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How to Appreciate Art When You're Not an Artist

Michelle still doesn't understand abstract art but has been learning more about how to appreciate the many views and emotions of artists.

What is the point of modern art?

In my short lifetime, I’ve found that I just don’t understand certain art movements. Monet and Rembrandt? I can see how their work is exquisite and their creativity on another level of genius. Modern art? I just can’t see it. Everyone has their own opinion of what constitutes art. If you want to try to expand your parameters and understand how to appreciate it, try these easy tips. Who knows? You might become someone who can see the appeal in any art form.

1. Learn a Little Bit Every Day

Learn about art, a little bit a day. It doesn’t matter how little you learn. Just imagine, if you dedicated just five minutes a day to learning something about art, you’d have invested over 30 hours into expanding your knowledge in a year. The best part is, it’d feel like it’s taking no time out of your day. Try writing down what you learn in an art journal and see what you take in throughout the year!

2. Try an Art Project

Try doing a project. You might have an idea of something you've wanted to try in your life but have been too intimidated to try. Well, now’s a good time to jump in and get your feet wet. It might turn out terribly, but that’s not the point of this exercise. The experience as a whole would be a great way for you to see what it takes to create something from your imagination. Your appreciation for it in will probably grow.

3. Take a Class

Try going to a paint night or class. You can do this with your friends and learn how to create your own little masterpiece. Make it a fun night of learning, and you’ll walk away remembering that the fun you had creating it was likely what the artist felt bringing their project to life.

4. Write What You Know

Write down the different types of art that you know about. Now, because I don’t expect you to invest thousands of dollars into something you might not pick up again, I suggest that you try the following:

  1. Watch Youtube tutorials for how to do each thing you wrote down.
  2. Try understanding the investment of money and time it takes for an artist to become experienced enough to do what they do for a living.
  3. Try to “hear” the voice of each artist as they share what they do and how they got started.

5. Visit a Museum

Visit a museum. It can be something classic, like the art museum that first pops into your mind. However, you could also try something fun like the Museum of Ice Cream and have a fun day exploring the exhibitions put on by creative people around a certain theme!

6. See Through Different Angles

Try looking at it from different angles. Discover new ways to see the same thing. Turn sideways to see what it looks like from a fresh angle. If you’re good at handstands (and avoiding security), go to the extreme and look at it upside down!

7. Analyze One Thing

Pick one painting/artwork and analyze it. Try asking questions to yourself:

  • Who made it?
  • When did they live?
  • What were important events that happened around that time?
  • Do you think their artwork and the time period during which they lived are related, and if so, how?

8. Think About Your Feelings

Think about how a work of art makes you feel (or not feel). Then, ask someone else how it makes them feel. Your own life experiences might come into play when you think about a painting, so it'd be an interesting discussion to have.

9. Interview Someone

Interview someone who does something you don’t understand. Don’t go to make fun of them or criticize them. Try to learn about their lives and what they do. Take notes, and think about that person the next time you don’t understand something and are wondering how to better “get” them.

10. Accept It

Accept that you won't understand everything. By this point, you might say you’ve tried some of these tips and found no extra appreciation lying around to share. Acknowledge that not everyone is interested in the same thing, and it's not a bad thing. Like... modern art.


Cristina on February 21, 2020:

I'm going to be brave here and speak my mind. I love art and I need it to enrich my emotions. It's insanely important for me to live in a space filled with vibrant natural beauty or colorful mandalas, the state of mind they give me is crucial for my well being. And that is what I believe art should be appreciated for. But the way it's described in this article has dissapointed me to an extent, especially at no. 4. It sounds like I should appreciate the person, feel sorry for their time investment, state of being etc, as if they're a beggar or something similar. I can't agree to that, the person is not important, the emotions that the art piece gives you is THE only thing that's important. I guess we live in an emotionless/empty age where the most horrible, distorted and depressive artwork is appreciated and validated ... who would ever want that in their home, honestly?!

Michelle George (author) from Santa Barbara on April 23, 2018:

Hi, Bede. I appreciate your feedback, and I like your comparison! It's very thoughtful, and it's making me hungry for lasagna and sushi!

Bede from Minnesota on April 20, 2018:

Michelle, nice job on this one; it gives art neophytes the encouragement they need. Art books helped me to appreciate art more, besides going to museums and practicing art. In my view, art is like food; some dishes are always tasty, like lasagna; others, like sushi, need time to appreciate, while yet others are always yucky, like burnt toast.