Art Sketchbook · EDCI 307A

Art History through Critical Analysis

During this art class, we engaged in the practice of a critical art analysis looking at the work of the Inuit community of Cape Dorset.


We were split into 2 groups per table. With the 4 tables in the room, there were 8 pictures to examine overall. My group started with the picture above. The first step of the critical analysis process was to record our initial thoughts about this image:

  • Background is surreal
  • White parkas draw your eye
  • Element of symmetry (rule of thirds)
  • Simplicity of the [people] sticks out
  • Oars are in canoe, not attached
  • Texture in the water

Next we switched places with the other group at our table. We looked at their picture, read their initial thoughts, and then added to the analysis with our own description, or the story, of what was happening in their picture.

We then switched spaces again, this time with a group from the adjacent table. Now we performed an analysis of the elements and principles of design used in the artwork.

Finally, we switched one last time with the other group at this new table and noted our considerations of cultural context. We were told that all art has cultural context regardless of whether it’s foreign or so familiar we may not notice it. Our instructor also prompted us to reflect on what the differences between contemporary and traditional art would look like for the people of Cape Dorset, and to keep these cultural contexts in mind while looking at all works.


Keeping all of this mind, we returned to our original spaces and spent a moment reading the reflections of the other groups about our original image, and then came up with a now informed opinion about the art piece. These were the comments from the other groups:


  • 3 people on a journey – hunting?
  • 3 people racing
  • Maybe fighting to get to the food source first

Analysis – Line

  • Thick and thin ([e.g.] outside of canoes vs. paddles)
  • Lines to show motion and create shadows
  • Absence of lines in jackets – why?
  • Texture -> wood and water -> using lines to create
  • Lines are all black

Consideration of Cultural Context

  • Elements of both traditional and contemporary context
  • Subjects and tools seem traditional, and kayaks
  • Printed line work seems traditional
  • Shading seems contemporary and no spiritual connotations

Informed Opinion

  • Commentary on how tradition can work with contemporary [ways of doing and knowing]. Mixture of two in culture.

Our professor also used this time examining Inuit art as a means to start a dialogue about Indigenous communities, talking about violence against indigenous women in particular. We looked at a piece by late Cape Dorset artist Annie Pootoogook, who’s body was found in the Ottawa River this September 2016.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s