Inspiring young artists through popular music

When a Man Loves a Woman – Jody Watley

For the last several weeks I’ve been teaching an after school aspiring artists class for sophomores and juniors in high school. Several of the students expect defined structure with each lesson, not necessarily my style for this type of class that focuses on the process of making art. Earlier in the month I gave an assignment to bring reference materials of, “what inspires you as an artist”. Many of them panicked! They had so many questions running through their heads. “Does it have to be a particular book? How many references do I need?” “Can it be something new or does it have to be old?” I thought this would be a simple take home project to prepare them for the following project, giving them free reign to begin their own work in progress, but it turned out to be a lot more complicated than I anticipated.

When I was young, so many things inspired me as a budding painter, from comic books, to fashion, and especially music. This afternoon for class I’m going to use this song, “When a Man Loves a Woman”, by Jody Watley, to get the kids to think. I have two friends coming in to model, a man and woman, and after listening to the song and reading the lyrics, the students will pose our models outside at a nearby park and begin to sketch the scene they’ve created. Their sketches will be later translated into a fully realized painting on canvas the following week. Following that, the students will use a song, article, or book of their own choosing that will become their final work of art for the term. Hopefully this will get them to not only look at things through an artist’s eyes, but also listen with an artist’s ear, and mentally process as an artist does.

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