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The Creative Corner: "Art Speaks!"

man playing trumpet
Photo: VPM

Home Learning  |  The Creative Corner

Episode 8: Visual and performing artists often use their creativity to raise their voices and share lessons, stories, and important ideas with the world. On this episode of The Creative Corner, two artists from Richmond, Virginia help us explore how art sparks crucial conversations. Public artist Hamilton Glass shares how (and why) he gathered a group of artists to paint murals with a message all across the city after some challenging current events, and musician Victor Haskins talks about storytelling as human nature — and why sound and performance tell stories so well. Then you’re invited to share your own voice through a poster project! 

The Creative Corner is an Art for the Journey production, presented by VPM and brought to you by Earthsong.  This series airs on VPM Plus.

Virginia Standards of Learning Connections (Grades 4-6):

Arts (Visual): 4/5.1, 4/5/6.3, 4.16, 4.20, 5.15, 5.24, 6.11, 6.13, 6.16

  • Arts (Music): 4.9, 4.15, 5.7, 5.10, 5.17, EI.18, EI.20
  • Arts (Theatre): 6.5, 6.6, 6.22
  • English: 4/5/6.1, 4/5/5.3, 4/5/6.4
  • Science: 4.4, 4.5, 4.9, 5.3, 5.7, 6.9
  • History & Social Science: VUS.1

poster art

Art Project Guide: Advocacy Poster
Posters are a great way to raise your voice and spread a message through visual art, because they’re large, eye-catching, and simple to reproduce (make copies) and display in public. For those reasons, posters and prints have been a popular medium among both artists and activists for ages, and have been used to communicate ideas, represent social movements, and call for action on a large scale.

So, as you design a poster to advocate (support or share) an idea, your goal is to inform and inspire the people who see it. You’ll want your design to be exciting and interesting, so it grabs people’s attention as they walk past it; and more than that, you want it to make them think.

You can use any medium (material or process) you want to make your poster. Some options include: drawing, sketching, painting, collage (gluing or attaching lots of different materials together to create one unified work of art), photo editing, digital drawing, digital collage, or printmaking (applying ink or paint to an object or stamp and then pressing that object onto paper to make marks and pictures). The steps required to create your poster will vary depending on which medium you choose and those listed here represent a preliminary (beginning) design process that’s useful no matter what materials you’re using, and summarize how Lauren made her “Save the Bees” poster during the episode.

Supplies Needed:

  • A large piece of paper or poster-board
  • Drawing or painting supplies or a digital drawing/design app
  • A message to share with the world

Step-by-Step Instructions:

After watching the interview with public artist Hamilton Glass from episode 8 of The Creative Corner, spend some time thinking about an idea or a cause that’s important to you. Is there a message you would like to share with the world? Something you want more people to be aware of and care about? Consider that topic:

  • Why is it important to you?
  • Is it an issue that directly affects your life, or the lives of others?
  • Does it have an impact on the planet or its ecosystems?
  • What do you wish people knew about the topic? (Be specific if you can!)
  • If you were having a conversation with someone about it, what would you want to share with them? (Keep in mind that being an advocate means supporting an idea and helping people learn about it, not telling others that their own ideas are wrong.)

1. Now, reflect on your chosen topic and the message you want to share. Brainstorm some ideas about how you might represent this issue visually. You want people to look at your poster and immediately understand what it’s about, so what are the clearest symbols (pictures with meanings) or visual clues you can include to help them get it?

2. Before you begin working on your poster, use a piece of paper to make sketches (loose or simple drawings) of how your it might look, and try a few different options. (Read the Tips section for more on why this is helpful.) Remember that you’re advocating (speaking up) for an important idea, so don’t be afraid to make your images and text extra-big, bold, or bright for this art project!

3. Once you have a design you like, start creating your poster with your chosen medium. Use your practice sketches to create your composition (the way the parts of a picture are arranged).

4. To make a mixed-media poster like the one in the episode, start by tracing over your sketch lightly with oil pastels. Use the pastels to fill in the shape you’re drawing (in Lauren’s case, it’s a face). You can color loosely and lightly with a pastel crayon, and then use a finger or two to softly rub and blend the color across the paper.

5. If you want to create the illusion of depth, or make something look 3-dimensional (3D), imagine that there is a bright light shining from one edge (or one corner) of your paper. Use lighter colors to create highlights on the side of your shape that’s closest to the imaginary light source — as if the light is shining brightly on that side of the shape. Use darker colors (or a darker shade of the same color) to add shadows to the side of the shape that’s far away from the imaginary light source. When using oil pastels, you can blend these highlights and shadows with your fingers so they look more natural.

6. Acrylic paints work well to paint around or layer on top of oil pastels, so you can use them to add the next level of detail to your poster. Note that the oil in the pastels will resist watercolor paints, so while you can use watercolors to add a background or details around your drawn design, you won’t be able to layer them on top.

7. Continue adding elements (such as patterns, symbols, text, additional characters, or attention-grabbing shapes) to your poster until your design is complete. If you want to, you can add a real 3D element (like cut flowers) to your poster, and then take a photograph in order to share it.

8. Once your poster is finished and dry (if you used paint), it’s time to use it to spread your message! Hang the poster (or photocopies / prints of it) somewhere where it will be seen by others. Take pride in using your art and your ideas to start a conversation!

Tips:

  • Create your poster design using a medium that makes you feel comfortable and confident. As Hamilton says in our interview, it’s important to believe in yourself and in the message you’re trying to communicate with your artwork. If you use a medium or process that makes you feel good, you’ll be well on your way to believing in the power of your work.
  • It can be helpful to include a character in a work of art that’s made to compel, or convince, the viewer. Consider featuring a person, animal, or personified object in your design, rather than using words alone. This gives viewers something to relate to and helps them to feel like your poster is talking to them.
  • Enjoy the creative process, and don’t get discouraged if your design doesn’t turn out exactly the way you imagined it. Adapting and accepting changes in your artwork is an important part of being an artist and is something that all of us experience!
  • When you’re sketching your poster design, experiment with a few different iterations (versions) before you make a final decision about what the poster should look like. What happens if you move an element of your design from the bottom of the page to the top? Is it more powerful if you make your poster’s main character or message bigger? Try out different styles of writing (all-caps, bubble letters, cursive script) and see which one best suits your message. (And remember, it’s okay to make changes in your design even as you’re making your finished poster!)