Describing Art In Spanish | Spanish Art Vocabulary

As a Spanish learner or teacher, you want to have a big vocabulary and know the grammar well. But does learning really have to be boring and dry? Or could it actually unleash your creativity and engage your thinking in Spanish? I vote for the last.

Describing art can be that practice you need to level up your Spanish skills. But the hard part is figuring out how to practice Spanish through art effectively. You’ve jotted down some ideas and found some artists and artwork. Your next step is turning on the computer to find a Spanish art vocabulary. This prep work takes a lot of effort and time to come up with all on your own.

I’ve got you covered.

Download the Art Study in Spanish Bundle.

Let’s take a look at the five different ways we can hone our Spanish skills – and what we can talk about for each step!

Describing Art for Spanish Skills Practice

You’re looking at a picture of a famous painting. You see colors, shapes, a place, and 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.

Basic Supplies You’ll Need

Beforehand, you’ll need to have some basic supplies and artwork. They are helpful in visually processing 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, but rather learning language visually.

Basic Art Supplies

All you need is paper and a pencil or pen. The best learning, especially for visual and kinesthetic learners, happens by 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


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:

Fernando Botero: Biography and Artwork

Diego Rivera: Biography and Artwork

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 art words 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

The 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 to 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 total 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, and form. Tell me 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

Types of art in Spanish:

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 ves? — What do you see?
Yo veo... — I see…
Hay… — There is…
¿Qué 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 number of details. As you draw, 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 the 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?
– 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 your 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 Opinions 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… 

Art Study Tips for Proficiency Levels

Art Study for Beginning Spanish

Basic words and phrases. Identify a couple of things in the artwork. This could be a person, place, object, or color. Another possibility is to identify an action. The new words are connected to a visual definition.

Art Study for Intermediate Spanish

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.

Art Study for Advanced Spanish

Wide vocabulary and complex sentences and structured writing. 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 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.

Describing Art in Spanish for Beginners

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 to 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

Describing Art in Spanish for Advanced Spanish

Continuing at an intermediate and advanced level, art descriptions allow for practicing language skills and increasing vocabulary. An example of an advanced Spanish learner’s 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 wooden 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 principles of art in the last step are where advanced learners can shine. They can write complex sentences, paragraphs, or a complete art analysis.

Lesson Planning for Art Study in Spanish

Your students will enjoy going through the quick and simple steps. The activity is very flexible and meets your students at their level. Even if they are at zero. Here are a few strategies to use as you add art study into your skills practice.

Download the lesson planning and art worksheets.

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 artwork, so I can put them on the wall and keep them in a notebook or album afterward. 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 a 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 to 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 the number 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 artwork
  • Only have art study during part of the year (for example: during winter)

Wrapping up Describing Art in Spanish

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.

Related Content:

Free Spanish Art Vocabulary Worksheet

Talking about Diego Rivera and His Artwork

Talking about Fernando Botero and His Artwork

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    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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