How to Explain Art to Someone Who’s New to It

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In a world where not everyone is an art enthusiast, or even familiar with art-related terms, you must know a way to describe your artwork.

Indeed, a picture is worth a thousand words. But if you’ve been to an art exhibition or painting auction with someone not as much of an art fan, you’d know the struggle. How do you tell them the chiaroscuro in this painting is truly remarkable without having to show them an art dictionary to understand the term?

But not just that. You also need to be able to describe your art in layperson terms if you’re an artist trying to sell your work. The average person will surely admire a painting that looks good to the eye. Still, without understanding the techniques you’ve employed or recognizing the art medium you’ve used, it will just look like any other artwork to them.

Tell Them the ‘Why’ of It

When trying to explain your artwork, telling someone the goal behind your creation is often an excellent place to start.

Every piece of art has a message being conveyed through its graphics. When you tell someone the intent behind a particular work of art or the message the artist wants to get to their audience, it captures their attention. It makes them want to listen more about the work and how it was done. 

Such an intro is always better than diving right into technical aspects of an artwork, which can make you lose a listener’s attention quickly.

If you are explaining your own artwork to someone, there’s a plus. Telling someone the intent of your work will enable you to understand yourself more clearly. And not to mention, it makes you look like a professional artist who knows what they’re doing.

Pretend the Other Person Can’t See the Artwork

When describing a piece of art to the average person, pretend to explain it to someone who can’t see it. Or better yet, pretend they are blind and have no idea what the different colors or what different visuals feel like. Try to articulate the visuals into something a blind person can feel in terms of sound, taste, smell, or touch.

For instance, describe the color blue to the other person as the feeling of being submerged underwater. Tell them how it feels cool while powerful at the same time. Tell them the pervasive relaxation this color brings.

Or describe red as the heat they feel in the midday sun. The deep red in anger or the scarlet of flushed. You could define a light green as the tingling feeling of walking over wet grass.

When you can transform colors into feelings, as in to make a visually impaired individual understand colors, you are able to reach a special place in your listener’s heart and mind. A place where you can instill a profound message with your words while they gaze at your artwork, almost hypnotizing them.

Talk About the Visuals as a Mood

Art enables an artist to express themselves in extreme depth. What the average eye sees as a stroke of paint, a prominent color, or just any other feature of a painting can mean a lot to the understanding eye. It is only a matter of explaining it.

The mood of a work of art is the atmosphere displayed by the artist. It can be a serenity of predominant sea green. It can be the dark of a pitch-black or the nostalgia of a golden hue.

Swift and hard-handed strokes can be translated into an aggressive mood. On the contrary, light-handed strokes translate into shyness or sometimes fear.

It is all about examining the different features and colors in artwork and translating them into a coherent message for someone who does not know how to interpret art. From the color theory to the subject matter, there’s a lot carried by a single painting. 

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

One of the most essential aspects of explaining art to someone who knows nothing about it is looking at the painting from their lens. Knowing a thing or two about the person you’re describing the art to will also help. Help them connect different features of the art with something they can relate to.

Only the artist, or someone who’s well aware of all the intricacies of creating art, can understand the creativity, hard work, time, and the fight that goes on within the artist when creating a piece of art. It is difficult for someone who’s just getting to know about the process behind an art piece to understand all of these dynamics. In the same way, understanding or putting a monetary value on an art piece is virtually impossible for them.

What you can do is create an emotional connection between them and the art. As mentioned above, you can do this by helping them relate to it with something that matters to them.

Ask Them Questions

Last but not least, you can get immense help by asking them what they feel about the art. This will get them to think about what they like or dislike in a work of art. Allow them the freedom to express their likes or dislikes, and use their words to your advantage to explore an art piece in greater depth. 

Gary Rhode
Gary Rhode