Here are some tips for doing this close-looking exercise yourself or with others:

  1. LOOK. Start by looking at the image for around 10 minutes. Don’t worry about writing anything down, yet – you just want to look at the art, first!
  2. DESCRIBE. Ask yourself what you’re seeing – are there figures present? How many? Is it a landscape or a portrait? Feel free to write your observations down. Be descriptive!
  3. FEEL. Think about how the artwork makes you feel. What does it remind you of? Why does it remind you of that? Use what you were able to see in earlier steps to here.
  4. INTREPRET. Finally, what do you think the artist is trying to convey?

It’s normal to leave with more questions than you started with!

Here are some observations about this image to get you started after you finish step 1:

  • There are two figures. One is feminine, the other is masculine.
  • The masculine figure seems to be farther away because he is much smaller and higher in the image. The feminine figure takes up about a third of the picture.

Here are some more questions to help guide you during steps 2 and 3:

  • How would it be different if the feminine figure was the same size as the masculine figure?
  • How would it be different if the figures had different facial expressions?
  • What is going on in the setting?
  • How would you describe the colors? The shapes? The lines?
  • What colors did the artist choose? How do they interact?
  • How would you describe the people in this work?
  • What would it feel like to be inside of this artwork?

Image credit:
Kikugawa Eizan, Japanese (1787 - 1867), Tamakazura, 1814 - 1817, from the series “Genji jūni kō” [Twelve Seasons of Genji], woodcut, 9 78 x 14 316 inches. Gift of Anna C. Hoyt, 57.217. Photo: Jeff Wells / CU Art Museum