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Lessons: Art Imitates Life

Updated on August 7, 2012

Art and Self-Examination

The Importance of Self-Awareness

"He who knows the universe and does not know himself knows nothing." ~~Jean De La Fontane, 1679

Self awareness is the ability to recognize your feelings and to differentiate between them, to know what you are feeling and why and to know what caused the feelings (Brook & Stein, 2000).

Self-awareness is the foundation of the emotional intelligence quotient. Mastering this skill is essential to personal growth and one's ability to affect those around them. It is the aura we summon up within ourselves and what we emit into the universe.

In a world driven by waves of innovative technology with online social networking taking the forefront of most communication, it is important to invite into the classroom setting interchanges that assist students in developing this important skill. This can be easily achieved by infusing the arts into your instruction.

As I have discussed in prior hubs, the perception of art and deliverance of art is idiosyncratic, as unique as the instructor who teaches in each classroom. And, it is incumbent upon that instructor to shed his/her insecurities in order to model what he/she hopes to accomplish in a lesson that requires openness leading to creativity--- what we don't say is oftentimes more important than what we do say.

Selection of Art

Artwork can simply be an enlarged grain of salt (for Andy Warhol, the mundane was artfully seen as a sonata), a collection of interesting objects, a picture of a funny pose or funny face; it is whatever strikes your fancy, so hold that thought.

Now, I realize that I am not for everyone's palate, but that's okay because maybe you'll respond to this hub and share some of your ideas with me. After all, growth only occurs when we open ourselves up to the constellations and universe at large.

Having said that let's play with the idea of excavating our souls through the rich treasures of portraiture.

Feet, why do I need them if I have wings to fly? Frida Kahlo

Analyzing Works of Art

Students must feel comfortable and not fear judgment when opening up to abstract thinking. You might want to integrate a round of texting that permits them to critique using characters to initiate the process. Have them take a picture with their cellular devices and possibly share through a tweet the work of art and leave a commentary (or via Facebook). Of greater importance, get the ball rolling about the work of art and "their feelings."

I have chosen the genre of self-portraits (Frida is a Mexican surrealist) because it is a great way to learn more about the artist's inner self-talk via visual representation. Take a look at Frida Kahlo's work (posted) and see what you think?

Have the students (and you) consider the following elements:

Visual Elements:

1.Color or absence of color


3. Composition

4. Realism, or fantasy

5. Perspective

6. Fluidity

7. Narrative-What story is coming through this visual?

8.Question intent-what is the meaning here?

9. Time period of piece

10. What should the title be? You ideas.

11.Materials used

12. Movement or stillness

13.Is there an emphasis on anything in the piece?


Have the students jot down notes or use their devices with apps, "Evernote" to interpret the art. Always remember to reside in "their world" by implementing toys for tools because you will capture their minds and hearts and they will remember the experience.

Some Essential Questions to Consider

1.What kind of feelings do you get when you view this portrait?

2. What do you think the artist was thinking when painting this picture?

3.How do you think she feels about herself? Support your answer by using visual examples you see.

4. What kind of questions would you raise to the artist about this work of art?

5. What else do you want to know about this artist as a result of viewing her work?

Story Framing

Frida Kahlo created her own personal stories through painting. What made her unique was the surrealist "dreamlike" qualities that make the observer feel as though the characters [even her] were unreal, somehow like something you would see in a strange dream.

After conducting the art interpretation phase of the lesson, have students do the following:

Story Framing

1. Have students bring in a picture of themselves.

2.Provide construction paper in order to have the class create a picture frame for their picture/portrait.

3.Have students cut out a frame for the picture.

4. Have the students draw pictures around the frame that underscore what is happening in their lives. Tell them to be creative in their own way. They can also opt to use technology and cut out graphics if they are so inclined. The object is to excavate.....

5.Secure the frame to the portrait and complete the art

Check out on Amazon, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: Their Lives and Ideas-24 activities By Carol Sabbeth--

Story Framing was taken from this source.

