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Illustrating Social Media | Arts & Activities
Aug 2018

Illustrating Social Media

Illustrating Social Media

We art teachers always strive to assign projects to enhance the visual experience and to direct students how to effectively use the elements and principles of design. While the lessons of the past and the works of the masters are certainly worthy of debate and discussion, the best way to have young adults invest in the art experience is by providing visual problems to solve in their vernacular.

As a “senior citizen,” I admit to some difficulty keeping up with what’s happening in popular culture for the teen set. But there’s no denying the impact of social media—especially in the last 11 years since the iPhone launched in 2007. A quick classroom survey shows that most students have smart phones and nearly all schools have WiFi.

While some teachers prefer to have students leave phones in their lockers before entering class, art teachers should embrace this technology. When properly monitored, it provides an opportunity for every student to search art and design websites, and access source files for drawing and painting.

I BEGAN This integrated arts assignment by asking the class to capture a visual inventory of their Internet tendencies, and record in their sketchbook the services and sites that they access on a regular basis. Students were encouraged to draw logos, emoticons, Instagram and Facebook posts, as well as recurring icons and buttons for use in a semi-biographical social-media composition.

Students were not to be concerned with rendering their pieces perfectly, but to do so in their own drawing style, giving a unique and special quality to their work.

When students felt they had enough samples to begin, they planned their compositions using 6.5″ x 10″ rectangles in their sketchbooks. They were advised to overlap, crop, adjust size and scale, and carefully place images, to create a center of interest to direct the viewer. When they were satisfied with their design, they were asked to transfer it to a larger but proportional 13″ x 20″ piece of white card stock. Drawing pens and colored pencils were employed for this assignment.

The class embraced this project with enthusiasm. Students took the time to peruse, interact and talk about each other’s solution to this problem during the class studio time. It was interesting to watch them comparing visual notes as to which goods, services, forums, sites and personalities they shared online.

This is an assignment most teachers can use successfully. And, it certainly confirms that for today’s youth, social media is an integral part of their day-to-day experience.  


Ben, grade 10.


Dana, grade 10.


Ariel, grade 10.


Middle and high school students will …
create compositions from icons/images gleaned from social media.
use size and scale to create a visual hierarchy of these images.
learn how to use colored pencils as an effective illustration tool.
use trial and error to arrive at a sketchbook solution to a composition problem.
create an effective composition to scale using strict design perimeters.
realize the significance of social media in any contemporary marketing strategy.

Drawing pens (we used the uni-ball® VISION ELITE)
Card stock
Colored pencils (we used Prismacolor®)
Internet access via smartphone or computer

Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Irv Osterer is Department Head – Fine Arts and Technology at Merivale High School in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


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