Students will learn how an artist can use personal images, symbols and contemporary references to address both universal and specific social and political issues in a pluralistic society, and put that learning into practice by creating a work of art themselves.
Artists Teach Us to See the World Through Visual Symbols
Time Alloted4 Class Sessions
State Content Standards
10.11 Analyze the integration of countries into the world economy and the information, technological and communications revolutions.
1.1 Identify and use the principles of design to discuss, analyze and write about visual aspects in the environment and in works of art, including their own.
2.6 Create two- or three-dimensional artwork that addresses a social issue.
4.1 Articulate how people's personal beliefs, cultural traditions, and current social, economic, and political contexts influence the way they interpret the meaning or message in an artwork.
4.5 Employ the conventions of art criticism in writing and speaking about artworks.
Writing prompts, paper
About Joseph Fitzpatrick Was Our Teacher
Reproductions of the focus artwork for each student if possible
Paper for written responses
Student Reflection Worksheet
11" x 17” sheets of black construction or drawing paper
Smaller sheets or scraps of white, and other bright colored papers
Magazines, newspapers, etc. for images and text
Pastels – White, red, yellow, blue (limit the palette)
- Vocabulary development in the visual arts
- Observation and recognition of artistic elements, principles and content in a specific artwork
- Comprehension and interpretation of visual details and symbols in a specific artwork
- Collaborative learning through participation in group inquiry and discussion
- Ability to express an important idea through an effective composition
- Effective use of media to communicate an important idea
- Ability to develop a student commentary that reflects thoughtfully on the process of developing an important idea through visual media
Lesson Procedure: (Sequence times are only approximate)
1. Students will be divided into small groups of 4-5 members.
2. Each student will first look carefully and silently at a reproduction of this work of art, for approximately 10 minutes. (Hide the title from the students at this time.) During this time, each student will record his/her observations and responses to specific questions on a worksheet or from an overhead transparency prepared by the teacher:
Prompt: How did the artist use the following art elements in this work of art? Be specific in describing where in the artwork you see these elements.
* How did the artist use line? What kinds of lines can you identify?
* How did the artist use shapes?
* How did the artist use color?
* How do you react to the artist's use of a black background for this artwork?
* Are there examples of pattern or repetition used in line, color or shape in this artwork?
* How does the artist create a sense of “unity” despite the use of numerous images and colors throughout the composition?
3. Students will discuss these observations within their small groups. One member of the group will serve as a recorder and write out as well as report out the group's collective responses. (20 -25 minutes)
4. The teacher will prepare a second worksheet or overhead transparency for the following discussion Prompts : The teacher will facilitate a student-centered discussion with these questions and chart the responses so that all ideas are in front of the class. The teacher will keep this list of responses for student reference.
* Where does your eye go first in this work of art? Does everyone come to the same conclusion? Is there one correct response?
* Name all of the images that you recognize in this work of art?
* What do you think the artist is communicating to the viewer?
* Can you identify any clues to place this work in its time or place? Identify these clues and give your reasons.
* (Share the title of the artwork with the students) What do you think this title might mean?
* What do you want or need to know more about to appreciate or understand this artwork?
Have students conclude this session by writing out their personal responses to this work on a journal sheet, and keeping it for future reference. (20 minutes for discussion and writing)
5. Students will begin their second session focused on this work by reading Information about the Artist and Artwork (either the entire commentary or a jigsaw divided between table groups). They should also have a reproduction of the artwork available to them while they are reading. As the students complete their reading, the teacher will facilitate a discovery session, matching what students learned from reading about the artist and artwork that addresses some of the questions they raised earlier. (15 minutes)
6. The teacher will facilitate a discussion on the issues that the artist raises in this work. Use the following Prompt : In what ways do you think the artist addresses social, political, economic and other significant issues? In what ways does he address our pluralistic society (world view)? (20 minutes)
7. The teacher will then ask each small group to select a significant issue of global concern that can be addressed through art. Using a Worksheet with lines for written ideas and blank space for images and symbols, students will brainstorm both group and personal responses to arrive a focus issue and ideas for communicating the issue through an effective composition. (15 minutes)
8. This Computer Lab Learning—Extension activity for students step is integrated into the lesson, not an add-on. The objectives and skills addressed are consistent with the overall lesson plan objectives. The description is included in this step. (It can be done as an in-class lab activity or homework assignment)
After students have identified as a group what important issue they want to explore, they should research that issue through the internet. They need to identify three significant facts about their issue that can be communicated through symbols or some form of visual expression. This will help to focus their artwork and their prior brainstorming. The students may return to their brainstorming worksheet to refine their ideas. (30 minutes, if done in class)
9. The teacher will show students the available materials for creating their collage artwork along with instructions for use of materials as needed. Students will be given time to go through magazines or other sources to find images that can be cut out or appropriated/reinterpreted from these sources. Remind students that they are limited to four colors of pastels. Have them notice how effectively these four colors are used in the magazines they are viewing.
10. Students should be given at least one class session to work on their compositions. Students should develop a title for their artworks.
11. Students should use a Student Reflection Worksheet to review and critique their artwork and process with the following sample questions as Prompts : What idea did I want to convey through this artwork? What I did first …. What I did next … How did I know that I had completed the work? Is this an effective composition? What might I do differently the next time?
12. After completing their artwork, and cleaning their workspaces, students will leave their artworks with the teacher.
13. At the beginning of the final session , the teacher will distribute the artworks to other students so that each student has an artwork created by someone else. Each student will critique the artwork of another student for the class group using the following questions as discussion Prompts : The strongest part of this composition is… I wish I knew more about …. I think this work addresses … Following the critique, the teacher will return the artworks to appropriate students.
