I seem to have a certain fondness for contemporary artists with strong ties to classic artists. I find a particular attraction to the modern but familiar stylings, but I also think they make a great study for today’s kids. It shows students that art doesn’t have to be (in, perhaps their opinion) stuffy or the study of a bunch of dead guys, but rather that art is a vibrant and fun form of expression that is being practiced by some fairly cool individuals!
I have written before of my love for such contemporary artists like Romero Britto and Nick Georgiou and ways that they may be incorporated into the classroom, and here I want to discuss another of my new-found favorites, Adam Lister (and share a great art lesson I developed that had the kids very engaged and excited!).
I first ran across Adam and his work on Instagram a few years ago, and it just took a quick look around his online gallery before I was hooked (and commissioned a piece of my own)! Adam works out of New York but also travels for installation pieces all over the place–and his popularity has been rapidly growing right before my eyes (note to the wise: get a piece of his now while you still can afford it!). I love his reinterpretation of art classics with a digital but hand-painted style. (Not to mention how envious I am of his watercolor skills!)
Classic Art in a Contemporary Style: Adam Lister
Recently, an elementary school teacher contacted me, asking if I could help her develop an art project for her 4th graders that could be used for their upcoming art fair (since her school did not have its own art teacher). I immediately thought that Adam Lister and his fun, colorful, modern style would appeal to kids. So I jumped at the chance to help and devised a lesson plan (free below – keep reading).
I was right! Adam’s art and style immediately struck a chord with the kids as Lego characters and the graphics from the game Minecraft instantly came to their mind–this got their attention right away and raised their interest and anticipation.
[Note: I worked with a class of 4th graders without the experience of a regular art class, and it was a challenge for them. It still came out well and was appealing to them, but that said, I’d probably recommend this to slightly older kids, say from 6th-12th grades.]
Join my e-mail list below, and you can download this entire lesson plan and a slide show I use when teaching this lesson. I’ve also included slides of other famous masterpieces – all in one easy PDF file!
Students will learn about contemporary artist Adam Lister and compare his painting “Starry Night” to the world-famous masterpiece by artist Vincent Van Gogh. From what the students learn about this contemporary artist and his style, they will choose another art masterpiece and create a contemporary version of art in the style of Adam Lister.
- Slide show of Starry Night by Van Gogh & Adam Lister (available for free by joining my e-mail list).
- Artbooks or computers for students to research famous artworks
- Watercolor paper (size optional)
- Watercolor paints
- Brushes for watercolors
1. Show students the picture of “Starry Night” by Adam Lister.
2. Then ask your students questions about this artwork.
- Does this artwork remind you of anything?
- Does this artwork remind you of any famous artists? Or famous artworks?
- What medium do you think this artist used?
3. Show your students “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh.
4. Then ask your students to reflect on this artwork.
- What do you know about this painting?
- What do you know about this artist?
- What medium do you think this artist used?
5. After that, show your students the two artworks side by side.
6. Have students write about these two pieces of artwork in their sketchbooks or on a blank piece of paper. Ask questions such as…
- Which of the two pieces of artwork do you enjoy more? Why?
- What do you think about the artist Adam Lister creating his art to look much like Van Gogh?
- Do you think Van Gogh would like Adam Lister’s version of “Starry Night”? Why or why not?
- What do you think about Adam Lister’s style of making art?
7. Have students research some of their favorite artists and/or artworks. Then ask students to come up with 2-3 famous traditional artworks that they like. Have them work in small groups to decide which artwork they like the most and why. If you downloaded my freebie earlier in this post, then you’ll find that I’ve included a few handouts that I used of famous masterpieces. If you didn’t already sign up, you can do so HERE.
8. At this point, have students plan out sketches of how they could re-create one of the famous artworks they chose in the style of Adam Lister. Talk to them about “pixelating” the design and breaking it down into simple geometric shapes of colors.
9. Then, have students work from their sketches to create a contemporary piece of artwork in the style of Adam Lister. Using watercolor paper, students will begin by sketching their idea onto the paper. Then they can use watercolor paints to finish their work. Encourage students to create as many shades of color as possible with their watercolor paints to emulate Lister’s work.
10. Once students have completed their art and they were dry, we hung it up and had a formal critique. After that, have students guess which classic masterpiece was the inspiration for the new contemporary designs.
This lesson was first published in the January 2019 edition of Arts and Activities.
As always, thanks for making art with your kids!