When you design an art lesson inspired by a famous artist, it provides an immediate hook that draws kids in and keeps them engaged.
Kids enjoy learning about famous artists and hearing stories that make them seem more like “real people”. And they feel especially proud when they spot an artist’s work outside of art class and can identify that artist by name.
When you design an art lesson inspired by a famous artist, your students can enjoy these benefits and more. Just follow the steps below.
You can design an art lesson inspired by a famous artist!
1. First, choose an artist.
You might choose an artist to study based on their country or culture or the time in which they lived. Maybe you’re studying an art movement they were part of.
Or you may want to celebrate an artist’s birthday with a ‘tribute project’ on that day. Kids love celebrating birthdays!
2. Plan a story to introduce the artist.
This doesn’t have to be a story that you read. It can be equally engaging to just tell a story that you’ve learned about the artist.
Kids especially like hearing about the artist as a child, funny things they said or did, and challenges they faced. Sharing some real-life stories about the artist’s life will make the artist more memorable and relatable.
Check out the“Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists” books by Mike Venezia. (affiliate link)
These little books are full of interesting stories and fun facts that kids enjoy and relate well to. They’re quick to read to your students, or simply use them for background info and tell the story yourself.
3. Select some pieces of the artist’s work to show and discuss.
Try to show a variety of examples of the artist’s work. This could be with prints, posters, photos in books, or images from the internet. If an artist’s style changed over time, be sure to note that.
Talk about the medium (or media) the artist used and any recurring elements that stand out. This will help kids identify work by that artist when they see it again.
4. Choose one particular style or group of pieces to use as inspiration for a tribute project.
When I design an art lesson inspired by a famous artist, this is often what attracts me to an artist to begin with.
Identify some common features in the artist’s work. How are these pieces alike? Look for symbols, shapes, colors, and design elements those pieces have in common. Make a list of the features you want to include in the project.
5. Decide on a medium to work in.
What medium will work best for creating something in this style? Consider if it should be 2D or 3D and the materials you have available.
Will you choose a medium your students are already fluent with? Or is this a perfect opportunity to introduce a new medium?
6. Write out your instructions for guiding students through the project.
This could be as simple as a bullet point list of steps to remember to tell them. Be sure to allow for individual creativity so that no two projects look alike.
7. Make a sample, referring to your list of steps.
Make sure the order in which you’ll be presenting the steps is correct and you’re not leaving anything out. Note any helpful tips you think of to share as you’re creating your sample.
8. Plan to demonstrate the project for your students, if possible.
You may not have time to take it all the way to ‘finished’, but demonstrate what you can.
Consider showing students any steps that might be difficult, confusing, or new. A demo builds interest and really helps your visual learners.
Remember that you can encourage originality by putting away your sample(s) once students start working. Otherwise, you might get a few projects that look very similar to yours!
Try designing an art lesson inspired by a famous artist and enjoy the fun along with your students!
an inspiring quote:
”At some point, if you’re really going to take it [your art] to the next level and thrive, you’re going to have to make some decisions that your heroes wouldn’t make… your master and mentor can only take you so far.” ~ Andy J. Miller (a.k.a. Andy J. Pizza)
This quote is from a conversation in Lisa Congdon’s book, “Find Your Artistic Voice” (affiliate link).
The point being made was that it’s good to have artists who inspire you and who you learn from. But at some point, you need to diverge from their path and start making some different choices of your own.
This is when your hero’s influence becomes less obvious and you begin to find your own ‘artistic voice’.
We can teach our students about famous artists and do projects inspired by their style, but let’s not stop there. Instead, ask, “What can you keep and what can you change to make this style your own?”