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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

When learning necessary art and music skills, where can the balance between inquiry-based and teacher-directed instruction be found? (or: which instructional strategies work best)

I have found that my inquiry has changed as time changes and needs change in my class. I wanted to do stained glass with students but didn’t have the supplies at first. Becuse of this, I had to become creative in getting materials. I created a “business” for my class. We decided to sell our art to buy supplies for our class, which motivated several students that were not motivated for school in general. We decided that the students would supply thegalas for a project and I would supply everything else. We would then talk in a collaborative way on how we would maout our projects and to whom we would sell our work.

To give a better understanding I will attempt to explmanga few of the many changes that took place from inquiry and collaboration in my room.

One student hated being in school but loved art. He would not do assignments on painting because he didn’t feel he was good enough. He actually approached me about stained glass which opened up this entire thought. He had to buy glass since i didn’t have those supplies. I didn’t fee it was right to have him pay for having class so we decided to sell what he made to Supplement getting more glass for more projects.

We decided to do Christmas ornaments and sell them to the school. This raised several questions, such as what will they look like, what will we sell them for and who will we be marketing our product to. We also had to decide how we were going to inform the school that these items will be for sale. I let the student decide how he was going to get the “word out” to the school, and he came up with at first just word of mouth. Then as that progressed, he started to realize that we had a morning announcement session in our school and he could place our items on that which is shown across the televisions in every room of the school. The ornaments were for sale for 15 dollars each, which he thought was a high price and no one would buy. We ended up selling 27 or so, and even to members of his family which were not at our school. The students and teachers would have to place an order deciding what color they wanted and which ornament they would pick. they could also have them engraved with a special message or the year if they decided. They got to choose from two different things.



These items creqated a flury in my class and this student in particular. He started to see that he could make money creating art, and he was actually getting good at it. His excitement gained momentum as he started to get more people asking for other art projects to be made for them. This once again opened up another inquiry process.

We could not fill the orders required if we did not have more students involved doing the work. This student took it on his own to recruit other students to do jobs that he felt they could handle to fill the orders. We stayed for hours after school to finish the orders and made enough money to pay for what he bought and also to buy more materials for future projects to be sold. We then had to decide what the next thing was we were going to try to market. We came up with the fact that Valentines day was the next holiday we could prepair for. The students went back and fort with many ideas and made prototypes of each piece they thought would be good to sell and how they would market these items.

We as a class ended up agreeing on picture frames with a heart on either corner. Which was in itself a great idea, but caused the students to start to think further into the future rather than just on the completion of the project at hand. They decided that the next project should be a picture fame designed just for seniors in the highschool. Which touched on the subjects we were discussion about target audiences for their crafts. They made a prototype of this frame and began marketing it. I will post a picture to follow and then discuss how they decided they were going to get the word out to the school.


The student that did not like school and felt there was nothing in school that was going to help him started to actually come to school more often. His attitude changed in a dramatic way. He was no longer wishing to miss school, and was actually coming to my class every morning and any free time he had throughout the day. He would ask other teachers if he was caught up with his work if he could come to my room and work on his projects. He also stayed for hours after school on many occasions with me and other students to continue his “new job”.

His new way of reaching students was to utilize facebook. He posted a picture of this picture frame and tagged every senior that he had on his list. He asked that they forward it to friends that he might not have on his list and took comments for what they though of it. Which in its own way once again opened up the need for collaboration and inquiry on his, my and other students parts. He had to come up with how much he was willing to wave as to the colors of the frame, special orders and things of that nature. We talked about how it was not practical to buy every color of glass to be able to fill any type of order we may get. So he limited it to specific c0lors and a black or white tossel cap for boys or girls. The year is made with twisted metal wire we had in the class. He has begun orders and has set a deadline for them to be able to make sure he can fulfill the ruquired orders before the end of the year.

Since that he has also embarked on making different stained glass pieces which are not to be sold at the school but rather to community businesses. His biggest work is that of a chess board. NOW. With that being said. He also has spent hours getting community involvement in these projects. He contacted his aunt who owns a wood salvage business “dealing with drift wood and rare findings wood”. She gave him a very special type of wood that is three hundred years old to complete his chess board. He utilized his father who is a contractor to build the base for his work. He also did research on the internet to find cheaper project materials and the actual chess pieces. He is looking to sell this project to Nemacolin Woodlands marketing to a higher social economic demographic.




AND YET ANOTHER CHANGE IN INQUIRY!!!!  Now other students that are not totally on board with stained glass started wondering how they can make their art known to the school as well.  So they decided to start going out into the school to find what was needed.  Some stuck with the ceiling tile and teachers requests and other started other projects.  more to come in the next blog.  Have a great day and comment please.

I have been teaching about Henri Rousseau and his jungle scenes. Foreground, middle ground, and background are the other focus of this lesson. After I have shown a Powerpoint or Rousseau’s life and work I have students do an imagination exercise:” You have just been dropped off in the middle of the jungle, you look in the distance what do you see behind everything else, is it daylight or nighttime… are there mountains or volcanos… What is in the Background? Now look at what is closer to you, are there fruit trees, vines, or flowers… do you see birds, monkeys? Now look at the things closest to you, are there lions, crocodiles, gorillas… what do you see in the foreground?. After my students open their eyes I tell them to draw what you saw. The results were very different for each student’s sketch looked different even though they heard the same descriptions. I love that we were made to be creative beings 🙂 and its apparent through simple guided imagery






I found the article “Creativity and Imagination: Tool for teaching Artist Inquiry” the most interesting choice to blog about. Webster’s dictionary defines METAPHOR as the following: a figure or speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money); broadly : figurative language

I have used symbols and metaphor to promote creative designs for original art production in the past. I currently do project with my 8th graders I call “Exercise in Thought.” In the particular project I have the students pick a word (any word school appropriate) write down on the handout I ask the students to tell me the (color, smell, taste, sound, texture, shape, object, animal, food, drink, clothing, place setting, weather, music, painting, literary work) of that word or something closely related for the use of metaphor for art production. I also tried this exercise when I taught elementary as a long term sub for a year. I really enjoyed this time before I got a full time position in the high school. My perception was that the younger children didn’t really know what they couldn’t do nor had no fear of failure. It seems to me that as some of the same students got older some of the internal creative powers they possessed were gone or at least diminished.

My main interest was the articles’ hierarchy of the four levels of creative thinking: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration. I think these would be good starting point while encouraging original art. This theoretical model provides a framework that I plan to use with the students. However I do not think this is the be all end all of successful art production.
I plan on using Siegsmund’s Visual Cycle of Inquiry in future projects. I think it would stimulate student thinking starting with perception /fluency >conception/originality and elaboration >expression>reflection.

In keeping with my interest and promotion in all things Joseph Campbell I’ll close with this…

“But when you understand a metaphor — you know, just high school grammar language — when you interpret the metaphor in terms of the denotation instead of the connotation, you’ve lost the message. That’s like going into a restaurant and reading the menu and deciding what you’re going to eat, and you eat that part of the menu. The menu is a reference to something transcendent of that piece of paper.” – Joseph Campbell

September 2020

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