Using Art to Stimulate Creative Writing

The art of creative writing is an important component of every child’s education. If the adage is true that a picture is indeed worth one thousand words, then it would seem only natural that the use of visual art objects in the classroom would serve to stimulate students’ writing abilities.

The role of art in society, including literature, is to engage the viewer in some way, as well as to evoke a response. Using a work of art as a prompt for creative writing gets students directly involved in the narrative of the work and helps them to look at it on a deeper level. Visual art can not only fuel students’ imaginations for storytelling, it helps to open up an entire new world of communication through verbal imagery.

What better way to engage a child in a painting, sculpture, or other piece of art than to have him or her give it a new narrative? Using art to stimulate creative writing is an excellent opportunity to help students expand their vocabularies of descriptive words and discover alternate ways of expressing ideas.

Some works of art are better than others for stimulating students’ creative writing. Realism is often more engaging that abstract art, as figures, landscapes, architecture, and functional objects are easily recognizable and students can relate them to their own world without the need for explanation of meaning.

When using art to stimulate writing in the classroom, a good place to begin is to show students one or more images of narrative art works and then ask them to answer one the following questions: What do you see? How does it make you feel? What is happening?

Provide students with a list of descriptive words specific to visual art and discuss with them how pictures tell stories. Besides looking at pictures, a trip to the local museum, or even a class visit from a local artist, are both good ways to directly engage students in art and inspire storytelling.

Many museums have lesson plans on their web site for specific works of art in the permanent collection that teachers can use in the classroom to help with creative writing time. Structuring classroom writing around works that students can actually visit in person is the best way to engage them in the exercise.

If a museum visit is not an option, there are a number of academic lesson plans readily available on the web for addressing the narrative in art, as well as a number of books by and about artists for student readers.

Additional resources

List of descriptive words for art

Dictionary of descriptive art words

What’s the story Gr 3 lesson plan

Art lesson plans from the Getty Museum

Art lesson plans from the Philadelphia Museum