Dreams and Nightmares: A Choice Based Project


Dreams and Nightmares


Students will create an original work of art that represents a personal dream or nightmare using the following activities: Thematic Exploration, Idea Generation, Solution Finding, Making, Reflection and Self Assessment

Work must be:
original and thematic
show the illusion of depth (previously taught)
show an understanding of value (previously taught)
include one or more of the following media; graphite, charcoal, colored pencil or pen and ink (previously taught)

National Core Visual Arts Standards
Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Anchor Standard 2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
Anchor Standard 3: Refine and complete artistic work.
Anchor Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work
Anchor Standard 8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

Anchor Standard 9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work
Anchor Standard 10: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.
Anchor Standard 11: Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding

This Workshop Session was tagged in Visual Arts

Overview and Context

Dreams and Nightmares: A Choice Based Drawing Unit


High School Level Drawing Unit

Average Class Size: 34

90 minutes

One to One IPad technology

Students have had previous learning experiences in value, depth and observation

Process and Protocols

Thematic Exploration

  1. Students are introduced to the theme Dreams and Nightmares through teacher guidance.
  2. Students are then asked to explore the concept through Art History and Thematic Exploration of artists and movements. Guided links are provided with articles, information, videos and images. Students will have 30 minutes to explore and discuss what they see, followed by a teacher explanation to fill in the missing gaps.
  3. Students are asked to create a group slideshow using the following prompt: Find an image that you think illustrates the theme and concept; include the name of the artist.  Show the slide show to the group and leave open for discussion or comment. Students will write down at least 3 different artists or concepts they appreciate for later reference.
  4. Students will then be encouraged to think as a group of other ways to explore this concept through different media and subjects, such as movies, literature, science, psychology, spirituality etc.
  5. Closing Writing Prompt: How do Artists use Dreams and Nightmares to express creativity and break boundaries?

Idea Generation

  1. Mind map the words Dreams and Nightmares (if needed teach mind-mapping and fluency) and Group Discuss
  2. Review Lesson Objectives
  3. Students will write two possible ideas from their mind-mapping activity, one should be a really good idea and one should be a really really bad idea. Allow the students to post their ideas, read through them, and choose one that they like as they return to their seats.
  4. Idea Generation Options

Surrealistic Worksheet (Unlikely combinations, Juxtaposition, luck of the draw, random choices)

Terraforma Cards (Students choose cards that serve as catalysts for idea development and to connect concepts and ideas)

Autobiographical (Students answer a series of personal questions about dreams and nightmares)

Creative Writing Prompts (Students explore the theme through the use of creative writing and journaling)

  1. Students choose 2 activities and complete them. When completed students write down one idea from each exploration.
  2. Students review slideshow and pick one piece that could help them spark a new idea
  3. Students choose an idea to pursue, teacher should allow time to think it over, mull, sketch and incubate

Solution Finding

  1. Students will write down their main idea they have been thinking about
  2. Students will collect references
  • At least 5 should be subject matter (the what)
  • At least 5 should be artistic style (the how)
  1. Students will explore their ideas in thumbnails, practice sketches, media explorations, compositions etc
  2. Students will review what they have done
  • What works?
  • What doesn’t?
  • What is challenging?
  • What questions come up?
  1. Students will write a paragraph describing their drawing as if to someone on the telephone that could not see their image. Teacher encourages students to list as many details as possible.
  2. Students complete the following project proposal for teacher review:

For the project I will be creating a drawing of _______________________. I will be using ___________________. I will show value by __________________. I will show

depth by___________________.

Make It

  1. Give students time to create their projects, teacher reviews proposals and gives feedback as students are working. Teacher is available for questions, help, feedback and support.

Reflection and Self Evaluation

  1. Students are given the link to a Google Form in which to Reflect and Self Assess based on the following Criteria
  • Techniques
  • Concepts and Ideas
  • Invention
  • Craftsmanship
  • Effort

Tools and Artifacts

ThingLink.com (teacher led exploration)

Google Forms (receive and track information)

Google Classroom (organize classroom projects)

Google Slides (Student collaboration)

Terraforma Cards (Idea generation)

Google Docs (Idea genreation worksheets)

Weebly.com (A public place to keep information available to students)


Graphite, markers, colored pencils, watercolors, charcoal, pen and ink



Workshop Session Images

Reflections and Discoveries


The Dreams Unit contained 5 sections, which activity did you enjoy the most? Why?

