Teaching with Contemporary Art

Shaping Paintings


In the next few days, two high school classes I’m working with will be creating paintings inspired by the multiple meanings and interpretations of POWER. Three Art21 artists – Nancy Spero, Laylah Ali and Cai Guo-Qiang – will serve as starting points for developing student ideas and adding to initial sketchbook work.

To begin the unit, we went through a fairly intense period of organized experiments using ink, watercolor, and tempera paint. Students were encouraged to not only review concepts learned in previous years regarding color mixing and brush technique, but were also encouraged to make the various media do things that were unexpected and new. This re-familiarization of what was learned combined with making new discoveries has set the stage for working with a variety of ideas in the upcoming paintings.

In preparation for our active viewing of the three artist segments, students are currently working on sketchbook drawings that interpret the idea of power literally, symbolically and abstractly. More to come!

Black and the Red III by Nancy Spero (detail), 1994
Handprinting and printed collage on paper; 22 panels, each approximately 19 1/2 x 96 1/2 inches. Installation view: Malmö Konsthall, Sweden. Photo by David Reynolds.
© Nancy Spero, courtesy the artist and Galerie Lelong, New York.