Visual Arts Planning: Inspired by Artists

You can see all current topics in our visual arts planning series here.

If you are a member of AccessArt please use the form at the bottom of that page if you would like help to integrate visual arts around a particular theme or topic.

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.


Ages 6-12

Inspired by miro - collage and sculpture

Using 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.

painting inspired by 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

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

colour composition and ben nicholson

A project based on the work of Ben Nicholson, providing 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.

Drawing toys inspired by gwen john's

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.

inspired by the textiles 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.

Our river - inspired by Georges Seurat

Using Georges Seurat’s “Bathers at Asnières” (1884) as inspiration, a group of year 5 children created a layered drawing and ‘wax resist’ on a massive scale.

Where The Wild Things Are

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”.

Da Vinci - Drawings of inventions

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

Drawing with scissors

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.

drawing feathers

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.

heavy/light mobile - drawing and making

A fun project making mobiles based on the Calder-inspired workshops facilitated by Design & Technology teacher Laura Kohler. Children explore light and heavy mark making, collaging drawings onto foam board to create lightweight mobiles

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.

Pop-Up Puppets

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.

drawing with wire inspired by calder

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!

drawing with mass

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.

Japanese 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.

self portrait in acylic

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.


still life drawing in a cubist style

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.

colour mixing

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.

repetitive line drawing

Inspired by the practice of Henri Matisse, this workshop encourages students to challenge pre-conceived ideas of what a drawing should be or what finished drawings should look like

Drawing to Feed Making

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.

Gothic revival - exploring glass painting

Tamsim Wimhurst puts four craft techniques: pouncing, tessellating, gilding and painting on glass, into a historical context, by looking at the works of Victorian craft master Frederick Leach.

monoprinting inspired by goya

AccessArt leads a workshop for teachers based on the Fitzwilliam 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.

Screenprinted campaign posters

Inspired by sewn Suffragette banners, and by Victorian large-scale printed notices, a group of teenagers worked together to create large scale campiagn posters to support AccessArt’s campaign to highlight the importance of making.

exploring materials: clay and water

Antony Gormley’s installation ‘Field’ as well as other images of experimental claywork were used to inspire students to make a tactile investigation of the material, with no end result intended or prescribed.

Sculpture from Sculpture

A great resource for looking at 20th century sculpture and sculptural processes. Led by artist, Anne Louise Quinton, students make drawings of sculpture, and using a simple construction technique, they create their own.

Propaganda Art

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”.

Kinetic mobile

In this 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.

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.

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.


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.

journeys inspired by kandinsky

Artist Melissa Pierce Murray encourages teenagers to take inspiration from the work of Kandinsky, whose colourful paintings hovered between abstract compositions and graphic maps

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.

beginning with bones

In this session 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.

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.

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.

Tall Skinny

Using thin wire to make works with a strong presence, looking at two contemporary artists, Phyllida Barlow and Rebecca Warren.

how to use thermoplastic moulding

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.
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