Strategies for Understanding Visual Representations
•The Big Picture: Looking and Responding. What did you first notice about the picture? Where was your eye drawn? Why? How does the author’s use of line, and/or arrangement draw your eye in that specific direction? What emotional response did this focal point evoke? Why would the author of the text wish to draw the reader’s eye there? What’s your initial feeling about the author’s purpose for this text? What was their purpose?
•Observing Characteristics: Analyzing Images.
The Cast of Characters: examine the condition, colors, sizes, functions, and positions of the objects included in the image. Look closely at the figures (men, women, children, animals). Consider facial expressions, poses, hairstyles and colors, ages, sexes, ethnicity, possible education, suggested occupations, apparent relationships to each other and so on.
The Story of the Image: Does the action shown in the visual text suggest a “plot” or story, surrounding the moment captured in the image? What does the background suggest about where the action takes place?
Artistic Choices: When you look at the design of the image, reflect on both the elements within it and their organization. Think about why the artist chose them and used them as they did. This will force you to think about arrangement/placement, use of color, shapes, balance, and symbolic cultural (and sometimes historical) meaning.
•Color: Does color focus our attention on the visual in any way? Create contrast (such as light/dark, etc.)? Suggest symbolic cultural meanings? What do these suggested meanings contribute to the author’s overall purpose? In other words, how does the use of color communicate a symbolic meaning and why do you think the artist chose it? How does this symbolic meaning fit into the context of the story you created in the initial part of your invention work? How does each of these fit into the context of your story in the initial part of your invention work?
•Figure-Ground Contrast: Does the author emphasize the difference between what in front (the figure) and what’s in back (the background)? What does such an arrangement suggest? How does this fit into the context of your story in the initial part of your invention work?
•Symbols: Do any objects in the image communicate key cultural messages about meaning?How does each of these fit into the context of your story in the initial part of your invention work?
•Juxtaposition: How does the placement of individual visual elements suggest relationships? How do these relationships suggest specific messages or meanings? How does each of these fit into the context of your story in the initial part of your invention work?
•Repetition or similarity & proximity : Does the author group similar colors, sizes, or shapes in any way? How does the image use space (empty space as well as the distance between objects)? Does the image include a lot of white space or is it cluttered and busy? Is there a repetition in the image? Is something repeated more than once? Why do you think so? Why would the artist wish to emphasize this object? What meaning specific meanings or types of relationships among elements does this suggest? How does each of these fit into the context of your story in the initial part of your invention work?
•Use of text: If the image is accompanied by text, what typefaces are used? What impressions do they convey?
•Communicating what you see: What do you see as the overall theme (central idea) of this image? As you walk away from this painting, what did the author want you to understand? Is there a single word or phrase that encapsulates or summarizes this idea? What do you see as the three most important symbols in the image? Free write about each one a little and explain what each reveals about your theme (central idea).