High School Art Analysis Project: Expressing What's On Your Mind

High School Art Analysis Project: Expressing What's On Your Mind
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Many of the world’s greatest artists were inspired to create their works in response to the events happening during their lives. Share some of these famous works with your students, then help them decide what current issues they’d like to bring attention to and share in a unique work of art.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Students will analyze historical works of art and identify elements used by the artists to symbolize events taking place during each artist’s lifetime

  2. Students will identify current events that have an impact on their own lives and create unique works of art to share the influence of those events on their art

Materials Required:

  • Printouts of or internet links to sample artworks as described in lesson
  • Magazines, newspapers, internet printouts of news stories and photos
  • Large poster board or paper
  • Large drawing paper
  • Drawing materials including pencils, markers, oil pastels or crayons
  • Glue
  • Scissors

Lesson Procedure:


Step One: Show examples of socially-conscious works of art, asking students to look at each piece and identify

  1. The theme or mood of the work
  2. Symbols or subjects in the piece
  3. How the artist uses forms, figures, or color to emphasize the message
  4. What students think might have motivated the artists to create each piece

After each artwork analysis, teacher will give students an explanation of historical events or social conditions at the time each work was created, and encourage students to make connections between elements of the paintings and those events.

Sample works might include the following pieces:

  • Guernica by Pablo Picasso
  • Revolution against the Dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz by David Alfaro Siqueiros
  • The Third of May, 1808 by Francisco Goya
  • The Potato Eaters by Vincent Van Gogh
  • The Blind Leading the Blind by Peter Bruegel the Elder

Step Two: Brainstorm current events or social concerns with students on the board. Students will each identify their own list of important issues and decide whether they would like to make an individual collage or drawing/ painting to express their thoughts.

Step Three: Students making collages will gather materials such as news articles and photos, large poster paper or board, scissors, and glue. Students who prefer to paint or draw their pieces should sketch their ideas on a large piece of drawing paper or poster paper. Students will work on individual pieces for length of time as determined by teacher.

Step Four: After works are complete (and dry), students will post their works around the classroom for others to evaluate and discuss.

Assessment: Students and teacher will go around and view finished pieces, and teacher will gather students around select pieces to share successful elements that helped artists communicate their concerns.

Encourage students to use this experience to be more aware of their social and political opinions, and find ways to effect change in their own communities. Students who especially enjoyed the exercise might even want to approach their principal with the idea of creating a mural!