Talking About Art In Spanish | Spanish Art Words

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For language learners, having a conversation in Spanish can seem impossible. Our Talking About Art activity will give you a glimpse at how the Art Study in Spanish® program can help you join in conversations with confidence and clarity. This activity is a game changer, and right now it's absolutely free!.

Can your students easily describe things in Spanish? A visual source, like famous art, provides many ways to build comprehension and expression skills. Below, the list of basic art words and discussion guide shows how to talk about artists and art in Spanish.

Talking About Art in Spanish

To begin with, artwork has a lot of talking points. Each artwork has a unique set of story, art elements and principles. They all have a wide range of Spanish art words and ordinary vocabulary. And this art activity provides practice of all the four language skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing.

It’s tough to know what to talk about and have the Spanish words to use. And the idea of describing art is new to students. That’s why I created this discussion guide. The five steps in the guide can be completed quickly in just 30 minutes:

  • Step 1: Introduce the artist
  • Step 2: Observe the artwork
  • Step 3: Draw details from memory
  • Step 4: Talk about the message
  • Step 5: Write your observations

Below, the discussion guide offers questions to ask about art in Spanish. But before that, we’ll introduce some basic Spanish art vocabulary. Then, there are examples for beginning and advanced skill levels. This activity is open and go for all skill levels.

The Elements and Principles of Art Visual Charts in the Art Study in Spanish® Bundle are available for a limited time at the lowest price ever.

Basic Art Words in Spanish

For a good start, here is a list of basic art vocabulary. First the English word is shown followed by the equivalent word in Spanish. Each Spanish words has the gender (el/la).

  • art (el arte)
  • artist (el/la artista)
  • artwork (la obra)
  • painting (la pintura)
  • sculpture (la escultura)
  • architecture (la arquitectura)
  • illustration (la ilustración)

Elements of Art in Spanish

Every artwork is made of elements. The following are the basic Spanish words to describe the elements of art:

  • elements of art (los elementos de arte)
  • line (la línea)
  • space (el espacio)
  • color (el color)
  • value (el valor)
  • shape (la forma)
  • texture (la textura)

The Principles of Art in Spanish

The elements come together with the principles of art. They connect the pieces into a whole and tell the message of the artist. These are the basic words to describe principles of art in Spanish:

  • unity (la unidad)
  • contrast (el contraste)
  • variety (la variedad)
  • balance (el balance)
  • emphasis (el énfasis)
  • proportion (la proporción)
  • movement (el movimiento)
  • rhythm (el ritmo)

There are limitless words to describe the content of the art. The story of the artwork can be about people, places, objects. They even have action and descriptive adjectives. All of these are excellent talking points.

Examples of Art Study Time

Every level learner can talk about art in Spanish. The activity is naturally adjustable to the student’s abilities. The artwork provides a visual cue to connect to a word, phrase or sentence. It’s that simple. For example, I’ll show you a clip from an art study time with a beginner and a more advanced Spanish language learner.

Introducing the Spanish Art

Most importantly, the art is introduced in Spanish. The questions in the discussion guide below has many options for questions and answers to use. Basic facts about the artist and the artwork is introduced in Spanish.

Esta obra se llama Modesta, una pintura por Diego Rivera en el año 1937.

This artwork is titled Modesta, a painting by Diego Rivera in the year 1937.

Talking About Art with a Beginner

During the step, observation, the student with zero Spanish experience will have the opportunity to discover new words. Also, they can pick up on the importance of noun gender from the beginning. From this artwork, some examples of vocabulary are:

  1. niña
  2. una niña
  3. adentro
  4. en la casa
  5. piso de madera
  6. cabello corto

These new words can be added to your passive vocabulary. The best part is the connection of the word to a visual of the meaning. Afterwards, the same words can be used again until they become a part of their active vocabulary.