  • Art History and Research is, in my opinion, is vital to the creative process. Not only does it inform us about the past and what does and doesn’t work, but it gives us a look into the past and current events at the time. It is incredibly fascinating to me, and I am personally always engaged when discussing a history piece of art.
  • I enjoyed the solution finding. Actually working on art makes me very happy. The research is fun but there is nothing like the thrill of doing a good job on a drawing and trying to draw creative ideas. I really love having the freedom to choose a subject and dedicate my time to it. I have finally had the chance to submit my personal styles of drawing in this class.
  • My favorite was idea generation. More often than not teachers just give us a specific prompt and will only Letha answer it in a specific way. Getting the opportunity to come up with crazy and exciting ideas for my project was a wonderful experience.
  • I enjoyed the history/research because I got to look at other surrealist artwork to help inspire my own. It was interesting to see how artists differed in technique, style, and content, and how surrealism changed through different time periods.
  • Throughout this lesson, I learned research, art history, and how to generate ideas creatively. I learned about the importance and depth of abstract art.
  • I enjoyed the Idea Generation activity; it had several different activities within it which allowed students to complete as many or as few as they wanted. I think that the activities were very useful in helping student come up with ideas for their final projects in relation to dreams and nightmares.
  • I enjoyed the History and research activity because we got to look at really interesting drawings and pieces of art. We also got to learn about different artists and their styles.
  • I enjoyed the idea generation a lot because it was really fun making connections between different things and combining them. I choose the surrealism activity to create my idea. To do that, I made a column with “living” thing like men, women, creature, monsters, ect, and a column with objects in it switch things like chairs, umbrellas, and mirrors. I drew lines in between columns and choose the pair that I liked the most to do my project on.
  • I enjoyed doing the history and research the best. It was cool to look at the different artists and the art that they have done. I didn’t like the idea generation though. It didn’t seem very helpful to me, and was a waste of my time, but it might’ve been better for some other people.
  • I enjoyed idea generation the most because I got to see many different ideas in different styles with all of the ideas being of interest to me. I got to see my interests in many different cool styles.
  • I enjoyed the section where we did the history of the art. I thought it was awesome because it really showed the amount of effort they put in and the changes from old art to modern art.
  • enjoyed the history and research because I got to see a lot of these interesting, mysterious works by other people. I liked to look at them and try to decipher their meanings. I thought it was fun and an inventive idea. I also liked the variety of paintings for this genre (surrealism). There were so many to look at.
  • Out of the 5 sections of the dreams unit, I liked solution finding the best. This is because it gave us a chance to experiment with any materials that were curious about and wanted to try. This also made me not really afraid of messing up, because I knew I could benefit from it.

Which activity was most beneficial to helping you develop your artwork?

  • Definitely the Art History portion. It’s easy to draw inpiration from other famous works, especially when you look at many of them.
  • The activity that was most beneficial to helping me develop my artwork was the solution finding. This is because once I had my idea, I needed somewhere to start. Researching and expirement was very helpful by finding what work and what doesn’t.
  • The research. It opened me up to a world of new ideas. I almost did a parody of some famous art pieces we researched. The research helped inspire me. I also found some really cool artists who I am now very interested in.
  • Art history research was super helpful to me what it came to devolp No my work. While explaining some of the wild artists to us the teacher told us that there are no rules in are, anything was possible, and being told that made it easier to come up with unique ideas. So much of school is following rules for grammar, math, and language, and the idea of getting to do whatever you wanted and have the opportunity be successful was awe inspiring.
  • The mind mapping was most beneficial to helping develops my artwork. But, I think the assessment pushed my abilities in art.
  • I think that idea generation in combination with history/research helped develop my artwork because looking at other works can help inspire you to be creative, or to try new techniques to create different effects.
  • I think that the most beneficial part of this lesson was the idea generation because it gave you lots of options to choose from, you where not just stuck with a certain way you had to do something you had lots of options.
  • he activity that was most beneficial to developing my work was the idea generation. I at first used the surrealism method which got me on the track of thinking of ideas that fit the dreams and nightmares requirements.
  • I thought that the Surrealism activity within the Idea Generation activity was most useful; coming up with random nouns and verbs allowed for some very odd/strange combinations that were funky, and different and perfect for the unit.
  • The solution finding was the best part. I could put together my idea snd actually see how it would look on paper.

