Visual Arts Planning: Inspired by Artists

If you are a member of AccessArt please use this form if you would like to suggest a visual arts planning topic that you would like help with. You can see all of the current topics in our visual arts planning series here.

These resources offer an exciting mix of activities, many of which can be adapted for all ages. The sessions introduce students to the work of both historical and contemporary artists and cover a range of working practices including sculpture, drawing, painting and textiles.

Many of the workshops encourage children to develop their creative skills by learning through making and we hope that they will be inspired by the artists’ thoughts and processes and feel enabled to take their work in their own direction.

Please feel free to add links to other resources, or share your experiences and ideas, via the comments box below.

Ages 6-12

Drawing Toys Inspired by Gwen John's Cats!

A session focussing on the beautiful drawings of Gwen John. Children use their own toys to explore the process of drawing, combining line and wash with other media to develop drawings that show an understanding of volume, weight and texture. Read More

Inspired by Miro - Collage, Automatic Drawing and Sculpture

An exciting activity that uses the work of Joan Miro to explore colour, shape and composition. Children use collage and mark making to create colourful and lively images. Ideas are developed further through sculpture, using cardboard and wire to build 3D structures based on their collages. Read More

Painting on Plaster, Inspired by Vincent Van Gogh

Inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sprig of Flowering Almond in a Glass”, this resource shares a method for painting on plaster using oil pastel, linseed oil and graphite. (Card could be used as an alternative to plaster). It includes drawing exercises and learning to use a viewfinder to facilitate an open-ended exploration of painting. Read More

Colour Composition and Ben Nicholson

A project based on the work of Ben Nicholson and suitable for all ages from 7 years upwards. It provides an accessible and flexible way to help children understand how the colour of a shape can change its ‘visual weight’ and how the size of a shape can change the feel of the composition. Read More

Quentin Blake's Drawings as Inspiration!

Taking Quentin Blake’s drawings as a starting point for three simple exercises, children draw from life and explore how they might use exaggeration as a tool to help them convey the intention of their drawing. During the session, the children are encouraged to take risks and try new ways of working. Read More

Watercolour Washes Inspired by the Tapestries of Henry Moore

Using textiles designed by Henry Moore as inspiration, this workshop introduces children to watercolour washes as a fluid mark making material. Through simple exercises, they explore themes of still life, restricted palettes, mixed media and tonal washes. Read More

Our River – Year Five Pupils Build a Communal Drawing in Four Steps

An AccessArt-led workshop session for a Year 5 class at Ridgefield Primary School, Cambridge as part of their Art Week. Using Georges Seurat’s “Bathers at Asnières” (1884) as inspiration, the children created a layered drawing and ‘wax resist’ on a massive scale – the pupils loved it! Read More

Drawing Water!

Studies of water by Leonardo Da Vinci, and contemporary drawings by Rosie Leventon are used as reference material in a drawing activity to capture the patterns made by poured water. Children explore layering marks using a pencil and an eraser and then swap to water-soluble graphite for bolder mark making. Read More

Drawings of Inventions Inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci

An exciting resource based on Da Vinci’s notebook drawings. Simple household objects are used to inspire inventions, which are recorded on a selection of papers through drawing, mono printing with carbon paper and collage. This activity enables children to explore ‘thinking through drawing’, making connections between hand, eye, hand and brain. Read More

Drawings with Mass: Potatoes, Playmobil and Henry Moore

A fun session using the drawings of the sculptor Henry Moore to explore drawings with mass and volume. Potates and pebbles are drawn using wax resist, ink and graphite to capture the weight of the objects.The second challenge is to make tiny playmobil figures monumental through drawing. Read More

Drawing Feathers: Perfect for Mark Making

A drawing of a feather by John Ruskin inspired this activity suitable for ages 7 upwards. Children explore mixed media drawings using a combination of materials, including oil pastels, graphite and charcoal, creating a variety of marks to interpret the texture and structure of feathers. Read More

Drawing with Wire like Calder and Backwards Forwards Sketching

An exciting resource based on the work of Alexander Calder. Children make drawings of their own toys, which are then interpreted in fine wire – an introduction to the tricky business of drawing in space! Read More

Heavy/Light Mobile - Drawing and Making

A fun project making mobiles based on the Calder-inspired workshops facilitated by Design & Techology teacher Laura Kohler (see below). Children explore light and heavy mark making, collaging drawings onto foam board to create lightweight mobiles. This activity is a great way to combine the experience of drawing and making. Read More

Drypoint Etching

Artist Maureen Crosby shares a workshop in which children made self-portraits using a drypoint printing technique and exhibited them together to create a group portrait of the class. Use Rembrandt’s collection of small, etched self-portraits to inspire your own printed portraits. Read More

