What is a Descriptive Essay?
Writing a descriptive essay can be likened to painting a picture, creating a piece of music, creating a sculpture with just words. After reading your essay your reader should have a vivid and clear picture of the portrayed object, and the more colorful the image is, the better you have managed to reach your readers’ minds and the better you have mastered descriptive essay writing.
Choose a topic for your descriptive essay: 50 Inspiring Descriptive Essay Topics
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Purpose of the Descriptive Essay
As any other essay types, descriptive essay writing is meant to, first of all, facilitate your writing and critical thinking skills. However, with descriptive essay writing this isn’t just the case: you need to observe the object, note what makes it unique, different, notable; if you are writing about a piece of music you will need to speak about things like melody, beat, rhythm, lyrics, tempo, harmony, general message etc. All these tasks require a lot of observation skills, ability to observe, notice, analyze and then verbalize one’s feelings and put them on paper. Summing up, a descriptive essay is a piece of writing that bridges your sensory perception with your writing skills.
Descriptive Essay Structure
Descriptive Essays are no different in terms of structure than regular Five Paragraph Essays. This means that they should consist of the introductory paragraph, two to three body paragraphs and the concluding paragraph. The introduction should contain the main essay idea and serve as an attention getter to the reader. Body paragraphs break the main idea into smaller subtopics and dwell on them in greater detail. Each body paragraph should consist of about 6-7 sentences. The final part of any essay is the conclusion. Typically it echoes ideas presented in the introduction and brings them to a logical ending. If your essay is required to be different structurally, stick to the instructions from your school. If, however, you need to write a classical descriptive essay, please refer to this article.
Tips on Descriptive Essay Writing
When creating a description essay writers typically use two approaches:
Objective Description – used to describe physical objects, technical things or present reporting. It is a direct, real to life description of something. The author is providing the reader with facts. Objective description lacks emotions and feelings. It does not give the reader an idea of writer’s attitude to the object (just like in an informative essay).
Subjective (impressionistic) – is the opposite of the objective approach. The reader will see the picture with your eyes and share the feelings and emotions that the described object evokes in the author.
Unlike objective description, this approach employs all the senses to convey the desirable meaning and achieve the necessary effect. You will share your view and attitude towards the presented subject (much like in a personal essay). This type of description tends to be very sensual, emotional and thoughtful.
How to Write Descriptive Essays on Paintings
Describing paintings, pieces of music and architecture are the most typical assignments students get. In order to ease up the writing process, we suggest that whenever a painting is described, the description could take a specific pattern:
- What is the title of the painting?
- Who is the author?
- When was this painting created? What historical context has it been placed in? (e.g. revolution, personal conflict, marriage, travel etc.) What inspired the artist to create it?
- What art movement and epoch does it belong to? (e.g. impressionism, modernism, classicism, purism, cubism etc.)
- Is the painting figurative or abstract? Describe what you see or how the picture makes you feel.
- Describe material the artist used to create the picture (oil, coal, pencil, watercolor etc).
- Describe form, lines, shapes, colors, values, and textures.
- Speak of proportions, balance, emphasis, rhythm, and pattern. Describe how the artist used these elements to attain a certain artistic effect.
- Describe what is happening in the picture.
- State what you think of the painting. Do you like or dislike it?
We recommend that you write down responses on a separate sheet of paper and then organize them in a full-scale essay according to the pattern mentioned above. In wording your responses, you might need to use some art-specific words (see Table 1):
Table 1. Words used to describe works of art
|abstract||abstract art expresses the artist’s ideas or feelings rather than showing the exact appearance of people or things|
|accessible||accessible art, music, literature etc is easy to understand and enjoy|
|aesthetic||relating to beauty or to the study of the principles of beauty, especially in art|
|artistic||relating to any form of art, including painting, music, literature, acting, and dancing|
|arty-crafty||made by someone who enjoys creating and decorating things themselves, but who you think lacks a skill|
|avant-garde||avant-garde music, art etc is very modern and may shock people because it is so different from what has gone before|
|baroque||relating to the very detailed style of art, building, or music that was popular in Europe in the 17th and early 18th centuries|
|cubist||relating to an early 20th-century style of painting in which the artist paints several different views of a person or object in a single painting, usually using straight lines|
|evocative||an evocative work of art expresses something very clearly and makes you have a strong reaction to it|
|figurative||figurative art represents people, objects, and scenes, rather than representing feelings or ideas as abstract art does|
|folk||folk art, traditions, stories etc were developed by people in a particular region and have become traditional there|
|formal||relating to the form or structure of something such as a piece of writing, art, or music|
|freehand||drawn without using a ruler or other equipment|
|Gothic||Gothic styles of building and art were common in Europe between the 12th and 15th centuries|
|grandiose||designed to look very impressive, but really looking artificial or silly|
|mature||the mature work of an artist, writer etc is produced when they are no longer young and have developed their skill to a high level|
|minimalist||relating to minimalism|
|monochrome||using different shades of a single colour|
|naturalistic||a naturalistic painting, novel etc shows people and things as they are in real life|
|pictorial||consisting of pictures|
|pre-Raphaelite||typical of a style of art popular in late 19th century England that used a lot of detail and bright colours and showed a very romanticized view of life|
|pure||a pure form of art does not have any practical purpose, such as selling something|
|representational||representational paintings and other works of art show things as they really are|
|Romantic||relating to the style of literature, art, and music known as romanticism|
|satirical||satirical writing or art uses humour to criticize people or things and make them seem silly|
|surrealistic||connected with surrealism|
|stylized||in a style that is artificial rather than realistic (=like life)|
|stereoscopic||a stereoscopic picture is designed so that when you look at it through a special piece of equipment, it looks solid and real|
|seminal||a seminal piece of writing or music is new and different and influences other literature or music that comes after it|
|untitled||an untitled poem, book, painting etc has not been given a title|