Discovering art doesn’t happen by accident

Brian Reverman

Brian Reverman

Visiting artist - Educational consultant

Helping high school art students truly analyze a work of art, rather than superficially describe it, requires that teachers teach an effective strategy for students to use. An approach widely used is Edmund Feldman’s Description, Analysis, Interpretation and Evaluation. This approach is a concise way to help students know what to do, but how do they go about each step in the process? Dr. Renee Sandell’s FTC Palette, emphasizing that art is the integration of Form, Theme and Context is, in my view, a comprehensive “how to” tool that helps students decode the many variables that form meaning in a work of art.

Building on Dr. Sandell’s work, I’ve created the online graphic organizer, the Art-o-matic as a tool to help students analyze and compare works of art. The Art-o-matic combines all of Dr. Sandell’s “nodes” for form, theme and context with some additional guiding questions to help students synthesize their research and analysis into a deep investigation of an artwork’s meaning.

The Art-o-matic template is .html based and uses a free online diagram-making tool draw.io. The Art-o-matic allows students to create content-rich and visually effective electronic versions of their analytical work. Because draw.io operates in the cloud students can also collaborate on a given Art-o-matic if they have access to the same .html file.

In support of the .html template I’ve created two videos, Discovering Art, which helps explain how to analyze art according to Form, Theme and Context and Discovering More About Art which explains how more advanced students can extend their analytical thinking into a deep and thorough analysis of a work of art. There is also an instructional video on how to use the Art-o-matic.

The Art-o-matic has been recently updated to version 3.0. The new version has a more user- friendly interface and includes links to art vocabulary, MoMA’s glossary of art terms, the ISB Art History Channel on YouTube and some student generated examples of completed analytical work. The Art-o-matic is especially appropriate for the IBO Visual Arts course’s Process Portfolio and Comparative Study requirements, but is adaptable to any art program’s curriculum.

The AOM template, and accompanying introduction lessons, are freely downloadable here. Middle School version coming soon.