Choose Your Artwork
Remember, you can only write about artworks that feature on Art UK’s website for this competition. Browse all the different paintings, sculptures, prints and other works that you can write about on Art UK’s Discover Artworks page.
- Put your postcode into the “Location” filter on the Discover Artworks page. This will find artworks in museums and galleries near where you live. You could visit these artworks and connect with your local collections.
- On the Discover Artworks page you can use the “Topic” filter to explore artworks by theme, such as “Animals and plants”, “Ideas and emotions” or “Power and politics”. You can also think of a subject that is of interest to you and enter a keyword in the search bar – try something such as “environment”, “protest”, “technology” or “sport”.
- Is there a particular style of art you like? Try searching for abstract art, or impressionism or pop art using the “Style” filter. Maybe even look for a style you dislike – exploring an artwork you don’t like can make for a lively piece of writing.
- Check out the Stories section on Art UK, where different artists, artworks and themes are explored. Your essay might be here too, one day!
- Still not sure? Try the artwork shuffle on the Art UK website and see six works selected at random.
You can find further inspiration in this learning resource from Art UK.
Look Closely at Your Artwork
Before you write anything, take some time to look at your chosen artwork. You can look closely. You can look from far away. You can glance at it quickly. You can stare at it for a long time. Look up and down, left to right.
Asking yourself these questions as you look can help you to explore the work. Art UK’s Superpower of Looking Kit also contains examples of questions you might want to ask yourself about your artwork.
- What colours can you see?
- What is it made of?
- Is it dark or light?
- Is it cool or warm?
- Is it rough or smooth?
- Do you think it was made quickly or slowly?
- Where do you think it was made?
- How does it make you feel?
- How do you think the person who made it was feeling?
- Is the artwork telling you something?
- What does the artwork make you think about?
- Can you see a person, animal, place or object?
- Does it look like anything else you have seen?
Maybe write down the answer to some of these questions as a starting point for your piece.
You don't have to write about everything represented in the picture; it's fine to focus on a particular aspect or detail.
Research Your Artwork
See what other people have said about your chosen artwork. These could be art historians, art critics, members of the public, the artist themself or people who knew the artist. You may agree or not agree with what they think about it. Perhaps include your agreement or disagreement with their opinions in your piece.
Explore the life and other work of the individual or individuals who created your chosen artwork. Does this work respond to any significant event in their life/lives? Does this work tell you anything about them as a person/as a group?
Look into the time and place in which your artwork was made. What were the major historical events happening at the time? What was society like at this time? What was important to people? Does your chosen artwork respond to anything going on at this time? or Does your artwork seem unusual for having been made at this time?
You could also look at the life of your artwork after it was made. Has the artwork moved between owners or museums/galleries? Have people come to understand it in a different way over time? Have other artists created responses to the artwork? Have there been any stories or scandals linked to the artwork?
If you are not sure about how to research an artwork, artist or historic period, there are plenty of places online where you could start – including Wikipedia, the Khan Academy, BBC Bitesize, Smart History or Heni Talks.
You could also visit a library and ask a librarian to help, or even go directly to the source by contacting the gallery or museum where the artwork is kept.
Connect With Your Reader
You might want to share with the people reading your piece why the artwork you have chosen appeals to you, or what you find to be particularly interesting about it.
What made you choose this artwork? Does the artwork concern any issues that matter to you? Do you know something about the artwork or artist that you can relate to personally?
Remember, your passion and enthusiasm will encourage your readers to also look closely and share your interest.
Make Your Writing Enjoyable to Read
Writing can also be an artistic practice and a way of being creative. There are lots of different ways you can ensure that readers enjoy your work, and are entertained, moved or inspired.
1. The words you choose.
What words or phrases might you use to describe the artwork’s subject or style? For example, could you describe a sitter’s dress as “cascading like a waterfall” or the “looming storm clouds in the top right corner of the piece, which threaten to envelop the scene and plunge the village into darkness”.
2. Show, don’t tell.
Showing the reader what is happening is often far more exciting than telling them. For example, “The woman in the painting furrows her brow and grits her teeth” rather than “The woman in the painting looks frustrated”. This technique keeps the reader's attention and allows them to use their imagination.
3. The format of your writing.
Your writing could take the form of an essay, letter, diary entry or poem. Think about which format would best suit the themes in your chosen artwork.
4. Who is speaking?
Your piece could be from your perspective or that of the artist, artwork’s subject, you or someone else. How might different narrators have different perspectives on the artwork?
Once you’ve finished writing make sure you go back through it and check things like spelling and grammar. Make your writing as good as it can be!