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

Academic standards
Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.1
Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and...
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in...
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
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