During the Houghton Revisited exhibition, our Artist in Residence, Karl Foster, was based in the Education Room in the Houghton Hall Stable Block. Supported by a team of six volunteers, Karl ran 30 minute workshops for class groups to participate in before their visit to the exhibition.
These artist-led workshops were designed to provide a fun and engaging way to help prepare class groups to gain the most from their visit, supporting the development of visual literacy skills and developing confidence and curiosity in learners so that they may successfully engage with works of art.
About the Workshop
The purpose of the workshop was to give learners the chance to pose their own questions through a process of dialogue and drawing, and can be delivered on site or in the classroom ahead of a school visit.
For primary groups, ‘Kitchen’ by David Teniers was used for this process and for secondary groups, ‘Pope Innocent X’ by Diego Velazquez. However, the approach is completely flexible and can be applied to any of the paintings you look at with a class group in future.
An explanation of each workshop and the artist’s approach, along with a complete workshop plan can be downloaded here for teachers to deliver themselves ahead of a visit to the Houghton Revisited collection.
by David Teniers
To find out more about the artists' approach please click here.
My approach to creative learning is to facilitate an enquiry with the learner that begins with visual stimuli provided by artworks. My aim is to provide an introduction to a kind of artistic enquiry where the acquisition of fact and knowledge, the learning of traditional art skills, and research skills in the form of creative questioning, co-exist. The intention is to encourage a questioning approach that values the starting point of each individual as they begin to familiarise and make their way into an artwork. My hope is that learners can begin their own artistic enquiry on their own terms, at their own level, and through their own interests. The parameters and scope of the enquiry are anchored and linked to the artworks, but the learner is free to have ownership over the form and content relative to the time and materials provided. This approach is not intended to replace traditional learning, or avoid important factual information, it is meant to introduce complementary practices that an artist enquirer might use.
‘Our Best Questions’
One of the most important creative skills that an artist needs is the ability to tolerate ‘not knowing’ the outcome before learning and investigation begins. Negotiating healthy degrees of the unfamiliar and unexpected are essential factors in coping with change and are vital in the development of flexible and adaptable learners. To get the most from looking at great art similar skills are needed; artworks usually pose questions of the viewer and can seldom offer answers.
With this in mind it is important that learners working with the artworks follow a questions-led approach to learning rather than pursuing a set of answers that relate to a body of specific knowledge. Teachers might consider the process of engagement with the artworks, as a kind of ‘wondering out loud’ on behalf of the pupils – this is an important faculty in mature learning, and ‘wondering’ is a very basic premise behind the research of those working in Higher Education. We will not be expecting learners to come already possessing these kinds of skills, this is an opportunity to try a different approach, develop confidence in learning, and to broaden the perception of the range of skills needed to be an artist.
The short sessions will give an opportunity for learners to pose their own questions through dialogue and drawing, and to begin to link these strands of enquiry to facts and knowledge. Each learner will contribute an A2 sheet that will be combined to form a large-scale artist’s sketchbook containing questions, drawings, notes, observations and ideas about specific artworks. It is hoped that these sketchbooks will be a product of the learning process, but could also provide a platform for further development in the classroom, or other learning environment. Each page will represent an entry point into the chosen artwork from the perspective that is important for each learner.