“It’s not what you look at that matters,
it’s what you see.”

—Henry David Thoreau

Under The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, From the Series:
Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji”

Using Form+Theme+Context® as a Balanced Way of Seeing®, any work of art can be deciphered as we discover layers of meaning.  For example, let’s focus on the artwork The Great Wave and take time to carefully look and fully see what’s there.  Then, consider the visual evidence you discover and and look deeper to discern the artist’s big idea, point of view, and relationships to other subjects.  Finally, building on this viewing process, we can find more information about the artist, time period, place, etc. and discover the authentic nature of the artwork by exploring its contexts, significance, and relevance–in its own time period and today.

Download the FTC Great Wave Palette here

A Balanced Way of Seeing The Great Wave

Video: ©2018 Trustees of Boston University

After exploring The Great Wave using the FTC Palette, we might think metaphorically about people confronting the power of nature in terms of environmental diasters resulting from hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes. By extension, in response to the daily news, we might think about how human nature revealed in political actions has challenged our values, as we observe how leaders behave on national and global stages.  How do positive human collaborations against (often) great odds help us focus our hope in the future?  Reading a work of art like The Great Wave helps us develop skills in visual literacy and visual fitness, especially when we envision situations where leadership and action are needed and our creativity and insight are necessary.



“… the arts allow us to see the humanity of other people, and only then can we imagine a more just world. If we want a more just society, we’ve got to have a more empathetic society.”

—Darren Walker