I begin with the "idea" or concept, and try to fill in the rest. Usually it starts by seeing something I think is really cool or something I think will grab my students' attention.
There must be a product. Because art can be interpreted in many ways, the product might not be enduring. If I do an Andy Goldsworthy-style outdoor project with leaves, a photo can be taken to document the work, but some products may be temporary.
For the most part though the kids make something, it's evaluated, it's displayed, and then they take it home.
For me the product is just a part of the lesson. We often say "the process is more important than the product," and I agree. For me projects need to also include the following:
Connection(s) to the student's point of view or experience (Choice)
Connection(s) to core content
Later in the year this becomes the basis for a full lesson. They seek out a famous quote and then create an illustration that shows how they interpret it. On the back of their work or separate sheet of paper, they find more information about the author. (Often I require five facts.) On their grading rubric, students indicate what art elements and principles they have chosen to focus on.
By this point in the year my students have used a wide variety of media and I expect them to show me their use of art elements and principles in their work. The above student noted that they wanted to use emphasis to highlight the word "UNIVERSE." They made the word slightly larger and put the center of the swirl behind that word in a warm color. They said they also balanced the work and incorporated contrast to make the center look even more bright.
We first have to agree, that to a large degree, fine art should be expressive. I am not talking about an exploration of craft in this example. Let's leave that for another discussion. (Weaving, Origami, etc.) One can argue the merits of certain examples of contemporary art that push the limits of meaningful expression, but for the most part, for the bulk of what we do, personal expression is key to students "buying in" to the process, internalizing information, and learning beyond a superficial level. This is also where the deeper problem solving happens, and where art education shines in it's benefits. HOW do I incorporate/translate my feelings, ideas, and thoughts into my artwork? Working through this process requires students to solve visual problems at the deepest levels. For more ways to assure individuality, please visit THIS POST.
In this project there were several layers of choice. They were allowed to use any media I had taught them up to this point. Students also had to seek out their own quote with a day in our computer lab. Sometimes I ask that it be art related, but I have also allowed students to find a quote by a famous person they admire, or on a topic they find interesting. With younger students having a large list of quotes may be helpful, or letting them pick from a hat and trading with their peers if they like.
When we grid, measure, and draw—we use geometry. When we make sculptures—we use engineering. When we mix colors—we reveal information about physics. When we create illustrations for stories—we learn about literature. When we review the styles of art from da Vinci to Banksy—we teach history. When we write about art—we strengthen these skills. When we create works of art, we solve complex visual problems in creative ways. This can be done in every grade from kinder to high school. More about that HERE.
For this project we have tied directly to history, literature, and writing as they make an interpretation of their quote in both writing and illustration. They have also had to use technology to briefly research the author of their quote. Sometimes we spend a day in the computer lab, other time I have allowed them to use their personal electronic devices. We also explore the idea that illustrating is a potential career choice for artists.
These four parts (Idea, Art Concepts, Personal Connections, and Core Content) come together to make the choice based projects you see some art quote samples below.