Self Portrait in Acrylic

This post shares the process of 11 year old girl as she paints an acrylic self-portrait for a school project inspired by Renaissance art. Read More

Pop-Up Puppets Inspired by a Historical Painting

Jan Miller leads a 3D project which developed design and making skills over five sessions.” After studying a painting in the National Gallery “Penelope with the Suitors,” (1509 by Pintoricchio), children designed puppets that would help young visitors to the gallery engage and interact with the image and the narrative. The pupils were given the challenge to make the most attractive suitor puppet to impress Penelope.” Read More

Making Papier-Mache Marionette Puppets Inspired by Characters in a Historical Painting

Jan Miller facilitates a session suitable for older KS 1 children and KS 2 children. “Children wanted to tell the story illustrated in a historical painting to younger children. They chose Penelope with the Suitors 1509 by Pintoricchio, (displayed in the National Gallery, London). They investigated historical puppets and dolls and thought marionettes would allow most animated movement. They wanted to be ambitious with colour and add decorative textiles. Some made Penelope and some made suitors…” Read More

Drawing with Scissors: Screen Printing Workshop in 3 Stages, Inspired by Matisse

Based around an exploration of an historic painting (Penelope with the Suitors by Pintoriccho), Jan Miller presents three activities which develop drawing, collage and printing skills, culminating in a modern interpretation of an old master and the creation of a collaborative artwork. Read More

Japan – Ceramics Inspire Painting and Painting Inspires Ceramics

Jan Miller shares a class project that uses the work of contemporary Japanese ceramicist Usaka Koji to inspire vibrant paintings in a variety of materials. The children then used their own art to design ceramic vessels. This project is suitable for older KS 1 children and KS 2 children. Read More

Collection of Resources: Drawing and Making Inspired by “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak

Paula Briggs of AccessArt has created a series of resources with themes of narrative, landscape and character, which share drawing and making sessions inspired by Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are”. Read More


Still Life Drawing in a Cubist Style Using Carbon Paper

This activity is a great way to explore Cubist ideas of drawing time and space or ‘temporal frames’, using carbon paper as a drawing material. Students can seek inspiration for their drawings through the Cubist still life studies of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Read More

Colour Mixing with Cyan, Magenta and Yellow

A colour mixing project inspired by the paintings of Winnifred Nicholson. Teenagers are encouraged to experiment and respond intuitively to the challenge of mixing colours, to create paintings in gouache of fresh spring flowers. Read More

Inspired by Henri Matisse - Repetitive Life Drawing Exercise

This workshop encourages students to challenge pre-conceived ideas of what a drawing should be or what finished drawings should look like. By making drawings of each other they can experiment with line and expression, inspired by the working practice of Henri Marisse, who often drew an object or life pose many times in succession. Read More

Drawing and Making: Drawing to Feed Making - Making to Feed Drawing

Sketchbooks and drawing can be used as tools to develop creative projects, whether making sculpture, designing or painting. This exercise helps develop skills to create ‘visual notes’ and to let the drawing process feed the making process and vice versa. Three seascapes by J.M.W. Turner were used to provide a starting point for visual exploration. Read More

Making Large Scale, Screenprinted, Collaged, Co-Created Campaign Posters!

Inspired by sewn Suffragette banners, and by Victorian large-scale printed notices, members of Paula Briggs’ Friday Club worked together to create large scale campiagn posters to support AccessArt’s campaign to highlight the importance of making. They explored how far they could push screenprinting using a small A3 screen, by combining the screenprinting with collage and a hands-on exploration of graphics to create large posters. Read More

Gothic Revival: craft Techniques for the Classroom Inspired by the Leach Firm of Cambridge

Tamsin Wimhurst puts four craft techniques: pouncing, tessellation, gilding and painting on glass into a historical context by looking at the works of Victorian craft master Frederick Leach. AccessArt has worked with teenagers and children to adapt some of these skills and techniques into four exciting and creative resources for the classroom. Read More

Kinetic Mobile Sculpture Workshop with Laura Kohler

Laura Kohler teaches her students the importance and relevance of design and function in everyday objects. She instils in them the confidence to use their hands to invent, build and make both functional and aesthetic creations. In this exciting workshop, students make kinetic wire sculptures based on the work of Alexander Calder, learning through making to get to grips with using tools, processes & thinking in 3D. Read More

Gathering Marks and Tearing Paper to Appreciate Prints by Goya, Turner and Cornelius at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

