts of this how-to, but if you have a strong, solid outline, the writing will be easy.
Analyzing the work
- Write what you think the artist was trying to achieve with this work of art. The famous Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the 16th century, is a notoriously inscrutable painting. You cannot, obviously, know exactly what da Vinci intended by painting this portrait. Many accomplished art historians have written extensively about this painting. So what can there be for you to say? Plenty. In this example, an essay on the well-known painting the Mona Lisa, you might conclude that the artist was trying to paint a portrait that told a story about a particular woman. This may seem obvious, but remember that goal is quite different from, say, an instructional painting with an obvious religious allegory or an abstract modern painting, and so the evaluation of this particular work will accordingly be different.
- Write what you know or feel as a result of the creative work. For instance, what do you know about the woman from looking at how she was painted by da Vinci? These needn’t be facts about her identity, but rather impressions that you have of her. Be as honest and specific about your reactions as you can. Do not worry about your own authority. You don’t need to be a professional art critic or have painted an Italian masterpiece yourself to be able to write an effective essay about the Mona Lisa.
- Compare your answer in Step 2 to the artist’s goal in Step 1. Is your reaction what the artist intended—is the work of art successful? Remember that it doesn’t matter whether or not you “like” whatever you are writing about. Rather you are using your own responses to write an analysis of the work itself. Remember that you can write an essay that examines how the work was unsuccessful using the same method as when writing an essay on a successful work.
- List the variables—all the decisions the artist or artists had to make—that went into creating the work. In the example of the Mona Lisa, the variables would be subject, composition, materials (paint and surface), color palette, brush strokes and level of detail.
- Write next to each variable a short description. For instance, for the Mona Lisa, you would write “subject–woman,” “composition–close-up of face, centered in the frame,” “color palette–muted,” etc.
The thesis statement and finalizing the outline
- Write a rough thesis statement based on all the steps above. Don’t use first person, even though your own responses have informed your thinking so far. A rough thesis statement might be “Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is a visually beautiful painting using Renaissance painting techniques, but its subject remains mysterious.” Your thesis statement should not be “The Mona Lisa is good.”
- Organize the variables in a way that supports your thesis statement. You don’t need to include every variable you listed. You may want to write one paragraph for each variable.
- Note how each variable contributed to the overall success (or lack of success) of the creative work.
Writing the essay
- Write as specifically as possible when you are describing the variables and your responses to them. It is often the description that will convince your readers of your point.
- Write an engaging introduction and satisfying conclusion.
The Visual Essay— collated research material