Visual Art Activities (for all classrooms)

Portrait Study

This is a fun exercise that I’ve used a lot in my creative writing class that can easily be used in any class.  The focus is on point of view, perspective, and detail as evidence.  The exercise can work in two different ways: you can present portraits (pictures, paintings, sculpture, etc.) of persons and have your class analyze details from the image to make a claim about the artist’s subject. Students would have to use the details to support and develop their claim through discussion or writing. Teachers could use this to study historical and social context in any subject.  Conversely, you could have your students create a portrait from the context of your content.

Process

  1. Present a portrait related to your class content to your students.
  2. Individually, in small groups, or as a class, discuss details in the portrait. Think about how or what each detail adds to the overall image.  What effect does each detail have on your as a viewer?
  3. Have students make a claim about the artist’s subject, artist’s purpose, or overall artistic statement the portrait makes.Students must support their claim with specific evidence from the portrait to develop and explain their reasoning.  This could be a discussion, presentation, or written exercise/assessment.
  4. Discussion for closure.

Mandalas

This is an easy exercise I’ve had a lot of success with that can be used for everything from first-day introductions to character and thematic analyses.  Traditional mandalas are works created to aid in meditation as they map out, symbolically, the structure of the cosmos…or your mind…or something wild and far out. Visually, they are a series of symbolic imagery within a circle.  Your students can use mandalas to symbolically depict whatever subject or vocabulary or concept they are covering in class.

Process

  1. Identify a relevant concept related to your class content to your students.
  2. Individually, in small groups, or as a class, discuss how the concept can be depicted symbolically. Think about how each symbol adds to understanding the concept.
  3. Have students display a minimum number of symbols within a circle to visually represent the concept. Students can display their mandalas around the class.
  4. Have students explain how their symbols add to an overall comprehension of the concept. Students must support their claim with specific evidence from the mandala to develop and explain their reasoning.  This could be a discussion, presentation, or written exercise/assessment.
  5. Discussion for closure.