Tuesday, October 16, 2007


10 years of teaching art on art courses and through content-based English as a second language course has convinced me of the importance of art in education. Here are 10 reasons why:

  1. Learning about art is enormous fun. Fun equals motivation; motivation leads to academic success.
  2. The artistic act needs no justification, no blandishment, no bureaucratic back-up like much we do in school requires.
  3. In any society, the state of art education is a direct barometer of the health of that culture. A generous, creative, expanding society accepts and appreciates art in its schools.
  4. Art is not merely decoration. It has a place in any school curriculum as an all-pervasive, multi-skilled discipline. Teaching art improves skills with computers, and wider appreciation of issues in social studies, history, literature and mathmatics.
  5. We live in an electronically-driven visual age and most art has a strong visual element.
  6. Art is profoundly democratic due to its individualistic nature. It is also communitarian - something we can all gather round and revel in.
  7. Art in education expands the way we see, feel, and relate to our world. It nourishes the mind and fortifies the heart. A good art teacher draws out a student's creativity much like a language teacher helps with acquisition of a second language.
  8. Looking at and relating to art educates the 'whole' person. It enriches the mind and broadens one's perspectives by asking you to draw on all your visual, emotional, and conceptual intelligence.
  9. If educators take learning styles seriously, institutions must include instruction that engages the visual and tactile learner.
  10. Asking why we should include art in education is like asking why we need wine with a good dinner.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the use of art in education, especially if you have had success teaching art as a means to teach other subjects, like second languages. Email Oliver at oliverkinghorn@gmail.com or leave a comment at the foot of this page. Have a lovely day. Vive la peinture!

Friday, February 23, 2007


The explosive, energetic, colourful paintings of Jackson Pollock make for exciting art lessons that take very little preparation and engage students from the word go. Some of the best artwork to be produced in my years of teaching has come from this project - Pollock Action Painting. Also known as 'drip painting' because of his technique of literally dripping paint on the canvas.

There is a large number of Pollock monographs available, as well as an excellent biopic starring Ed Harris, a link to which is supplied on this page. Happy dripping!

For beginners through to advanced
2~3 contact hours in class, extra time for web research/homework
Lesson aims:
  • Students will be able to create painting in the authentic style of Jackson Pollock
  • Students will develop an understanding of the use of body movement and momentum in painting.
  • Students will learn about the origin of Pollock's technique and the milieu it came from.
  • Pollock monographs or 'Pollock' DVD featuring Ed Harris as the painter (contains some excellent painting scenes, especially when Pollock accidentally discovers his drip technique in January 1947)
  • Large paper - about 100cm x 60cm
  • Pet bottles, sticks, old brushes with no bristles, old cloth etc.
  • Newspaper and masking tape
  • Optional: plastic straws
  • Special 'liquid' paint available in most art supplies catalogues
In Class Lesson Stages:
  1. As a lead-in I prepare a slidehow of Pollock paintings against a background of jazz music from the time he was working - he was a big Benny Goodman fan. Encourage students to speculate on what they see - who was he? when did he work? what technique did he use? what are the themes of his artwork? Students should always be reminded that at this stage there are no wrong answers - their own first impression is uniquely theirs.
  2. It would be a good idea at this stage to show the painting scenes in the film 'Pollock' starring Academy Award nominee Ed Harris.
  3. Depending on available time, students could at this stage begin on a small scale with A4-size paper on top of newspaper to practice the drip technique. Demonstrate the different effects of dripping paint from sticks, brushes, sponges, clothes, and...500ml pet bottles with a hole made in the cap. Remind them of the scenes in the film where Pollock was actively engaged with his canvas, always placed on the floor, and continually moving round the piece as he sought different perspectives on the painting as it was created.
  4. At the beginning of the second lesson students should be competent in using the liquid paint and have some control over its application. An interesting dynamic to introduce at this stage is asking students to form groups and create one piece amongst 3 or 4 members. Popular themes in my art classes have been the seasons, emotions, dance, spirit, festivals, music. Choosing an assortment of jazz music to play in the background encourages students to 'get into' the mood of the painting. Music plays a large part in my art lessons.
  5. As student's work nears completion they should be encouraged to view and evaluate each others work. Ask students to consider the idea of 'completion', and the stage at which they think their action painting has communicated what it intended.
Evaluation and feedback should take the form of constant peer evaluation of each others work, as well as summative evaluation of how well each group has communicated their theme through the use of colour, line, contrast, and other elements of design.
  • Originality 1-2-3-4-5
  • Authenticity 1-2-3-4-5
  • Elements of Design (colour, line, shape, contrast) 1-2-3-4-5
  • Participation 1-2-3-4-5
Check out the links to Amazon's extensive catalogue of art books and artist biopics. The movie 'Pollock' by Ed Harris is an excellent biopic and engages students with the subject right from the word go. I highly recommend its action painting scenes.



