top of page

How to Look at Art Online

In art school, I romanticized the days of the salon and rubbing elbows with the new, noteworthy, cynical, and critical. The aroma of confidence and smoke, with the sounds of internalized angst and ego battles filling the room of artwork.

Today, I’m scrolling through Instagram, mindless and envious of the artists who can do it all: photography, marketing, good wits, hashtags, and captivating artwork.

There are tricks to make a good social media post that doesn't necessarily reflect the real world. There can be a mirage of tactics used to get a new image (read: product) in front of your eyeballs.

There’s energy attached to the handmade which is never translated very well through pixels. As a sensitive person, I’m aware of the unintended and non-explicit energy and I think most of us are without being aware. The vibe of artwork is removed when filtered and transposed.

In person, you're granted exclusive access to explore artwork at your own pace. You can walk up to the work, decide where to look first and maybe choose to explore further and read the statement. While online you’re presented with an image, a caption, and comments. Essentially, without prompt, you're not deciding your own input - it's provided for you.

Learning to look at art can be tough enough. But learning to be present while browsing is a new type of art gazing. I don't know about you but my media browsing is a habit, no less than an addiction.

To help myself in my ever-evolving journey of becoming an artist I knew I needed to adapt to the times. In doing so, I've come up with a way to view art online.

How to Appreciate Artwork Through Pixels

1. Create a Cue

If you “like” images or leave comments when browsing, use this as a cue to pause and reflect. Ask yourself the guiding question “Why do I like this?” This cue will help you to pause, take a breath and reflect on your answer.

If you find yourself browsing without interacting via likes, comments or shares, you can create a different cue. For example, every time an advertisement appears in your feed, go to the last few images to pause, reflect “why do I like/dislike this?”.

Creating cues to remind you to pause, breathe and reflect will message your critical thinking muscles.

2. Develop the Skill of Clairvoyance

When you find yourself particularly drawn to an artwork online, try to imagine it in space. Try to picture what the experience would be like if you were present with the actual art object.

Sometimes there are clues to help you do this accurately by reading the captions, spotting the dimensions, comparing it to the surroundings, etc. Sometimes you can zoom in on an image to capture details like brush strokes, or dust.

3. Ignore the Fluff

Don’t be fooled by excellent lighting, image editing, fun background, and captions. It’s a skill and it takes time and effort to produce pixel-ready artwork. If you can, give the underdogs a chance by donating a moment of your time. We have high expectations to experience production-quality media. We can’t help to be attracted to the bright, clean and glorious. Using steps 1 and 2 will help to build a unique ability of appreciation for poor-quality images.

4. Publicize your Reaction

“Like, comment and subscribe” isn’t just a millennial chant, it’s a legitimate way to help promote an artist through the interesting world of analytics. Share artists' websites to point traffic directly to their own domain. The world needs more voices and more interests. The weirder you are, the weirder artists can get. That means more authentic experiences available. How does an artist know that they're doing a good job and should keep at it? It depends on the artist, but for me, it's my website traffic and thoughtful emails from friends and onlookers.

Final Thoughts

When you follow the status quo, you're letting a handful of people decide what’s cool. The big internet guys and gals are having all the fun while craftspeople and artists are trying to compete with multibillion-dollar marketing campaigns (and they probably even get benefits and health care plans).

Being an informed, thoughtful and critical observer is a gift to the world. Your keen sense of style, fun quirks and niche interests are a gift to the world. We can search for those same words online to get the same generic SEO keyphrases. But, by being confident in your interests, you're more likely to share with others, exposing more niches to people who might need them.

Casual Shop Drop


Heather is an intuitive, painter and fine toy maker.

bottom of page