EXAMPLE FROM PROF. BRAD LOVE
Your assignment is to write a five-paragraph essay detailing how you would explain the interaction of your hometown and a person in a Blanton Museum painting.
The assignment begins with the selection of a painting, likely from the European gallery since those tend to focus on individuals (online here: http://bit.ly/9JXtbv). Once you have chosen a painting, observe it and see what you can deduce about the subject. Look at how the person’s dressed, what’s happening in the background, how the scene is lit, who else is around the person and so on. Use your imagination. Try to understand what the painter wants to express.
From there, do some thinking about where you’re from. What defines that place? What’s most important to describe to an outsider? What do you remember most fondly? Make lots of notes about the painting and your hometown.
Now that you have some ideas to work from, begin assembling an essay. We know that the opening paragraph will have at a minimum an introduction, a thesis statement about what the essay is trying to express, an outline of the reasons to follow, and some transition to the first body paragraph. My suggestion is to make your first effort focus on the thesis statement (central idea): “Lady Hamilton would have the time of her life in El Paso,” or something like that.
From there, you can consider the reasons you believe the thesis statement, and those reasons will make up the body paragraphs. The structure I suggested was having a paragraph focusing on what you learned about the person from the painting, a paragraph about your hometown, and then a third body paragraph concerning how the person and your town would mix. You can do it differently as long as your piece is well organized and supports your thesis argument. After those body sections, you will finish with a conclusion that re-states the thesis point, summarizes the body sections you offered, and lays out a concluding statement.
The whole thing is that simple. Focus on learning about the painting’s subject and thinking about your hometown. That will help you find similarities and differences to discuss in your essay. Work to have an engaging introductoryline, although it is very common for many people to write that sentence last. Sometimes it’s easier to write the first sentence when you know what the rest of the essay is about.
Otherwise, ask questions as you have them, please. Use the Undergraduate Writing Center if you like. We’re all here to improve writing skills.