Talking About Art In Spanish | Spanish Art Words

Can you describe things in Spanish? A visual source, such as a painting, is an ideal source full of details to describe. Talking about art is a great way to practice your language skills. Below, are several lists of Spanish words to describe artwork, and talk about art, the elements of art and the principles of art in Spanish.

How to Talk About Art in Spanish

You’re looking at a picture of a famous painting. You see colors, shapes, a place, some objects and they all have interesting details to describe. Every artwork has a history and a story. You are in a perfect position to practice using any of the language skills.

The only problem is you’re not sure how to start or what to do next. Turning on your computer and getting words to describe art is your next step. You think it can’t be that hard, but it’s much easier to talk about art with a step-by-step guide.

Your Step-by-Step Art Study in Spanish Guide

That’s where I come in. I’ve done this before and I’m here to help you. The last thing you want is to get overwhelmed and stop even before you talk about art in Spanish. I have each step laid out in the Discussion Guide, Vocabulary and Elements and Principles of Art guidebooks.

Or you can pull it together on your own, following the the steps below. Either way, I’ll help you with a basic art study time to start describing art in Spanish. So, grab an artwork and some basic materials and let’s get started!

Basic Supplies You’ll Need

Beforehand, you’ll need to have some basic supplies and an artwork. They are helpful to visually process the language into memory. This method is very effective for visual and kinesthetic learners. Keep in mind, this is not about technique or making a copy of the artwork, rather learning language visually.

Basic Art Supplies

All you need is paper and pencil or pen. The best learning, especially for visual and kinesthetic learners, happens with drawing details from memory in the third step. Here are some options for art supplies you can use.

You will need these supplies for drawing:

Drawing medium of your choice

Artwork

The main source for what you describe is one artwork. You’ll need to have an image available either online or in print. Some basic information about the artist and artwork is helpful. These famous Latin American Artists are good choices:

Or, you can find an artist and artwork on your own from art books or online galleries.

Spanish Art Vocabulary

What do you call art in Spanish?

These are words for art in Spanish:

— el arte — art
— el artista — artist (male)
— la artista — artist (female)
— la obra — artwork
— el cuadro — picture
— la obra maestra — masterpiece

Below, more words to describe art in Spanish are listed in each step.

Let’s Get Started Talking About Art in Spanish

Artwork tells a story about people, places, events and objects. Each step will help you tell that story in Spanish. By observing the details, use the examples below to ask and answer questions about the details, elements and principles of art. Examples of vocabulary will help you get know exactly what to talk about.

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

Each step takes about five minutes, in all the description lasts about 30 minutes.

lego with easel on table

Step 1 – Show and Tell

Length | 5 minutes

First, begin with a short introduction to the artist and the artwork. Share information about the artist and their life and what they are best known for. Then, introduce the facts about the artwork, such as title, materials, form. Tell about what makes this one unique.

Spanish Phrases to Describe Artwork

El título es … — The title is ….
La fecha de creación fue … (año). — The date of creation was…. (year).
Fue hecho por … (artista) de … (lugar). — It was made by …. (artist’s) from… (place).

Spanish Words for Visual Art Forms

Es un/una (forma artística visual)… — It is a (type of art)…

— escultura — sculpture
— dibujo — drawing
— pintura — painting
— esbozo — sketch
— mural — mural
— fotografía — photograph
— ilustración — illustration
— cerámica — ceramic
— talla — carving
— tejido — weaving
— arquitectura — architecture
— artesanía — handicraft

Spanish Words for Art Materials

Está hecho de o sobre (materiales)… –It’s made of or on (materials)…

—óleo (sobre madera o tela) — oil (on wood or canvas)
— acrílico — acrylic 
— acuarela — watercolor
— carboncillo — charcoal
— pasteles — pastels
— tinta — ink
— arcilla — clay
— madera — wood
— plástico — plastic
— mármol — marble
— piedra — stone
— granito — granite
— metal — metal
— caliza — limestone
— medio mixto — mixed media

Step 2 – Observe Artwork Details

Length | 5 minutes

Next, observe and describe the visual details. Point out the person, places, events and objects. Tell about the action or describe what you see. Talking about the elements of art pulls out a lot of details, such as the adjectives that describe them.

Questions to Describe Art

¿Qué es lo que tú ves? — What to you see?
Yo veo... — I see…
Hay… — There is…
¿Qué es lo que veo? — What do I see?
Yo veo… — I see…
Hay… — There is…
¿Qué está dónde? — What is where?
(Objeto o persona) está… — (Object or person) is…

Spanish Words to Describe Placement

— en primer plano — in the foreground
— fondo — background
— centro– center
— arriba — top
— abajo — bottom
— a la izquierda — on the left
— a la derecha — on the right
— entre — between
— arriba — above
— abajo — below
— dentro — inside
— fuera — outside

Questions to Describe Action

¿Qué pasa? — What’s happening?
¿Qué hace? — What is he/she doing?

