Self-Taught Artist

Length: 6-9 blocks of 90 minutes

The Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission engaged two internationally-known artists, Thornton Dial and Lonnie Holley, to create site-specific public art works for the newly revitalized Edmondson Park (overseen by the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency). This project honors William Edmondson, a native of Davidson County and a self-taught sculptor. Edmondson was the first African American artist to have a solo exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art (1937). Like Edmondson, Thornton Dial and Lonnie Holley are self-taught artists.

In this Visual Arts Lesson, students will:

  • Students will be formatively assessed throughout the unit through whole group, small group and individual discussions.
  • Students will analyze the works of a self-taught artist and will choose one image to look at in-depth. They will utilize a guide on how to analyze art. Investigation notes and graphics will be submitted to the teacher for feedback and questions.
  • Students will create thumbnails for their art that will be a response to the work or life of their chosen artist (this can be a response to the artist’s body of work, a particular piece or the artist’s life and ideas.)
  • Students will recreate one piece from their artist on a small scale.
  • Students will create their own artwork that responds to their artist.
  • Students will present their own artwork, along with their research and re-created art of their chosen artist. 
  • Students will include in their presentation detailed information regarding the life, influences, and structure/functions of the artist’s work.

Standards & Objectives

Learning objectives: 

Content Standard:

  • 2.2 Critique organizational components(struct ures) and expressive qualities (functions) of a work of art.
  • 1.1 Demonstrate the use of knowledge and technical skills in at least one specific medium.

Clear Learning Targets:

  • I can use at least three different sources to research
  • I can use various information, text and other to prepare a presentation
  • I can analyze and synthesize research
  • I can use formal structure to analyze an art work
  • I can understand media technique to create art

Task Objectives (steps to reach mastery of clear learning targets):

  • Whole group discussion on how to proceed with research
  • Students look at a variety of sources and choose the ones that fit their needs
  • Students organize and synthesize their work in workbooks
  • Use analysis guide to look at artwork (their work and the work of and others)
  • Practice and experiment with various media
Essential and guiding questions: 

Questioning: Planning to Illuminate Student Thinking:
Assessing questions:

  • What does it mean to be self-taught?

Advancing questions:

  • Are there implications for a self-taught artist in a traditional school setting? Support your claim with evidence from your research.

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Differentiation suggestions: 

Anticipated Learning Challenges: 

  • Students may encounter challenges when coming up with ideas for their response art piece.

Scaffolding opportunities (to address learning challenges):

  • Sketchbook
  • Thumbnails
  • Teacher feedback
  • Analysis guide
  • Small group brainstorming

Helpful Hints

Materials and Resources:

  • Power Point
  • Access to technology for research
  • Handouts
  • Art making materials