Talking About Art with an Advanced Spanish Learner

At the same time, an advanced student has the opportunity to use their skills. They can work on strengthening their active vocabulary and expression skills.  Here’s how an advanced Spanish learner describes Modesta:

Diego Rivera pintó Modesta en el año 1937. Hay una niña muy seria sentada en una silla de madera con flores. Sus pies no llegan al suelo. Su pelo es corto. Ella está dentro de una casa. Tiene el suelo de madera y las paredes grises. Ella mira detrás de mí…

(Diego Rivera painted Modesta in the year 1937. There is a very serious girl seated on a wood chair with flowers. Her feet do not reach the floor. Her hair is short. She is inside a house. It has a wood floor and gray walls. She looks behind me…)

The art is a visual source of a story. One that has characters, setting, actions, descriptions and art elements and principles. The next step is to draw the details from memory. Each of the five steps engages the learner’s thinking and memory for maximum language skill growth.

How to Describe Art in Spanish – For Students

This activity is going to be challenging and fun. Textbook exercises are boring and dry. But this is different, this activity gives you something real to talk about, a picture with lots of details you get to choose from. Curiosity, or asking questions is the starting point.

You think this is too hard. It’s frustrating to not know many Spanish words or what they mean. I’ve got good news for you: this requires zero experience. This activity is about discovery and curiosity. All you have to do is look for one new word. Ask a simple question and find the answer.

Your best source is a dictionary. You have thousands of words in your vocabulary. Take just one word and translate it into Spanish. Then, make that Spanish word yours. Use it again and again, until it is stuck in your head.

The learning process is one step at a time, one word at a time. Then those words are connected into phrases and sentences. Right away you’ll be listening, speaking, reading and writing in Spanish.

Zero Words – Beginning Spanish Learner

Start with single words. Identify a couple things in the artwork. This could be a person, place, object or colors. Another possibility is to identify an action. The new words are connected to a visual definition.

Some Words and Sentences – Intermediate Spanish Learner

As you continue to grow your vocabulary, connect words together. Turn single words into phrases with descriptive words. Or, tell what someone or something is doing. Start to create a complete thought with a subject and a verb. Still, expand your vocabulary with more basic words.

Many Words, Sentences and Paragraphs – Advanced Spanish Learner

Since you have a basic vocabulary, use and expand it with more options. Find new words and options for words you already know (synonyms and antonyms). Also, you can tell the story or the artwork’s message in detail. Be sure to include plenty of details and a variety of sentence structures. You can complete a full art analysis in writing or as an oral presentation.

Overview of Art Study Time

As you can see, artwork provides an excellent visual source for conversation. It is a powerful way to learn how to listen, speak, read and write Spanish brilliantly. Art has many elements to describe and talk about. Which means the vocabulary choice is huge.

Mural by Boa Mistura. Picture by Somos Iberoamerica, 2019

Above, look at all those details! In this mural, you can see leaf shapes, bright colors, black lines and contrasting words. This art can be described in many different ways. Which details draw your attention? That’s what you talk about. Here, the principles of art of repetition and overlapping tell us the meaning. Each leaf represents plants from different regions of Latin America. The message is abundance, fruitfulness and unity.

Elements and Principles of Art

Each artwork is composed of many individual elements that combine into a unified piece. These individual elements are line, shape, form, value, space, color and texture. The principles that tie them together are unity, contrast, variety, balance, emphasis, proportion, movement and rhythm.

Further, the elements and principles of art have tons of descriptive Spanish words. They can be pulled out of the artwork’s details. More so, the principles point to the message of the artist. At the end of the analysis, your opinion of the artwork can be included.

Preparation for Art Study Time – Artwork and Materials

Before the activity time, there are a few things to prepare in advance. You need to gather the artwork, supplies and learning tools. Each art study time is focused on ONE ARTWORK by one artist. And all together several pieces of the artist will be covered in a rotation.

Having an art study time is so much easier with these planning and lesson plan sheets available in the Art Study in Spanish® Bundle (full set of instructions too).

Gather the Artwork

The most important part of art study is the artist and the artwork. You will need some basic information about the artist and several artworks. The artwork can be printed or displayed electronically.

1. Choose an artist, art movement, genre, time-period or civilization.

I have put together a couple art galleries and biographies for famous Latin American Artists HERE:

Fernando BoteroDiego Rivera

These posts include an artwork gallery of famous Latin American artists along with biographical information, interesting facts, and quotes in Spanish and English.

