Activity 1

Create With Your Senses

Photo Credit: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

Ages 8+

Artists draw upon all kinds of things for inspiration to make art. Inspiration can come from something you see, hear, smell, touch or taste. We are all always using our five senses to understand and interpret our world. Mindful of this, Jock Macdonald taught his students using non-traditional methods aimed at helping them use their senses to find inspiration for their work.

Lesson Objective

Expand visual vocabulary by encouraging students to draw while being inspired by music or sounds.


  • Pencil
  • Black fineliner
  • Coloured pencils
  • Chalk
  • Oil pastels
  • Markers
  • Watercolour paint
  • Watercolour paper
  • Paintbrush


Initial Drawing
Close Your Eyes
Estimated Time

10 Minutes

Step 1

Invite students to close their eyes and make an abstract drawing while listening to songs or sounds. For this initial drawing students should use a single medium like pencil or pen on paper. Jock Macdonald liked to use sounds related to nature in his classroom.

Step 2

As students are working, ask stimulating questions to help guide their discovery:

  • How does this make you feel?
  • What colours does it make you imagine?
  • How does your hand want to move as you listen to the music or sounds?

Step 3

Once the 10 minutes are up, engage in a discussion and invite students to answer, the stimulating questions you posed.

Mixed Media Artwork
Open Your Eyes
Estimated Time

20 – 30 Minutes

Step 4

Continuing to listen to the songs or sounds, invite students to build upon their initial drawing (with their eyes open this time), using mixed media.

Step 5

Students can add colour, line and more detail.

Step 6

Encourage them to look for something that references reality within their abstract work and build upon it – like hidden creatures, animals, objects etc.