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Art & Design

Analysing an artist's work

How to analyse an artist's work

Analysing an artist's work means studying the elements that make up an artwork. You can show your understanding by answering questions about the work.

In order to achieve higher marks in Assessment Objective 4, you need to show that you understand the work of artists, designers and craftspeople.

The following headings and questions can help you to structure a piece of writing and understand a piece of artwork. Always remember to use your own words so that you are expressing what you think.


This means looking at the formal elements of an artwork.

  • What is the medium of the work?
  • What colours does the artist use? Why? How is colour organised?
  • What kind of shapes or forms can you find?
  • What kind of marks or techniques does the artist use?
  • What is the surface like?
  • What kinds of textures can you see?
  • How big is the work?


This refers to how the work relates to a particular time, place, culture and society in which it was produced.

  • When was it made? Where was it made? Who made it?
  • Who was the work made for?
  • What do you know about the artist?
  • How does the work relate to other art of the time?
  • Does the work relate to the social or political history of the time?
  • Can you link it to other arts of the period, such as film, music or literature?
  • Does the work relate to other areas of knowledge, such as science or geography?


The content is the subject of a piece of work.

  • What is it? What is it about? What is happening?
  • Is it a portrait? A landscape? Abstract?
  • What does the work represent?
  • The title - what does the artist call the work?
  • Does the title change the way we see the work?
  • Is it a realistic depiction?
  • Have any parts been exaggerated or distorted? If so, why?
  • What is the theme of the work?
  • What message does the work communicate?


Looking at process means studying how the work was made and what techniques were used.

  • What materials and tools were used to make the piece?
  • What is the evidence for this?
  • Do sketchbooks provide any clues as to how the work developed?


Mood means looking at how the artist has created a certain atmosphere or feeling.

  • How does the work make you feel?
  • Why do you think you feel like this?
  • Does the colour, texture, form or theme of the work affect your mood?
  • Does the work create an atmosphere?

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