14. As a final reflection, students will respond to these writing Prompts on a journal sheet:
By creating a work of art on a significant issue, I learned … By critiquing a work created by someone else, on a significant issue, I learned … By studying Raymond Saunders' work, I learned ….
In order to keep students focused on the purpose of their computer search for background on their “significant issues,” it might be helpful to have a list of teacher-previewed web sites available for their reference.
The purpose of a classroom critique is to reinforce respect for the works of others, and there should be a “safe” environment for these artworks to be presented and for these comments to be made among peers.
Raymond Saunders was born in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania in 1934. He developed an early interest in art. By the time he was a teenager he had won awards and other recognition for his talent. In particular, one teacher, Joseph Fitzpatrick inspired him. After attending college and majoring in art he moved to Oakland to study art further. Saunders has lived in Oakland since the 1960s. In 1969, he joined the faculty of California State University, Hayward , and since the late 1980s he has been a faculty member at CCA. He has taught art to college students for several decades.
Saunders loves to travel and has drawn influences from such diverse places as Mexico and China . A sense of place , especially sense of urban settings, figures prominently in his work. He also draws upon personal experience and contemporary as well as past events like to present fascinating visual ironies through visual juxtapositions. For example images evocative may be contested with more genial images evokes mass consumerism, popular culture and global politics. Saunders' works though provocative probe contemporary culture and the ideas and response to it.
Saunders is best known for his large-scale mixed-media compositions. His generation reacted against the prevailing style of Abstract Expressionism, but Saunders did not abandon its qualities entirely. Instead, he draws on its emotionalism and active painting gesture. Since the 1970s, he has gained increasingly more recognition for works in which he incorporates bold swaths of color, delicate fine drawings, geometric symbols, hand-lettering and images torn from newspapers, advertising, and children's drawings, all set against a black background. Art critic David Bonetti writes: Saunders is essentially a visual diarist, and his canvases ... bear the traces of his thoughts as they come to his mind and vision.
Although Saunders draws on personal experiences and observations, his meanings are often open-ended. “I try not to explain how I work” and “I can't tell you why I put these things together the way I do.” Many works remain in progress for many years allowing the artist to further flesh out his intentions. According to Saunders, “There is no such thing as a finished canvas. Alteration is the rule rather than the exception.”
Saunders constantly looks and listens to nature for ideas as well as materials. Found objects are often integral to his process and are often accumulated and used in a work to emphasize artistic process. He seeks to improvise the improvisational qualities of jazz. Many of his most significant heroes are musicians whom he regularly incorporates into his works through visual symbols of his own invention.
About the Global View in Saunders' Art:
Although Saunders is African-American, he finds his voice as an artist by drawing upon a plurality of experience and cultural references diverse sources ranging from Chinese banners to Japanese cereal boxes, to French newspaper articles. Politics and social are present, but are encoded in his works, although intended his meaning may be elusive.
Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison “reconstitutes reality for us and with us… We look at his pictures and (suddenly or slowly) being to imagine our own humanity – a kind of trembling tenderness touched with menace, exhilaration, relief and the outrageous bounty at our disposal.”
Saunders is known for inventing and borrowing images, ready-made as well as for working with found objects. Over 20 years ago, he began working on what has come to be called the black paintings . In addition to applying bold splashes of color and collaged pieces to the painted surface, he also incorporates delicate still-life drawings and chalk-like messages evoking urban graffiti.
Joseph Fitzpatrick Was Our Teacher , like many of Saunders' works, is autobiographical. It pays homage to the high school art teacher with whom both Saunders and Andy Warhol studied (at different times) when they attended the Carnegie Institute. Saunders acknowledges some of Warhol's iconic artworks by using images of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Coca-Cola Bottles, etc. The slogan “Bring the Troops Home” and the color photograph of the bombing of Baghdad address the Persian Gulf War of 1991, but may also speak to the divided opinions of the Vietnam War to as well The photograph captioned Tiananmen , surrounded by the Chinese characters (presented upside down), also addresses then recent events and other cultural experiences.
Symbols often used by Saunders -- hearts, x' s, crosses, marbles, the name Marie (his mother), the word Harlem, the number 8-- as well as his heroes (Charlie) Bird (Parker), (Martin Luther) King (Jr.) and Malcolm X also appear. Many images are torn from the pages of childhood experience: drawings by children, activity pages and, advertisements for games. The words PAX and Peace next to the finely drawn still life, contrast with the Persian Gulf and Tiananmen Square references, and reveal Saunders' wish to resume more beautiful drawing when the world becomes a calmer place. This complex assortment of symbols and vignettes is unified by being “mounted” like posters on a blackboard. For Saunders, the references to school, teaching and teachers, and the honoring of Joseph Fitzpatrick, manifests the artist's vision of the individual potential in us all.
Bonetti, David. “Saunders Brings the Truth Home.” San Francisco Examiner, May 17, 1991.
California Consultancy for Arts Education, Inc. Print Portfolio. Lesson Plan Packet for Raymond Saunders' Joseph Fitzpatrick Was Our Teacher.
Hamlin, Jesse. “Artist Finds Music in Cast-Off Objects,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 15, 1994.
Powell, Richard J. “The Art of Raymond Saunders: Colored,” Exhibition Essay. San Francisco: Stephen Wirtz Gallery, 1993.