In a session that could be adapted for teenagers, AccessArt encourages teachers to study the marks, rhythms and lines in prints from the Museum’s collection and then to create collages with torn paper to explore shape and composition. The teachers used carbon paper to draw over their collaged compositions and make a final response to their chosen prints.Read More

Monoprinting Inspired by Goya, Turner and Cornelius in the Education Room at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

AccessArt leads a workshop for teachers based on the Museum’s print collection, in which teachers explore mono printing and expressive mark making on a large scale. This workshop could be easily adapted for teenagers. Read More

How to use Simple Thermoplastic Moulding Techniques

Following on from Laura Kohler’s Kinetic Mobile Workshop, this second project demonstrates how to use very simple thermoplastic moulding techniques to create components for brightly coloured, kinetic mobiles. Laura introduces a basic industrial process using coloured glue pellets, hot glue guns, aluminium strips and moulds to cast plastic shapes.Read More

Exploring Materials: Clay and Water

Teenagers have an opportunity to play with clay in a fun session that encourages them to make a tactile investigation of the material, with no end result intended or prescribed. Antony Gormley’s installation ‘Field’ as well as other images of experimental claywork were used to inspire students.Read More

Shepard Fairey, Propaganda Art, Screen Printing & Teenagers! Collection Page

This collection of resources share 3 sessions in which teenagers aged 12+ explored the art of Shepard Fairey and went on to make their own screen printed “messages to the world”. The resources are suitable for all ages KS 3 and 4, both in the classroom, after school club, and workshop settings in galleries and arts organisations. Read More

Sculpture from Sculpture

Led by artist, Anne Louise Quinton, students at Dixons City Academy make drawings of sculpture and using a simple construction technique, a single material and meeting the challenges of height and balance they create their own sculptures. This is a great resource for looking at 20th century sculpture and sculptural processes.[themify_button style="xlarge block" link="" color="#78608e" text="#ffffff"]Read More[/themify_button]
Led by artist, Anne Louise Quinton, students at Dixons City Academy make drawings of sculpture and using a simple construction technique, a single material and meeting the challenges of height and balance they create their own sculptures. This is a great resource for looking at 20th century sculpture and sculptural processes.Read More

Beginning with Bones

In this session (the first in a series based on the human form) by artist Melissa Pierce Murray, teenagers make observational drawings of a 1/4 life size model of a skeleton to understand the structure of the human body and look at work by Alberto Giacometti and Henri Matisse. Read More

Making Monotypes Inspired by Degas

This resource shares how French artist, Edgar Degas (1834-1917), made his ‘inky drawings,’ or monotypes, and how the process of mono-printing can be further explored in the classroom. This resource was created in collaboration with AccessArt and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.Read More

For Remembrance Day

Anne-Louise Quinton creates a project for her Year 9 pupils to commemorate Remembrance Day. The teenagers worked collaboratively to create a collaged frieze of paper soldiers in response to an artwork by John Singer Sargent and a war poem by Wilfred Owen. Read More

All That Glitters...

Jan Miller shares a project based on the work of contemporary artist Andrew Logan. Pupils have fun playing with materials that glitter and sparkle, developing their design and making skills to produce personalised brooches, decorative images of celebrities and gorgeous treasure glitter boards. Finally, they explore portrait drawing, creating a sparkly ‘selfie’! Read More


Artist Melissa Pierce Murray encourages teenagers to take inspiration from the work of Kandinsky, whose colourful paintings hovered between abstract compositions and graphic maps: “Rather than to drawing what places look like or what we’ve done, we thought of how to capture the tone, texture and feel of a place or a movement. The journey could be physical, going from one environment to another, or it could be more of an emotional or imagined journey or process…” Read More

How to Make Beautiful, Liquid Drawings Inspired by Degas

This resource explores drawings by French artist, Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and how they might inspire drawing in the classroom. This resource was created in collaboration with AccessArt and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Read More

Making Sculpture Inspired by Degas

This resource explores sculptures by French artist Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and shows how sculptural processes can be facilitated in a classroom setting. This resource was created in collaboration with AccessArt and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Read More


A resource contributed by artist Melissa Pierce Murray. ‘Graffiti can be vandalism: ugly and destructive. It can also be highly artistic, politically astute and officially solicited. In this class we took inspiration from the motivations and methods of Graffiti artists…’Read More

Tall Skinny

Artist Melissa Pierce Murray works with teenagers aged 12 to 16 from AccessArt’s Experimental Drawing Class. ‘With this class we used thin wire to make works with a strong presence. We began by looking at examples of works by two contemporary women artists, Phyllida Barlow and Rebecca Warren. In their work, a hint of struggle arises from the tension between the heavy, inert qualities of the materials and the artist’s vision to animate or occupy space…’ Read More
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