Elements of Art in Spanish

The artist tells the story with the elements of art. They each have unique traits. In Spanish the elements of art are:

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

Questions to Describe the Elements of Art in Spanish

¿Cuál elemento ves? — What element do you see?
Veo… — I see…
¿Cuáles colores ves? — What colors do you see?
Los colores son… — The colors are…
¿ Cuáles formas son visibles? — Which shapes are visible?
Los formas visibles son… — The shapes are…
¿Cómo ves volumen? — How do you see volume?
¿Cuáles contrastes ves? — What contrast do you see?
¿Cómo ves espacio? — How can you see space?
¿Cómo se siente? — What does it feel like (touch)?
Se siente… — It feels…

drawing and talking about art

Step 3 – Draw Art Details from Memory

Length | 5 minutes

After describing the artwork, put it away and draw the details from memory. Use the supplies you prepared. Include all the details you can and name them in Spanish. When time is up, count the amount of details. As you drawing, talk about the art details in Spanish. Beat your personal record or compete with others.

puzzle pieces

Step 4 – Talk About the Message

Length | 5 minutes

Next, while looking at the artwork again, describe the message using the principles of art. See how the elements work together to reveal what is most important.

Principles of Art in Spanish 

The artist organizes their artwork with the principles of art. Your eye moves from focal point to the element following the cues. The elements are pulled together by the principles of art:

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

As a result, the message of the artist becomes clear and you can respond.

Questions to Describe the Principles of Art in Spanish

Explain how the artwork comes together as a whole.

¿Qué efecto tienen los principios? — How do the elements work together?
¿Con qué propósito? — For what purpose?
¿Cómo se mueve el ojo por el espacio? — How does the eye move around the space?

Questions to Talk about the Message of Art in Spanish

Tell about the artist’s message.

¿Qué estoy presenciando? — What am I witnessing?
¿Cómo me siento al respecto? — How do I feel about that?  
¿Qué es lo más importante? — What is the most important? —
¿Cuál es el punto focal? — What is the focal point? —
¿Por qué el artista creó esta pieza? –Why did the artist create this piece?
–...es un símbolo de… — …is a symbol of…

write and talk about art

Step 5 – Write Your Observations

Length | 5 minutes

Last, write about your observations and opinion about the artwork. At your level, write either a word, phrase, sentence or complete art analysis. Keep the artwork, your drawing and writing together in a notebook.

Writing about Art in Spanish

Esta obra es… Este arte es… — This artwork is…
Me hace pensar de… — It makes me think of…
Me siento…— I feel… 

Questions to Share Opinion in Spanish

After describing the details, telling the story and the message, share your opinion.

¿Me gusta esta obra, porque sí o no? — Do I like this artwork, why or why not?
¿Qué hizo el artista mejor? — What did the artist do best?  
¿Qué cambiarías? — What would you change?
Me gusta/no me gusta la obra porque… — I like/don’t like the artwork because… 
Pienso que… — I think…
La obra me hace sentir… — The artwork makes me feel…
Me siento… — I feel… 

Discussion Tips for All Language Learning Levels

Beginning Spanish Learner

Basic words and phrases. 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.

Intermediate Spanish Learner

Some words, phrases and sentences. This is ideal to increase your skills and active vocabulary. Where once you would find single words, now make phrases and sentences with descriptive words. Create complete statements with subject and verb.

Advanced Spanish Learner

Wide vocabulary and complex sentences and structured writings. Describe the artwork, story, message and your opinion in detail. Include a variety of vocabulary and sentence structures. Possibly write an art critique including details about the artist and the artwork from research and present it to others.

Examples of Describing Art in Spanish

Every language learner can practice their Spanish speaking skills by describing art. Beginning learners find new words and practice saying them. Intermediate learners use words they know and add in new words to increase their active vocabulary. Advanced learners expand their active vocabulary and express themselves in more complex sentences.

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

Starting to describe art seems hard. But really, it’s pretty easy to find new words. The best part is these new words are connected a visual definition of the meaning. From this artwork, some examples of new vocabulary are:

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

Talking About Art with an Advanced Spanish Learner

Continuing at an intermediate and advanced levels, art descriptions allow for practicing the language skills and increasing vocabulary. An example of advanced Spanish learner description of 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…

Art Study Lesson Plans for Teachers

1. Lesson Topics

First, select the artist, movement or civilization and the specific artwork you will cover over the term. One lesson covers one artwork. Over the term, several artworks can be completed, then combined together at the end.

2. Select several artworks.

Once you have selected your topic, 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, so I can put them on the wall afterwards and keep them in a notebook or album afterwards. Make sure you have a quality image and adjust the image to the correct size.

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

3. Lesson Sequence

Follow the five steps above, adjusting specifically for your student’s skill level. You may want to introduce the new vocabulary for your students.

4. Student Practice and Assessment

There are several opportunities to assess your student’s understanding. They can show what they have learned on the worksheets for each step.

5. Realistic Timeline

A typical art study rotation consists of six artworks belonging to one artist over six weeks. This allows for one art study discussion 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 art study during part of the year (example: during winter)

Wrapping up Talking About Art

To conclude, once all the artwork for the artist is complete, wrap it up with an artwork roundup. Gather together all the artwork, all the drawings and any writings. Point out any new observations. Finish up with one of these fun activities:

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

 In the end, you will see how the artist’s work evolved over the years. It’s fascinating.

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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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