Keith Haring Homeschool Art Project

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

Day 2 of homeschooling. I am using Bridgeway Academy to keep records of the work the boys do so they may have transferable transcripts if they ever go back to school. Since some form of art education is required for homeschooling, I wanted to make sure whatever we worked on could be assessed in some way for record-keeping. This is my first time going through the process, but I have decided on 4 major projects for the year with a grading rubric (to be determined, will share later).

Other than academics, art has always been something very important to me. I come from a family of artists. In school, my notebooks were typically filled with more doodles than notes. I majored in Fine Arts when I went to St. Lawrence University and graduated with Honors. After college I even taught an art class for adults. Art is life. I want to share my passion for it with my kids.

It has been awhile since I have attended an art history class, taught a class, and I have never taught children before. So I was a little nervous about our lesson. I think it went pretty well, so I thought I would share for anyone looking for an art history/homeschooling art project. My kids are in elementary (primary) school so I tried to simplify things as much as possible. Still I think some things went over their heads. I will walk through the lesson, state what I did, and what I would have done differently.

I chose this project because I want our projects to highlight different cultures that may not often be discussed in schools. I am a born and bred New Yorker, so I wanted to highlight some of my own culture. Growing up in the 90's, I saw graffiti everywhere. It was a defining trait of what it meant to be from NYC.

There were so many talented artists that contributed to the history of NYC Street Art, but I decided on Keith Haring for a few reasons. First, his style is easy for elementary school children to emulate. Second, he has several landmarks throughout NYC (some my children already know and recognize) so field trips to see his work are a possibility. Third, nostalgia. I remember seeing Haring everywhere as a kid. I really wanted to share his fun, yet thought-provoking, work with my kids. I think it is important that they understand there is true beauty--and even power--in simplicity.

We started with the above video to introduce the boys to street art. Even though the video is only 4 minutes, the speaker is quite fast, so I'm not sure they fully absorbed the information. Regardless, I think the video was beneficial.

Afterwards we had a discussion about graffiti as art versus graffiti as vandalism. I could see the boys getting a bit restless though, so it didn't last too long.

Next we listened to this book about Keith Haring. I had lined up this additional video on him, but I realized this book was sufficient for the level they're at for now. So after listening to the book we talked about him a bit. Blaze actually recognized an art piece as one he had seen while visiting my mom in NYC.

Now was time to introduce the art project.

Keith Haring inspired drawing of figures lifting each other up.
My Keith Haring inspired work.
Now it is time for us to make our own Keith Haring inspired drawings!
Keith used simple figures, bold lines, and vibrant colors to convey messages that were important to him.
So first, I would like you to think of a message that is important to you.
Here is the drawing I made. My message is about the importance of helping others and lifting each other up.
Some of the figures are bigger than the others because some people have more power and privilege than others. Instead of stepping on the figures with less power, my figures are lifting them up so they may all stand equally tall.
What is your message?
In your sketchbook or journal please answer these questions. You may use words or drawings.
What message would you like your art to share?
What are some symbols, images, and colors you could use to share your message?

I quickly realized the project was a bit too complicated for them and would have been better suited for older kids. So I altered it, permitting to draw any image they liked that emulated Keith Haring's style (no message needed!). We looked through many images of Keith Haring's work and then the boys doodled some images of their own.

Juju and Blaze draw with scattered reference images of Keith Haring's work between them.
Juju & Blaze working on their sketches.

For our first lesson we just made sketches, with the intent of putting the designs on canvas for the next class.

Now that you have decided on your message and have an idea of the imagery you would like to use, it is time to sketch out your image. Once you have it down on paper, get your canvas and draw your image lightly in pencil.

In our second lesson, we were ready to start putting our designs on canvas. This is where I realized I made another mistake. The boys became frustrated with drawing their design over on the canvas. My 4th grader was annoyed at first, but was able to copy his design over after a few minutes of frustration. My 2nd grader became very upset that he could not redraw his original design exactly as he initially drew it. I'm not sure if this a developmental roadblock or if it is because he is a very particular child.

Either way, you know your child best. If it is not super important for you to teach them about making drafts, it may be best to skip that step and draw your image directly on what you intend to paint.

Start by painting your background colors.
Then paint your figure colors. Make sure your color is flat and even.
Then paint bold black lines to form your figures and details.
Take your time! There is no reason to rush.

Juju painting brightly colored dancing figures.
Juju decided not to paint a background and went straight to painting his figures.

After the boys were done with their paintings they had an oral presentation. Before I recorded them I told them the questions I was going to ask so they could think about their answers first. Then I asked them the questions below as well as why they chose the colors they used and what they wanted to name their piece. I recorded it on my phone, each presentation was about 2 - 3 minutes and will be what I use to assess them and give them a grade.

Once you are done with your project you will need to represent an oral report that discusses the following:
Tell us a bit about Keith Haring
Tell us about your painting
What is your message?
What imagery did you decide to use?
How do you feel about your finished piece and why?

Three paintings inspired by Keith Haring hanging on the wall.
Our Keith Haring inspired pieces.