    The history/research activity was most beneficial to helping me develop my artwork because I got to see many styles and figure out what appeals to me the most.

  • I think that the idea generating activity was the most benefivial and helped me come up with an idea easier.
  • The activity that helped me with my artwork the most was seeing the different examples of what other artists did with the theme of dreams and nightmares.
  • I think solution finding was most beneficial to helping me develop my artwork. It gave me a chance to experiment with different art materials before I put it on my final project.
  • History and research was most beneficial because it sparked ideas and gave me inspiration and guided me with obstacles that I believed I would face.

How was this assignment different than other assignments you have had in school?

  • It was very interactive. The discussions that we had during each section kept me present and interested. It was fairly lecture, but I enjoy that, especially when breaking down the little bits of each work.
  • I actually had fun. Unlike other classes this didn’t feel like a chore. This assignment felt like a fun challenge. I loved the idea behind it and I love the result. I didn’t just write about what a dream was. I explored the concept and actually learned something.
  • Mostly, it was different because I got to do something completely crazy that I came up with on my own. My project was mine. Not some teachers way of making sure I read the book.
  • Because I was able to come up with my own idea insead of being told what to do. I was able to take risks without worrying about failing.
  • It was very open. We had a general theme, but we were free to use whatever drawing media, technique, etc. that we wanted to, and create a piece of art that is unique to us.
  • It made me use creative thinking that I have never before.
  • This assignment let you do almost anything you could think of there was an infinite number of choices. In other class projects you where stuck doing it exactly the way the teacher wanted and if you did not then you got marked down.
  • This assignment was different from other assignments I have in school because it followed more of a creative process and was more self guided. We were not told specific directions that we had to follow exactly, instead we got to experiment and figure it out on our own.
  • I think that it allows student to be creative, and do what they want, as opposed to being super structured and instruction-driven as most classes are; it allows students to take some control of their learning and take their own direction.
  • This assignment allowed us to draw what we wanted to draw and have some creativity with it. Other assignments that we usually do in class don’t give us that freedom.
  • This assignment was different than any I’ve ever done before because the range of creativity we had for this project was very large. There were countless different things we could have done to make our projects great and no two projects were anything alike.
  • his assignment was different than other assignments I have had in school because I was able to learn about many different art styles but also was able to develop my own and was given a lot of creative freedom.
  • It gave me the opinion to open up my imagation to what I wanted. Also there is no right answer which makes you feel a lot better about yourself.
  • In this assingment i felt like i had more control with making the drawing mine and making my idea.
  • It gave you an opportunity to use your own creativity to invent something. Other assignments tell you what you should say or do, but this assignment gave you control.
  • This assignment was different from other assessments I have had in school because we got to pick what our project would be ourselves. We were only given an idea and we got to make anything. It’s also different because we won’t be punished for making mistakes and learning from it.
  • This assignment was different from other assignments because we had the freedom of creating anything we wanted. The lesson plan however guided our thoughts into one and got us excited and committed to working.

Do you feel like you had enough support and background information to create the work you wanted to. Why or Why not?

I definitely think I did. It’s hard to inspire people, but the lesson included all of the real parts of the creative process. It gave me plenty of opportunities to push myself into creativity.

Yes, I feel I got a lot support and background information for this assessment. Because my teach and peers are nice people, and they are willing to hep me.

I think I did have enough support and background because the skills were taught and I just did the best I could. It was just a matter of putting it all together to compete the piece.

I think I did have enough background to make this. I knew how to do this and how to make it and what i needed to make it. That was very helpful because I think it could’ve been worse without that.

I definitely had enough support and background to complete this project. The information was given throughout the class and the teacher was very supportive.

Yeas, the day in class where we look stall the other surrealist artists really helped me learn about this genre of art as well as prompt.

Yes I do feel like I had enough support and background, except I wish I had the whole year to spend more time with learning more skills. I had the basic skills for drawing and shading and using other types of materials.

I did feel that I had enough support and information because we learned so much over this semester.

Yes we went over it in class which helped.

I do feel like I had enough support and background information. We looked at a lot of peices before starting our own which showed us what some people do to make dreamy artwork which helped. Also, the teacher said she would help wherever it was needed to make the piece come out as we wanted it to.

