How to look at art: 30 mindful questions to ask yourself


Looking at art mindfully

There is a lot of talk about being mindful. When you hear the word mindful, you may think of quietly sitting in lotus pose, alone, listening to soothing music. However, mindfulness can be practiced in any situation, at any point during the day. Being mindful is purely being aware of where you are and what is going on around you. Mindfulness is the simple act of taking time to observe. When we observe, we inspect, study, pay attention to, and think about what we’re looking at. This is a great framework for looking at art.

Being mindful while looking at art provides us with an opportunity to really discover what intentions the artist had, how the piece relates to us, and gives us time to appreciate the artist’s skill.

Looking at art mindfully is simply taking time to observe, think, and appreciate.

Looking at art mindfully is simply taking time to observe, think, and appreciate.

Questions to ask yourself when looking at art

  1. When was the piece created?

  2. What events were happening in the world at the time the piece was created?

  3. Where is the piece located?

  4. How is the location of the piece significant?

  5. What is the subject matter?

  6. Who is the artist?

  7. What was this artist known for?

  8. What colors are prominent throughout the piece?

  9. Where can you see movement being represented?

  10. How does the piece feel balanced or unbalanced?

  11. Where are there areas of high or low contrast?

  12. Which shapes do you see represented?

  13. What media was used to create it?

  14. What equipment would have been needed to create it?

  15. How long do you think it would have taken the artist to create it?

  16. What challenges does this type of media pose?

  17. Why do you think this media was chosen for this piece?

  18. If the piece you are looking at is a sculpture, how would you represent it as a painting (or vice versa)?

  19. Is the style of the piece realistic, abstract, or something else?

  20. Would the piece have the same impact if it were done in a different style? Why or why not?

  21. Can you see brushstrokes? What kind of energy do they have?

  22. Is the sculpture smooth or rough? How is this important?

  23. Is the piece to scale or is it smaller/bigger? How does this change the way you feel? If it were bigger or smaller, would it change the impact of the piece?

  24. What is the piece doing? Does it tell a story? Evoke a feeling? Document an event? Present an idea?

  25. What do you think the artist was feeling?

  26. How does it make you feel?

  27. What emotions are captured in the piece? If there are people in the piece, what are their expressions?

  28. What parts of the piece make you feel the way you do?

  29. Does the piece bring to mind any of your own life events or memories?

  30. How has your opinion changed about this piece from the time you started looking at it until now?

You may not always have time to run through a list of 30 questions when you are looking at a piece of art. However, you always have time to stop for a few minutes (or seconds) to really look at something before you form an opinion. It is important for us to take time to be mindful when looking at art, or we might miss something that could change our perspective. Taking time to get connected to the arts, whether through spending time in front of a piece of sculpture or listening to creative podcasts, helps to keep us motivated and inspired.

Why 30 questions? We chose 30 questions in celebration of our company’s 30th Anniversary this year in 2019! We encourage you to see what has made us a leading conservation studio for 30 years. Learn what makes us different >

Art AppreciationHolly Tritt