Tuesday, February 6, 2007


Aboriginal Dot Painting is a popular art lesson classic suitable for learners of all ages as it features an irresistable combination of music, art, culture and history.

The beauty of this subject is that the lesson engages learners on a number of different levels - practical painting technique, cultural understanding, linking art with music, dance and storytelling, and getting their fingers nice & dirty in the process!

For beginners through to advanced level learners
3~4 hours contact time in class, extra time for research/homework
Lesson Aims:
  • Students will be able to select colours, mix paint, make a preliminary sketch, complete an authentic aboriginal artwork.
  • Students will understand the origin of motifs, colours, storylines in aboriginal art.
  • Students will be able to connect aboriginal art with its other cultural traditions of music, dance, and storytelling.
  • Aboriginal music or video.
  • B/W photocopies of aboriginal symbols.
  • B/W photocopies of a real aboriginal painting.
  • Sketching paper or thin card for B/W draft - about 40cm x 25cm.
  • Watercolour paper for final draft artwork - about 60cm x 40cm.
  • Black marker pens, watercolour or acrylic paints, sponges for dab effects etc.
In Class Lesson Stages:
  1. As a lead-in my students respond really well to closing their eyes as they listen to real aboriginal music and imagining they are an eagle flying over the Australian Outback. What did you see? How far did you go? What animals came into your mind? In the course of introducing the people, the country, and their traditions you can reveal how each sound from the didgeridoo depicts the sound of a distinct animal - a snake, a fish, a crocodile, an emu. This visualisation exercise will help when they come to start their first draft sketch.
  2. A short video of aboriginal dancing features at the end of this lesson plan.
  3. Students speculate in groups on the meaning of common symbols in aboriginal art as per 'Aboriginal Symbols' worksheet pictured below. Which symbolize a kangaroo, a boomerang, a waterhole, footprints, and the sun, rain, and moon?
  4. At the end of the first session students annotate a B/W copy of a real aboriginal painting and identify which lines/dots/patterns symbolize what. Students should also understand the following elements of design - contrast, colour choice (how did the aborigines find paint? why are coours of nature prevalent?) Show other examples of aboriginal paintings.
  5. The next session begins with a first draft in B/W. Students should select a unifying 'theme' for their artwork - the hunt, the dance, animals, nature, tools & weapons, food are all good subjects. Allow students to progress to their final larger colour draft when they have clearly demonstrated an understanding of colour, line, pattern, contrast, theme.
  6. Two sessions should be devoted to the final draft. Show students how to use sponges, fingertips, brushes, and combs to create authentic painterly effects. Monitor students as they work - paying careful attention to the 'tightness' of their patterns and the relatively 'minimal' use of colour. I find that my students really get into it when there's some music blasting out - which in this case should be funky didgeridoo.
  • Depending on the level of the students you could set a short essay on one of the following subjects: 1. The things I learned from creating an aboriginal artwork, 2. My critique of an aboriginal artwork, 3. How aboriginal art reflects the cultural and historical background of the aborigine people.
Evaluation and feedback should take place throughout each session in the form of peer evaluation (what do you think of each other's work?) and final evaluation in the form of a clear grading scale. For a project of this nature you could include such criteria as:

  • Originality 1-2-3-4-5
  • Authenticty 1-2-3-4-5
  • Elements of design - colour/line/pattern 1-2-3-4-5
  • Participation and level of completion 1-2-3-4-5
Total - /20

You can find USEFUL LINKS to music, dvds, books, and musical instruments in the bookstore 'Oliver's Free Art Lessons Recommended Resources Store' at the foot of this page - just scroll down...




Each new page is organized into the following categories for ease of navigation:

  • Project Title, e.g. 'Aboriginal Dot Painting', 'Pollock Dot Painting'
  • Level, e.g. 'Easy - beginner', 'Challenging - intermediate', 'Difficult - advanced'
  • Timescale, e.g. 'Four 1-hour lessons'
  • Lesson Aims, e.g. 'Cross-cultural understanding', 'Encourage self-expression'
  • Materials
  • In Class Lesson Stages
  • Evaluation and Feedback
  • Useful links to websites, books, videos
One of the best features of this page is the links to other practical resources on the web. All good teachers, like artists, are magpies. Please feel free to share your favourite practical links via the 'COMMENT' section at the foot of each posting, or by direct email to Oliver at this link - joolsie80@yahoo.co.uk

Upcoming lesson ideas include:

  • Aboriginal Dot Painting
  • Pollock Drip Painting
  • Tarot Deck Design
  • Nikki de Saint-Phalle Sculpture
  • Henri Matisse Paper Cut-outs
  • Rothko/Hodgkin Colour Field Painting
  • CD/DVD Cover Design
  • Peter Blake Paper Collage
  • Mario Testino Photography
  • Hundertwasser Ecological Art
  • Art Criticism & Viewing Artwork
  • Learn English through art lessons for kids
  • 'The Kiss' Study of a painting by Klimt