Uncovering Bigger Ideas

Developing meaningful studio work

with linking or progressive relationships developed through sustained investigation

Finding focus

Creating work for the exhibition that pivots around linking ideas, concepts, questions, images is quite different from presenting a series of teacher led assignments and will certainly be more likely lead to an interesting and Coherent Body of Work. One-off assignments, or work that starts with a different topic each time does not develop the kind of depth that working with certain ideas or images over time does. Teaching students to pursue a particular line of inquiry means getting them to think beyond the obvious, and this is indeed a challenge. Use your Workshop Style Sessions to introduce new techniques but ask students to use their own developing area of interest as the subject matter!

Open Ended Assignments

Teaching to Think Creatively

Topics with layers of meaning, both material and conceptual.

Sometimes the starting point they choose is way too broad (i.e Human emotion or Man and Nature) and the work remains superficial. We need to help them identify other angles or ways of approaching the topic so they can make it more individual, less generic....I find that complex topics with a material or physical aspect as well as symbolic, conceptual can be the most rewarding to work with.( i.e Roots, Migration, Viruses...). Such topics already suggest specific imagery and possible materials to work with by their nature..  Look at some of the examples in the student Exhibition Gallery , such as Margherita, HL Exhibition, Sophie, Exhibition HL, Lucia, Exhibition SL 

Going beyond the first response

The temptation is often for students to race on to the next idea and the challenge lies in getting them to slow down enough to go beyond first response, beyond the obvious. To develop bigger ideas they need to first experiment freely, then investigate thoughtfully, then make something intentionally, then reflect, review, refine...

    Individual mentoring

    With a little help from the teacher, they will be able to transform a banal or too broad topic into something worthy of sustained attention. It is worth spending the time with the students one on one, to help uncover or highlight potential good ideas for individual work. By investing energy and time helping students identify specific areas/concepts to work with, they will be able to work independently with some meaningful material for most of the second year.

    Identify dead-ends early on!

    When students spend days or even weeks working with ideas they aren’t genuinely invested in or simply are not engaged by, this inevitably leads to mediocre work.

    Mindmapping is an effective way of both broadening and focusing a topic and uncovering the bigger ideas contained in it.

    Assign a Self-Reflection as a way of developing reflective thinking and self knowledge.

    The IDEA underpinning the topic rather than the cliche'

    Student: I was thinking my theme could be EYES (cliche' topic)

    Teacher: ( encouraging) OK. What is the bigger idea behind EYES? Is it Vision? Perception? How you see the world? How the world sees you? The female gaze? Voyeurism? Exposure?

    Formulate a question; a juicy question almost always leads to good work. Look up artists who work with these ideas, what kind of work do they make?

    By encouraging students to develop a "thematic" or linking ideas approach, we are trying to teach them to explore their passions and the things they wonder about through prolonged investigation. If this investigation is spurred by a genuine interest and a willingness to take risks, it will lead to interesting artistic discoveries.

    Student: I just want to make graffiti

    Teacher: What is it about graffiti that appeals to you? Is it the actual graphics and aesthetic of the medium or is it the idea of rebellion, being outside the system? what is the message that interests you?

    Suggest artists and resources for investigation:Suggest he go out photographing grafitti and make a survey of styles, content, and site specific work. By first becoming more informed, his own ideas in relation to the topic will become more sharply focused and articulate.

    Other pages you might be interested in

    Interdisciplinary Connections

    Collaboration between the arts and other subject areas has the potential to create new knowledge, and cross fertilize ideas and processes in both fields.Art making can be inspired by encounters or connections...

    Research and Practice

    How do we help students develop investigation and research skills that will develop and enrich their art making? Students need to feel passionate about what they are researching, then motivation and the...

    Finding a Focus

    Developing continuity is key to creating a body of work that has unity, rather than a collection of unrelated pieces. All you need to do is look at most great artists and how they relentlessly pursued...

    Thematic Threads

    This activity helps year 1 students to investigate a topic or theme through looking at images from art history. See Finding a Focus for more about developing individual directions.This is a fun way to...

    A Coherent Body of Work

    For the exhibition students present a set of rigorously selected artworks that clearly communicate their artistic intentions. This doesn't mean that the all the works need to address the same subject...

    Curating an Imaginary Exhibition

    Looking for a great summer assignment for incoming or mid IB Art students?Help your students to be prepared with some potential thematic interests, a point of departure for Choosing Artworks to investigate...

    Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see. One eye sees, the other feels.

    Paul Klee

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