OR Find the information and artwork on your own:

  • An art book about the artist or time-period with large pictures of their art
  • Search online art galleries. Here are some good ones:

Wikiart Visual Arts Encyclopedia

Google Art & Culture

Fine Arts Images

2. Select several artworks.

Once you have selected an artist, gather images of a few of their artworks. These can be displayed electronically on your computer, television, tablet or phone. Another option is to print them for personal use.

Print Options

I love printing the artwork, because then I can put them on the wall and keep them in a notebook or album afterwards. They are beautiful and simple treasures.

  • Print at home on your printer with regular paper (or photo gloss)
  • Send edited images to print service – 4X6 print size is good for crisp image.

Just make sure you have a quality image and adjust the image to the correct size.

Either way, keep the artwork out of view until art study time. That way, fresh eyes will make fresh observations. Afterwards, put them on the wall or keep in a folder or notebook.

One way to organize the art study unit, is to create an art study flipbook. All the artwork prints can be kept together in the photo album along with your notes and drawings.

3. Schedule the activity.

The most important thing is to enjoy the artwork and to maximize the use of Spanish to observe, describe and express your thoughts. According to your best practice, choose a rotation that is comfortable and productive.

Art Study Activity Schedule Options

A typical art study rotation consists of six artworks belonging to one artist in six weeks. This means there is one art study time of thirty minutes per week. In one school year, it is possible to study 6 different artists.

Some alternatives:
  • Change quantity of artists or artworks
  • Try more or less art study times per week, month or year
  • Adjust the amount of time spent on one artist with more or less artworks
  • Only have activity during part of the year (example: during winter)

Basically, if you want more add more artwork or additional artists. For a longer study of an artist prepare more artworks to discuss. Bottomline, there is one art study time for each artwork.

Gather Supplies and Learning Tools

Since art study is a very engaging activity, it does require a few basic supplies and learning tools. Each step provides another way to grow each language skill. These are the materials you will want to have available during art study time.

Supplies

Beforehand, keep some basic supplies ready. All you really need is paper and a pencil. However, you can add extra supplies like paint and brushes, watercolors or colored pencils. This brings color and details to life. And who doesn’t like to be creative? Keep in mind, the purpose is to remember the new Spanish words from memory, to connect them to a visual meaning and to add kinesthetic sensory to the learning process.

You will need these supplies for drawing:

  • half sheets of blank paper
  • OR a small sketchbook
  • a pencil or pen
  • crayons, colored pencils, markers, watercolor, tempera, chalk (all optional)
  • lined paper (for writing activities)

Having everything ready in advance will help keep the focus on growing your language skills. Remember to enjoy the art and the discussion.

Five Steps of Art Study Time

More than just talk, art study is a time full of engaging activities to maximize thinking and memory of language. The visual picture is put into words. And then from memory the details are recalled.

Then again, more questions and discussion build listening and speaking skills. Finally, this conversation can be turned into something written.

Art Study in Spanish | Discussion Guide

So, you’ve got your artwork, supplies, learning tools gathered. You have the time for this thirty minute activity. And you have information about the artist and maybe a art vocabulary list ready. Great job preparing!

Now, let’s go step by step through each part of the art study time. My aim is to make this simple, so you can focus on growing your vocabulary, and listening and speaking skills. For discussion, I give some basic questions and potential answers, as a starting point. Feel free to add more and expand on the content.

Five Steps for Spanish Art Study

The art study activity progresses through five steps. The art study time is focused on ONE ARTWORK for the entire 30 minutes. So, the information for one artist and one artwork is observed and discussed.

  • Step 1 – Introduce
  • Step 2 – Observe
  • Step 3 – Draw
  • Step 4 – Talk
  • Step 5 – Write

Within this time, the time is spent looking at the artwork, describing details, drawing from memory, discussing the meaning and writing it down. No matter what your language skill level is, it is easily scaled to your ability.

For each step, I list several questions and some vocabulary. These are basics to give you an idea of what to talk about. Ask different questions that you prefer. And tailor them to your level as necessary.

