Responding to the work of other artists is a great way to generate ideas and inspiration for your students. By starting with a direct response showing their understanding of the ideas and aesthetic of an artist, students can later leap off in creative ways. Although copying an artist’s work is a valuable exercise in itself, the next step where students create their own practical responses is exciting. It starts the trajectory towards creating their own independent practical work, but in safe steps so they are not overwhelmed.
For maximum value in responding to artists’ work, it is important the research and understanding is of a high quality. Student should go further than seeing a picture they like on the internet and copying it. Consideration of the key inspirations, characteristics and contextual influences of the artist is crucial. From there it is possible for students to ‘put themselves in the shoes’ of their artist as they try creating their own responses. This is easier said than done, as there is relatively little written for a young audience about artists. To address the lack of accessible resources, I put together my own information to share with students about artists.
Making a practical response is difficult when students do not have the practical skills, or access to all the relevant materials. Take Sonia Delaunay as an example. Much of her ‘fine art’ work is produced in oil paints, which are not easily accessed in most school art departments. Even when available, students are not likely to have the skills initially to produce successful painting responses. To ensure that practical work is visually engaging, I think carefully about the tasks I set as artist responses. Successful outcomes will boost the confidence and engagement of the student producing them.
You can see the Sonia Delaunay artist study and practical response resource below:
The aim is to give the students the opportunity to respond to Delaunay’s work within defined parameters. Having explored ideas of colour, movement and abstraction, they can begin to think about developing their line of inquiry. Perhaps translating a collage into paint, developing a lampshade design or using bottle tops to create a sculptural form… Using the artist study worksheet and task at the outset, the student has a firm basis on which to set of on a thread of investigation incorporating their own personal ideas and creativity.
Check out my artist study resources on other artists including Rembrandt, William Morris, Georgia O’Keeffe, Chuck Close, Frida Kahlo, Peter Blake, Michael Landy, Giorgio Morandi, Ernst Haeckel, Hilma af Klint here. You can download a free artist study resource on the contemporary printmaker Angie Lewin by clicking here: angie-lewin-artist-research-handout