Philosophy through Art Workshop at the Dragon School

Workshop with the Dragon School post exam group, April 23rd 2013

The theme of this workshop, in my series Philosophy through Art, was the question ‘What is an Artist?’

We started by asking the question ‘What is Philosophy?’ ‘It’s about asking questions to which there aren’t really any answers….’ was one immediate response; then, in answer to ‘What is an artist?’ there were several interesting comments, which included observations on music and poetry. We talked about how all the arts are in a tradition, new generations either developing or reacting against their predecessors, and whether or not art is a language.

We then looked at a set of images of animals in art from 30,000 years BC to the present day, and the children put them in order, working in groups. All kinds of interesting topics emerged as we did this – do the arts get better – is a Stubbs horse ‘better’ than one from Lascaux? How has the artist used the material? What about the patron (if any) as opposed to having a free hand? Where does self expression come in?

Then we sat very still, relaxing completely, and everybody looked at one picture. They made a copy of it in pencil. Then a copy from memory, then one with eyes shut and lastly one with eyes shut and using the ‘other’ hand. This was a fascinating experiment in visual thinking, and it was interesting that almost everyone preferred their last drawing.

These youngsters were a treat to work with, very bright and enthusiastic.

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The “Philosophy in Art” workshop was both highly informative and revealing. It was delivered in a very calm but authoritative manner, where the children felt empowered to offer their ideas and thoughts on a range of concepts around the history of art and the evaluation of artworks. The practical element was also excellent and really made the pupils consider their own concepts and perceptions about their own and other people’s art.

Luke Osmond, Head of Art, DragonSchool


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