Analysis of thick description

*See the “An AIDS Panel for a Mother” page for the original writing

“Lisa Brown: A mother, A daughter, Another lost one”- I decided to start the post with the name of the person the panel is honoring as a way of giving the object a name. The I wrote who she was being recognized as “a mother” who she must have been ” a daughter” and concluded with why she had a panel. I used “lost one” rather than “victim” because I did not want anyone to interpret that as a weakness. She did lose her battle against AIDS but she was by no means weak.

 “Block: 4994, Panel: 1”- I included this to act as a more objective name and to help people locate this panel if they wanted to.

“canvas”- I kept using this word to describe rough cloth. I like to paint in my free time so the only rough cloth I encounter on a regular basis is canvas. This is part of why writing is so subjective because we relate things we see to things we have experienced in our environment. It is an act of association.

“the depictions framed portrait (vertically)”- I was always taught in art class ‘portrait’ and ‘landscape’ orientation, however, I renamed it as vertical just in case the description was not clear

“most likely cheap”– In my experience rough, beige material is typically inexpensive.

 “The center of the top half contains a circle divided in four quarters of color”- This circle catches the eye because of its size and colors. Because of the attention was drawn to it, I assumed it was an important symbol so I started with it and described the spatial usage of the top half in relation to the circle.

“The top color is baby blue, the east color is a forest green, the west is white, and the bottom color is bright cherry red”- I noticed here that every color is described with a type, except white. Why not specify which white?

“different from the base material. It is fuzzier”- I noticed a lot of comparison within the panel. The panel brought all the elements together but what set them apart?

“The thread is black, thin, and continuous (the stitches were small and close together)”- I used to sew, so  based off what I see and what I have experienced, I make the assumption that this means “the stitches are small and close together.”

“The spaces above, below, left, and right of the circle depict naturalistic predatory birds”- The order of directions must be due to the fact the form of writing I was always taught to use was top to bottom, left to right.

“glued to the background material”- I made this assumption because I could see no indication of the material being sewn.

“mid-flight pose (wings outstretched)”- I do not know exactly where I got the knowledge that allows me to assume the activities of these birds, but I did include a description of the stance to provide a more objective visual.

“white, black, sandy brown, and light brown”- Why do white and black always lack adjectives?

“The southern bird”- I find it very interesting that half of the time I used cardinal directions to describe the spatial juxtaposition of the image. What does that say about the images?

“The eyes are slightly darker and larger than the side birds”- Again I use a comparison to describe aspects of the panel.

“appears”- This verb works to say what I think it is and to say that it could be something different. It points out that this description is my perception.

“Its eye is actually colored and has a pupil, unlike the others”- Comparison

“illustrated cloths”- The word “illustrated” implies that there is a story behind the depiction.

“less pliable than the background canvas”- Comparison

“like a clothing patch”- I try to use things I have experienced in my environment to clarify the description, I must assume that my audience has had a similar environment.

“a printed depiction”- I assumed that the depiction was “printed” because it was appeared to be made of ink and not hand drawn.

“The patch in the top left corner depicts a deer landing from a jump across a river. The body is at an angle- hind legs still in the air while the front legs are planted on the ground”- I make an assumption, but then I back it up with a visual description.

“The picture is framed by two clusters of trees”- I seem to use the word “framed” a lot in my description. What does that say about my perception of the picture?

“The trees appear to be birch”- I relate the trees to the only trees I know that have the light bark with horizontal lines.

“clumps of grass”- I seem to use the word “clumps” to describe the organic clusters of the items.

“evergreens”- These trees reminded me of Christmas trees.

“a sprinkling of small white flowers with yellow centers”- I love the use of the word “sprinkling,” it perfectly describes the dispersed nature of the tiny flowers.

“a mother bear”-  I used the presence of the cubs to assume it is a mother bear.

“perched at the top of a tree”- The use of “perched” implies the deliberate and balanced stance of the cub.

“buffalo who appear to be grazing with their heads lowered towards the grass”- I assume the action and then support the assumption with a description of the scene.

“the main buffalo”- I establish it as the “main buffalo” because it is larger and centered.

“The rightmost bird is an exact copy of the bird south of the center circle”- This is proof to me that the images are printed.

“It has a full profile view with the front leg closest to the viewer raised”- This sentence references the viewer in the description. Aren’t I a viewer? Why not say “me” instead of “viewer.”

“the foreground”- This word seems more technical to me, like something an art critic would say.

“decorated with handwritten letters and hand-drawn symbols”- I assume they are handwritten because of their organic nature and desperate message.

 “The words “In,” “my,” “Brown,” and “Died 5/17/96” are written in blue ink. The words “memory,” “mom,” and “Lisa” are written in black. The words “of” and “Born 10/25/65″ are written in red”- Why are the words written in different colors? What do these colors imply?

“I LOVE you mom”- This part is was what first drew me into to this panel. It is like a loud desperate call that seems to say more about the author than the audience. I noticed that “love” was in all caps like it was being yelled. To me, the two main points of the panel are this and the pinwheel of colors.

“an array of symbols”- This was the only way I could think to describe this section because I was unfamiliar with the symbols and they were all different from each other in one way or another.

“small blue exclamation points”- I labeled most of these forms as exclamation points because I did not know what they were so I just related them to the closest thing I recognized.

“with pairs of what looks like human shoe prints or exclamation points”- Again, I did not know what the symbol was supposed to be so I related it to something I have seen before. These symbols tell me that I am not the intended audience. I assume based off the message earlier and these unfamiliar symbols that this panel’s audience is the mother who the creator lost. 

“the right pair of prints is blue while the others are black”- What is the significance of these colors?

“blockier exclamation points”- I compare the symbols to each other to describe the forms. 

“Above and to the right of this face”- I spatially compare these forms because they appear to be in random spots, not in any pattern or symmetry.

“like eyelashes”- I wanted to note the connection my brain instantly drew between the symbol and something I had identified before. This goes to show that even in “objective” writing there is the presence of subjective perception coloring the description.


Also see:

Ethos of Lisa Brown’s panel

Analysis of “Essays in Material Culture”

1 thought on “Analysis of thick description

  1. this “analysis’ is so interesting! I think the next time I engage in this kind of work with students I’ll include this as a formal assignment. What connections are you drawing in this work?

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