My extension:

Write a memoir using this process to connect with one's life.

Showcasing and "A Gallery Walk"

After the students have concluded the art, have them share by showcasing the art around the room like a gallery showing. Then, have the students conduct a literacy strategy called, "A Gallery Walk" by visiting each portrait, taking a post-it and writing a positive commentary at each station and tagging it on the board (have what is known as a "graffiti" board placed at each station).

Each artist can communicate with each visitor and respond to the commentaries left on each board.

Some Material Suggestions for this Lesson

Music, a Feast, State Standards, Core Standards

Follow-up the lesson with a Mexican celebration. Play music and enjoy regional delicacies to extend the learning to more disciplines. You might want to generate some Spanish words and communicate in that language (use descriptors for the art in that language).


1. Learning across Discipline: ELA-critical thinking , comprehension when critiquing art, story framing and memoir work/Social Studies-history/era, culture, geography, important people of that era, foods in that region of the world, music, social and political contexts/ Art-art materials, art history, analyzing works of art from a particular culture/Career & Development-painters/Music-music from other cultures/Languages Other than English-Mexican/Spanish

2.4 C's from the CORE STANDARDS: Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Communication


Submit a Comment

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile imageAUTHOR

    Robin Grosswirth 

    6 years ago from New York

    Hi Dusty. Words are like music, so when used in poetry, they intrigue, bring an elegance to a piece and of course, convey meaning. It is just like dressing a salad, a more humble analogy. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

    Integrity Yes . Thanks for the continued vote.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    That is so cool. I definitely voted up.

  • 50 Caliber profile image

    50 Caliber 

    6 years ago from Arizona

    Robin, I find it odd that some who write poetry seem to use 10 dollar words to get to the reader what they are presenting, I don't find it odd that one who teaches the subject to do so, as it opens the horizons of words to them to be used at their discretion,

    just count me odd and it will make sense,



  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile imageAUTHOR

    Robin Grosswirth 

    6 years ago from New York

    Thanks for reading this 50, but odd how?

    Any work of art can inspire in others a means to express themselves. Upon reading poetry from others, I am inspired to create more.

  • 50 Caliber profile image

    50 Caliber 

    6 years ago from Arizona

    Robin, I wish I had read this first as it incites my understanding of a part I feel is your foundation reflected in your writings to a degree, that answered some things I thought, but no longer do, as odd in certain writings. This has enriched my understanding,

    thank you for this as a lesson plan, especially good for those like myself who are just breaking into the realm of poetic writing and understanding.

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile imageAUTHOR

    Robin Grosswirth 

    6 years ago from New York

    Thank you soooo much! I have tried to teach from the heart, the only way I know how. Thanks for the accolades:-0)

  • GoForTheJuggler profile image

    Joshua Patrick 

    6 years ago from Texas

    I wish more of my teachers had been as involved as you, Robin. So many seem to get bogged down in the pressures and stress of it all, and it shows in their teaching style. When learning is a positive experience, it enriches the lives of everyone involved. Voted up and across!

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile imageAUTHOR

    Robin Grosswirth 

    6 years ago from New York

    We must invite multiple perspectives at all times. We are all uniquely different and we must honor and acknowledge one another's beliefs and thoughts about the world.

    The schoolhouse is supposed to be a place where a person can expand their minds and grow incrementally along the pathway of academia; however, not all academicians are kind. I am sorry for the experience you had.

    I too had similar experiences and that is why I chose to deliver instruction differently---to nurture young minds and to always embrace acceptance, celebrating differences.

    Thanks so much for weighing in and of key importance, reading with such intent and care.

    Thanks Sue.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Hi Robin

    "Students must feel comfortable and not fear judgment when opening up to abstract thinking."

    Art was always my worst subject in school. I was terrible at it and I was never encouraged. The teacher would say, Isn't that nice but it wasn't sincere; I knew by the look on her face.

    Take care :)


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