Blog Post 3
Inquiry in the Art Classroom
David Roth

My Art One students are currently working on a project where they take a famous work of art and reproduce it and change it in some way. They are required to write 5 inquiry questions about the work, artist, techniques used, and style. The objectives for the lesson are as follows: Pick a famous work of art (painting) that you are attracted to, identify with, or find interesting. Complete a contour line drawing of the composition. Research the artist, style, period, techniques, etc. Render a close copy of the piece changing something about the composition. Complete a 2 or 3 page paper or text for a gallery card effectively describing and analyzing a work of art. Write as least 5 questions that can be used for inquiry about the painting or artist. We first defined inquiry as the act of seeking information by asking questions; the search for truth, information, or knowledge; an investigation; examination into facts and principles.

The criteria I used to begin this process were having the students to provide the title of the work of art and the name of the artist. I had them write 5 facts and 5 opinions about the work of art and write a short paragraph about each. Then students studied and researched the painting they picked. Doing the contour line drawing really helped them understand the underlying composition of the work. I encouraged the use of inquiry to learn about the artist style and painting techniques. The students were given some advice on the act the act of inquiring by seeking information and asking self formulated questions about the topic.

Example Questions …….

What clues does the work of art give to the time, place, culture, or setting in which it was produced? How was it made? Does the work of art have a function or purpose? What is the history of the painting itself? Who owns it now? Who owned it in the past? What story, meaning or idea does the painting express?

Unfortunately, many art one students either do not inquire at all, or use inquiry quite unconsciously. Rarely do they use it to its full potential. With some thought, and conscious intent they may find that inquiry can bridge gaps previously uncrossed and reveal information critical to a deeper understanding and study of the work of art.
I’m also thinking of having the students write a critical review of their classmates work.
I think some of the students realized that carefully and systematic inquiry helped them to pursue their wonderings. I think the students were encouraged to think like the Artist; understand the why by doing.

“Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves.” –Joseph Campbell