Talking Points: Artists as Collectors & Explorers

A collection of imagery and sources designed to explore the idea that artists can be collectors and explorers.

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We strongly recommend as part of good teaching practice that teachers watch all videos and visit all websites before sharing with a class. On occasion there may be elements of a video you would prefer not to show to your class and it is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure content is appropriate. Many thanks. 

ages 5-8
ages 9-11
ages 11-14


The following videos and weblinks explore the idea that artists can be collectors and explorers. 

By approaching the world with curiosity and openness, we can re-see the things around us and use them to inform and inspire our creative processes.

The following artists all venture out into the world, exploring familiar and new places and finding inspiration in the things around them. These artists then bring the things they “collect” back to their studios to make work. 

Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy is a British Sculptor who has become know for making art from things he finds in the landscape. Sometimes he creates the artwork in the landscape itself (he calls this “land art”), but in this video he shares how he takes ice and rocks from the landscape and lets it make a “drawing” as it thaws in his studio.

The video is suitable for children, however depending upon the abilities/experience of the children in your class you may wish to watch the video yourself, then turn the sound down as you play it to the children, using your own voice to help share what the artist is doing. 

TateShots: Andy Goldsworthy, Studio Visit

Questions to Ask Children

Andy Goldsworthy says: “Art has this amazing ability to show you what’s there.” 

What do you think he means by that? 

Do you like the artwork in the video more because you can see how it has been made?

How much control does Andy have over the artwork he makes? Does he want more control? 

Joseph Cornell

Joseph Cornell was an American visual artist and film-maker, one of the pioneers and most celebrated exponents of assemblage. He was a great collector.

His images are copyright protected but the Royal Academy has created some excellent videos about his work, and there are images on the site too. 

Take a look at the videos here. 

Hassan Hajjaj

Hassan Hajjaj was born in 1961 in Larache, Morocco, and now lives and works in London, UK. He is inspired by Moroccan culture and artefacts and his work crosses many disciplines including photography and design.


Questions to Ask Children

What kinds of things catch Hassan’s eye when he is looking around his environment?

Do you think there is a clear distinction between “art” and “life” in Hassan’s mind? 

Lorna Crane the Brush Maker

Lorna Crane is an abstract painter whose work is inspired by the Australian landscape. She makes her own artist’s brushes using diverse natural and man-made materials, many of them found at Pambula river mouth on the NSW far south coast.

Questions to Ask Children

How do you think Lorna decides which things to pick up and turn into brushes?

Do you think two brushes are ever the same?

Which part do you think Lorna likes best: the collecting, the making brushes, or the painting with her brushes?

What could you make brushes out of? What marks would they make? What challenges might you face?

Alice Fox

Alice Fox took on an old allotment and on the allotment were a number of sheds. Alice spends time discovering the past through the things she finds and creates small, carefully crafted artworks, inspired by what she finds and natural materials.

You can see more of Alice’s work here. 

A film about artist Alice Fox who works with found, gathered and grown materials all within the boundaries of her allotment.

Questions to Ask Children

Can you think of some words to describe the small pieces of art that Alice makes? What do they make you think of?

When she is making her work, how do you think Alice feels? 

Where do you think she gets her ideas about how to transform materials from?

Do you think she works quickly or slowly?

Nicole White

Nicola is a “Mudlarker” and artist, who uses the glass she finds on the beach to make her artworks.

Nicola White, Mudlarker and Artist

Trash Art Project

Trash Art Project collected from Brokenstraw Creek, USA

Questions to Ask Children

Do you think these students knew what they would make before they found the materials?

How do you think they decided what to make?

Do you think the project went right from the start, or can you imagine they had to keep rethinking challenges along the way?

What challenges do you think they faced?

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