Step 1 – Show and Tell

Length | 5 minutes

On the very first session, introduce basic background information about the artist and the artwork. Include facts about their life, the historical events, art movements and their individual style. For each artwork, give a brief introduction with details about the materials and what makes it unique.

lego with easel on table


The title is
 …. and the date created was…. (a specific year or time- period).

  • El título es … y la fecha de creación fue … (año)

It was made by …. (artist’s name) in… (place)

  • Fue hecho por … (nombre del artista) de … (lugar)

It is a (type of art)…

  • Es un/una (forma artística visual)…

—sculpture, drawing, painting, sketch, mural, photograph, illustration, ceramic, carving, weaving, architecture, craft

—escultura, dibujo, pintura, esbozo, mural, fotografía, ilustración, cerámica, talla, tejido, arquitectura, artesanía

It’s made of or on (materials)

  • Está hecho de o sobre (materiales)…

—oil (on wood or canvas), acrylic, watercolor, charcoal, pastels, ink, clay, wood, plastic, marble, stone, granite, iron, steel, copper, bronze, gold, limestone, mixed media

—óleo (sobre madera o tela), acrílico,  acuarela, carboncillo, pasteles, tinta, arcilla, madera, plástico, mármol, piedra, granito, hierro, acero, cobre, bronce, oro, caliza, medio mixto

Step 2 – Observe Artwork Details

Length | 5 minutes

Second, describe all the visual details. Tell about what is shown in the artwork. In landscapes, portraits, still life pictures there are objects and people. Often many events and action are happening in a setting. Another way of describing artwork is by telling about the types of art elements. The unique qualities of line, shape, form, value, space color and texture are full of Spanish descriptive adjectives.

Questions to Describe Art

What to you see? I see… There is…

  • ¿Qué es lo que tú ves? Yo veo… Hay…

What do I see? I see… There is…

¿Qué es lo que veo? Yo veo…  Hay…

What is where? (Object or person) is…

  • ¿Qué está dónde? (Objeto o persona) está…

— in the foreground, background, middle, center, top, bottom… on the left, right…between, above, below, inside, outside…

— en primer plano, fondo, centro, centro, arriba, abajo … a la izquierda, a la derecha … entre, arriba, abajo, dentro, fuera …

Questions to Describe Action

Who is doing what?  (answer in present continuous)

  • ¿Quién está haciendo qué? (contesta en presente continuo.

-The (person) is doing [present continuous verb]…

-El/La (persona) está haciendo [verbo en presente continuo]

What is being said about the subject?

  • ¿Qué se está diciendo sobre el tema?

Questions to Describe the Elements

What element do you see? … I see…

  • ¿Cuál elemento ves…? Veo…

— line, shape, form, value, space, color, texture

—la linea, el forma, el volumen, el valor, el espacio, el color, la textura

What colors do you see? The colors are…

  • ¿Cuáles colores ves? Los colores son…

Which shapes are visible?  The shapes are…

  • ¿ Cuáles formas son visibles? Los formas visibles son…

How do you see volume? I see volume

  • ¿Cómo ves volumen? Veo volumen…

What contrast do you see? The contrast is…

  • ¿Cuáles contrastes ves? Veo contraste…

How can you see space? I see space…

  • ¿Cómo ves espacio? Veo espacio…

What does it feel like (touch)? It feels…

  • ¿Cómo se siente? Se siente…

There are many benefits. The new vocabulary is connected to a image from the artwork. Listening and speaking skills are sharpened by describing the story and art elements. New language thinking pathways are developed by engaging with the artwork in Spanish.

box of crayons and child with striped shirt coloring

Step 3 – Draw Your Observations

Length | 5 minutes

Third, it’s time to draw the details from memory. To start this step, put away the artwork, so you can’t see the picture while drawing. Your materials can be basic paper and pencil or colorful with pens, paints, chalk, watercolors or colored pencils. Make sure to include the most details possible.

For little ones, use a small paper, so it’s easy to fill. And use a five minute timer. Pencils down when the time is up. Count the amount of details they remembered. For their personal best, the highest number wins.

