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Visual Thinking

Page history last edited by Abigail Heiniger 9 years, 10 months ago

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Elements of Visual Rhetoric:

Visual thinking is a term used to describe the convergence of aesthetic language and critical thinking (analyzing images).




  • Color can function in a vast range of ways. Color theory began with Isaac Newton's Optiks (1704), which looks at the physical nature of color. Today, color theory also encompasses the psychological, emotional, and symbolic nature of color. Color can function to set the tone or create mood in an image.  
    • Warm colors
      • Warm colors suggest warmth, light, and excitement. 
    • Cool colors
      • Cool colors suggest cold, and a calm or depressed mood.  
    • Use of light and shadow  
      • Chiaroscuro is the dramatic use of light and shadow. 
  • LINE

  • Lines are points that move through space. They implicitly or explicitly move the viewer's eye in a specific direction. This movement can function to create a sense of depth and space. Lines may also have an emotional or psychological effect on the viewer. They can create feelings of stability or drama.  
    • Internal, implied lines
    • Lines of sight
    • Explicit lines
    • Angles 

  • Real space is three-dimensional: it has height, depth, and width. In art, space may be real (a three-dimensional art-object such as a sculpture in the round) or it may be an illusion created with lines and colors on a two-dimensional plane. Both line and color may be used to manipulate space in an art object. The manipulation of space in an art object can have an emotional or psychological effect upon the viewer.  
    • Sculpture in-the-round is a three-dimensional art object
    • Paintings (two-dimensional) can create the illusion of three dimensional space. 

  • The human body is important for creating meaning in the visual arts. The context of the body (where it is) and the positioning of the body are rhetorically charged. Human viewers relate to visual representations of the human figure (both realistic and abstract or symbolic renderings of the human body), it has the power to create sympathy (or empathy) in the viewer. 

      • The clothing on the human body tells a story (it can identify gender, nationality, class...).  
    • ACTION

      • The human body may tell stories through movement. These stories maybe explicit, such as the action of characters in a film, or it may be symbolic, such as the movement of dancers on a stage

  • Context is everything that surrounds an art object. This includes physical place setting (where the sculpture is displayed or a painting is hanging), historical setting (the time in which it was created, the time in which it is currently being viewed...), the sociopolitical situation, and the individual life-story of the artist.    

  • The argument or message of an artwork is the overarching meaning of the work for the viewer or the cultural work in which the artwork engages. (Among other things) this argument or message is created through the combined rhetorical devices listed here.
    • List of literary rhetorical devices: http://literary.edublogs.org    
    • For the purposes of this class, the argument and message of an image is related to the literary fairy tale that it depicts.  


Other Resources for formal analysis:


Questions to consider:

Consider the rhetorical situation of the ad/artwork.

  • What VISUAL RHETORIC is at work in this ad/artwork?
    • How does it use color?
      • What effect does color have on the viewer?
      • What message does color convey?  
    • How does it use lines?
      • Internal, implied lines?
      • Explicit lines? 
      • Lines of sight?
      • Angles? 
      • What effect do these lines have on the viewer?
      • What message do these lines convey?  
    • How does this ad/artwork manipulate space? Is it virtual, two-dimensional, or three-dimensional?
      • What is the significance of this manipulation of space?
      • How is space related to gender construction? 
    • How does it use the human body?
      • Where is the body situated (i.e. setting)?
      • How is the body positioned?
      • What is the significance of this to the meaning of gender identity?
    • How is the human body appareled?
      • Is there clothing?
      • What clothing?
      • What does the clothing indicate about the gender of the body/individual?
      • How does clothing CONSTRUCT gender identity?
    • What actions are being depicted?
      • What are the explicit meanings of these actions?
      • What are the implicit meanings of these actions? Consider  
      • How are these actions related to gender identity? 


  • Consider the CONTEXT of the ad/artwork. 
    • How does this illustration reflect the CONTEXT of the literary fairy tale?
      • Is it an American illustration? British? German? French? Russian? Italian? Scandinavian? 
    • Who was meant to view this?  
    • Where was this viewed?
    • When was this viewed? 
    •  Does this image use the fairy tale to send a new message?
      • For example, fairy tale books illustrated in the 1900s and 1910s often have veiled suffrage messages (because women around the world were fighting for suffrage).    


You do NOT need to answer all (or any of these questions - these are just designed to help you move from summary to ANALYSIS of gender constructions in your advertisement AND artwork).  





Comments (1)

John McCarthy said

at 4:55 pm on Sep 23, 2014

Blank empty landscape similar to the Arctic
Godlike figure depicted by both
Priority on nature of the situation
Clash between emotional and logical through characters in Frankenstein and in the painting

Civilized masculine figures are described by both

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