“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”Thomas Merton
One of the amazing things about human beings is that we have the right – even if it’s just in our own minds & not written or spoken depending where in the world you live – to think, feel, love, hate, and allow our self to get lost in our appreciation for art.
Although many art pundits may say it takes years to truly appreciate art, no one can truly tell you how you must appreciate a work. You may like colours, the person next to you may love black & white. Your partner may love abstract, while you may adore classic paintings such as da Vinci.
That being said, there are a range of art appreciation classes, webinars, seminars both online and in-person for individuals to take part, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, you could enjoy a course through a gallery, museum or art curator from anywhere in the world – right from your living room. To check out some great examples of virtual art appreciation classes check out the nine free online courses offered by the Smithsonian!
If you are looking for a little more guidance, why not take a light-hearted view of the topic, as laid out in Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics, which has a great illustration with a step-by-step guide.
Tips for appreciating art
To provide our own guide, we have taken his main contentions and unpacked them to give you tips on how to appreciate art today.
Get out of your own head – it is important to leave your baggage at the door when it comes to art. Don’t view a painting without a clear head, and an idea to accept concepts and ideas that may be new or foreign to you. It’s somewhat like beginning in a meditative space.
Recognise contrasts of style & form – The use of colours, textures, lines, shape, patters are essentially the building blocks of composition in art. How do these combine creates the overall effect of the artwork? Think about what you like, love, hate, and what captures your attention. Does it work, does it not?
Don’t force symbolism – Just because a work may have a symbol or symbols contained within the work, don’t force your pre-conceived ideas of ‘what’ that symbol means, without understanding it in the context of the work – it may actually mean the complete opposite!
Understand and appreciate abstraction – Is it a giant snowy mountain shining brightly under the sunlight, or is it an intimidating volcano bursting through the sky? These are some of the wonderful questions you may encounter that may leave you thinking about strange things – this is all ok. Abstraction is about seeing beyond the things you think you know, understand and can see; it is here that many people learn more than anywhere to truly appreciate art.
Challenge traditional values – art is provocative, it is a change agent, and importantly, it is expression. It is a powerful tool for social, political even religious change. And if not change, simply an appreciation of a new or different point of view. So, give it a chance and you may be surprised.
Defend the work of others – Just because something is different, strange or we don’t personally gravitate towards it, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t, or can’t be appreciated in its own right. “I don’t know why the artist would put paint on the wheels of a bike and ride across the canvas”. It is a form of expression, it is organised chaos, it is so many things that can be appreciated.
Celebrate deep emotion – shock & awe, rage, love, passion, sadness, whatever you feel, embrace it and celebrate it.
Leave room for mystery – There is always more you can learn and understand, and meanings hidden under the veil of allegory you may pick up on your first viewing of a picture, or on your last. Or you may never truly understand it. But never think you understand it all, always leave room, even just a little for a hidden idea or mystery.
Get inspired to make something new – Most importantly, get inspired. Even if you are not an artist, be inspired to create a new product, learn something new, create a new business, sing a new song….art is there to inspire and move you. Only you are the one that can make it happen.
Art has been a tool of the ages to inspire, communicate, document, express and rebel. To fully appreciate its significance, why not visit a museum? When you can travel again, why not ensure you visit some of the world-famous masterpieces? You never know what it may inspire you to do next.