The purpose is to recall the Spanish vocabulary with the visual details. Thinking about and drawing the words combine together to create a strong language memory.

puzzle pieces

Step 4 – Talk About the Message

Length | 5 minutes

Fourth, this time with the artwork in view again, a second discussion about the whole artwork reveals the message. The principles of art – rhythm, balance, emphasis, proportion, gradation, variety, harmony and movement unite the individual elements. See the section about art principles for details.

Words for Principles of Art in Spanish 

The artist masterfully uses the elements together to develop the story and message. The principles are how the elements are organized in the composition. The principles give the feeling of movement. Also, they tell the student what is most important in the artwork.

  • unity (la unidad) 
  • contrast (el contraste)
  • variety (la variedad)
  • balance (el balance)
  • emphasis (el énfasis)
  • proportion (la proporción)
  • movement (el movimiento)
  • rhythm (el ritmo)

As a result, the principles tie together the elements and point to the message of the artist. The parts are combined into the whole. They direct the eye around unfolding the message.

Analysis

Explain how each element is used together to form a whole.

How do the elements work together? For what purpose? Are the elements effective? How does the viewer’s eye move around the space?

  • ¿Qué efecto tienen los principios? ¿Con qué propósito? ¿Cómo se mueve el ojo del espectador por el espacio?

Interpret

Tell the story of the artwork and the artist’s message.

What am I witnessing? How do I feel about that?  What is the most important? What is the focal point? Why did the artist create this piece?

  • ¿Qué estoy presenciando? ¿Cómo me siento al respecto?¿Qué es lo más importante?¿Cuál es el punto focal? ¿Por qué el artista creó esta pieza?

_____________ is a symbol of …  ______________es un simbolo de…

It makes me think of… Me hace pensar de…

I feel… Me siento…

Opinion

Reveal your perspective on the artwork and it’s message.

Do I like this artwork, why or why not? What did the artist do best?  What would you change?

  • ¿Me gusta esta obra, porque sí o no? ¿Qué hizo el artista mejor? ¿Qué cambiarías?

I like/don’t like the artwork because… Me gusta/no me gusta la obra porque…

I think… Pienso que…

The artwork makes me feel… I feel… La obra me hace sentir… Me siento…

There are a lot of options of topics to talk about. Focus on the most relevant or interesting question. Remember to keep it engaging and basic. That way you won’t get overwhelmed.

person writing in a notebook with pen

Step 5 – Write

Length | 5 minutes

Last, write what you thought or discussed about the artwork in writing. It could be a word, phrase, sentence or a complete art analysis. Put your writing together with your drawing from step three and the pictures of the artworks in a notebook.

This artwork is… Esta obra es… Este arte es…

All the questions, answers and worksheets for each of the five steps are all in the Art Study in Spanish® Bundle, find out about everything that’s included in the bundle here…

Last Day of the Artist

To conclude, once all the artwork for the artist is complete, wrap it up with an artwork roundup. And gather all the drawings for each student. Point out any new observations. Do one of these fun activities:

  • Compare and contrast. Comparar y contrastar
  • Organize them in time order. Organízalas en orden de tiempo
  • Group them by color, subject, type, material, etc… Agrúpalas según color, tema, tipo, material, etc…

 As a result, you will see how the artist’s work evolved over the years. It’s fascinating.

Final Thoughts About Art Study

To summarize, art offers an abundance of talking points. The discussion guide and vocabulary above walks you through the engaging activity. The steps with different learning styles helps think and remember words in Spanish. 

Each activity time, in just thirty minutes students: 

  • Learn new Spanish vocabulary
  • Discover new ways to express yourself in Spanish
  • Enjoy famous artists and their artwork
  • Observe details of one piece of art
  • Recall details and sketch them yourself
  • Talk about elements and principles of art specific to artwork
  • Write a conclusion and opinion about the art
  • Grow listening, speaking and writing skills

And you’ll have a beautiful lasting treasure of favorite artwork and Spanish language skills.

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2 Comments

    1. Absolutely, valor has the meaning of price or worth. It also has another definition that is used for color. In the visual arts valor is the Spanish word and equivalent for the English word, “value”, which means the amount of light in a color.

      I’m so glad you pointed this out. One word can have different translations and meanings. Gracias!

      Definición de valor

      Definition of Value

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