I think I did have enough information and support because we did a separate unit in stippling.

Yes I feel like I had a lot of support because I had all the tools to make a decent project.

Yes I had enough support. Whenever we had problems our teacher would help us, and she would help us find the answer to all of our questions.

I did because we did the research and idea generator so we knew what we wanted to do and how how it was going to work.

Of course I did! There were so many places to draw inspiration from and a ton of background information. I honest to God loved this assignment. I had a ton of information and I learned a lot about art.

Yes, because we could find examples of what we wanted in other peoples art and create my own based off of that. We were taught basic skills in class and we were able to develop Lena deeper understanding of the ones we enjoyed using in our project.

I believe there was enough support and background to create this assessment. We were able to explore artists, some of which I wouldn’t have even known bout without this lesson. This helped us to create ideas that helped us with our projects.

I feel like I had enough background information and support to successfully complete my project. Mrs. Giese is a great supporter when it comes to art projects and free thought.

Yes. We learned so many techniques and had so many opportunities to hone specific drawing skills, and plenty of resources to make sure we always had a potential source for inspiration.

Yes, everything was explained well and we learned different techniques for every topic.

Yes, because if we needed something we could ask or look it up.

Yeah I did because I was able to execute my project so well.

Yes, I learned so many different lessons in the class that I was very well prepared for the final project.

I felt like I had support in this project because the teacher gave us good ways to come up with ideas and help with the project when we needed it.

How do you feel about the freedom and choice in designing your own project?

  • I have to be honest, it’s always scary and frustrating and difficult at the very beginning of the creative process. It’s incredibly difficult for many people to come up with a “good” idea. But, once my ideas finally came together in my head and I understood them, I felt excited and free.
  • I really think we were given a lot of freedom. It’s very nice to have so much choice in what we do because its more enjoyable to make something that you want to make more than following the rules set for you. I also think that you have to have some sort of choice because if not we would all be making the same art which is never fun to make.
  • I would have honestly wanted more freedom. While I liked my piece, I didn’t really like the prompt we had.
  • I really appreciate how we can choose what we want to draw along a certain theme. Then I can do what I want and actually want to complete the assignment. Sometimes I do struggle with getting started and choosing what idea I want to do, but once I’m happy with the idea I choose then I want to get started and I want to do the best I can and I want to get it done and do it well.
  • I liked the freedom of choice becuase I was able to do and express what I wanted however at times it was hard to come up with and idea I liked.
  • think the guidelines given here were good because it challenged us to be more creative. The “dreams and nightmares” concept pushed people to do more than a simple art peice. It challenged me well and I enjoyed it.
  • I love it. It gives my the opportunity to express myself. I was not restricted by a lot of guidelines.
  • I love it. I used to have trouble coming up with ideas about what to draw without help generating ideas. Now I feel confident that I can draw without specific instructions. I still like some basic structure though.
  • t was a refreshing change. I got to express myself anyway I wanted to and create a project that I wanted to make. For once I was excited about an assessment.
  • I really liked the freedom of this project. I felt as though ideas came to me more clearly and I had the freedom to explore new things.
  • I think it’s great. It’s important for people, especially high school students who are going into the world soon, to experience this sort of autonomy in their work. Most of the time we are given cookie-cutter assignments and end up giving cookie-cutter responses, and this is a good way to practice. It’s challenging because it’s up to you, but fun and exciting because it’s art.
  • I feel that in order to make your imagination be seen and used, it is a good thing to have freedom of choice on designing our own projects.
  • It felt really good to be able to be able to choose my own project because that way I can do something I am interested in I am not stuck doing something that I don’t like.
  • I felt great in design my own project because with others classes I had in art we,couldn’t choose what we wanted to do we had to do what we,were told.
  • I liked the freedom of choice, yet I wish there was more structure so I could fully utilize my work.
  • I think freedom is great in designing your own project. You have the ability to create whatever you could possibly imagine with no limits on resources and no instructions.
  • For me personally, I don’t like it, because I am someone who needs structure and likes to be given specific instructions that I can follow. I don’t possess the creativity that is necessary to be successful in an art class that is completely choice-based.
  • I liked being able to come up with my own idea because then I could use the techniques that I wanted to use and do a project that I actually want to do instead of a project the teacher wants me to do.
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