Black (Art) History Month

While I'm a strong believer that Black History Month should not be condensed into one month each year, I do feel that it's important to honor Black History Month by highlighting Black artists and providing resources for you to educate yourself and others. I strongly encourage you to continue researching and learning about Black artists, because they are sadly not a focus in art education - a true tragedy! (in my experience)

Black History Month artwork by student Lara Garay circa 2018.

I am currently in the middle of an out-of-state relocation, so I will be sharing resources from other educators in this blog post, due to a chaotic schedule and not being able to create my own graphics/lesson plans at the moment. So please, enjoy these art education tools from fellow art teachers and I hope you'll give the questions critical thought and attention.

If you want the (extremely) short version of Black art history visit Black Art In America for 'A Very Abbreviated Version of Black Art History or 13 Important Black Visual Artists Everyone Should Know.

Please note, some of these artists will be modern and others from past decades - all artists and artwork styles are equally important to the evolution of art and art movements.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

I'm going to begin with Jean-Michel Basquiat because I feel he is probably one of, if not the, most well known Black artists in America.

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a Neo-Expressionist painter in the 1980s. He is best known for his primitive style and his collaboration with pop artist Andy Warhol.

Neo-expressionism is a style of late modernist or early-postmodern painting and sculpture that emerged in the late 1970s. Neo-expressionists were sometimes called Transavantgarde, Junge Wilde, or Neue Wilden. It is characterized by intense subjectivity and rough handling of materials.

Jean-Michel Basquiat was of Haitian-American (father) and Puerto Rican (mother) descent.

Art Project: Basquiat-Inspired Self-Portraits

For more info check out


Educational Slide:

Video: PBS via YouTube


Neo-expressionism: Wikipedia

Art Project: Art Room Britt

Mary Lee Bendolph

This next artist is an Alabama native, like me, and her artistic talents have been passed down from her mother's love of quilting. Interestingly, I saw an article shared about her quilting group this morning in my virtual art teacher group, and they are now selling their beautiful, handmade quilts on Etsy via their nine individual shops!

Gee's Bend: From Quilt to Print

(approximately 15 minutes)

The Quilts of Gee's Bend

(approximately 27 minutes)

The Quiltmaker's of Gee's Bend

(approximately 56 minutes)

Art Project: Gee's Bend Quilt Collage

For more information visit Smithsonian Magazine.


Educational Slide:


Etsy Launch: Smithsonian Magazine

Art Project: Art Projects For Kids

Augusta Savage

“I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting, but if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work.”—T. R. Poston, ​“Augusta Savage,” Metropolitan Magazine, Jan. 1935, n.p.

In 1923 Savage became the focus of a racial scandal involving the French government and the American arts community. She was among some 100 young American women selected to attend a summer program at Fontainebleau, outside Paris, but her application was subsequently refused by the French on the basis of her race. The American sculptor Hermon A. MacNeil was the only member of the committee to denounce the decision, and he invited Savage to study with him in an attempt to make amends.

Much of her work is in clay or plaster, as she could not often afford bronze. One of her most famous busts is titled Gamin which is on permanent display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.; a life-sized version is in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. At the time of its creation, Gamin, which is modeled after a Harlem youth, was voted most popular in an exhibition of over 200 works by black artists. Her style can be described as realistic, expressive, and sensitive. Though her art and influence within the art community are documented, the location of much of her work is unknown.

Art Project: Dough Sculptures

For more information visit Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Savage Quote: Smithsonian American Art Museum

Racial Scandal: Britannica

Educational Slide:

Work Info: Wikipedia

Art Project: Canary Jane

Alma Thomas

"Man's highest aspirations come from nature. A world without color would seem dead. Color is life. Light is the mother of color. Light reveals to us the spirit and living soul of the world through colors."—Press Release, Columbus Museum of Arts and Sciences, 1982, for an exhibition entitled A Life in Art: Alma Thomas 1891–1978, Vertical File, Library, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

"Creative art is for all time and is therefore independent of time. It is of all ages, of every land, and if by this we mean the creative spirit in man which produces a picture or a statue is common to the whole civilized world, independent of age, race, and nationality; the statement may stand unchallenged."

-Alma Thomas, 1970

Art Project: Alma Thomas Collage

For more information visit Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Quote 1: Smithsonian American Art Museum

Quote 2: Wikipedia

Educational Slide:

Art Project: Courtney Rocks

Elizabeth Catlett

“I enjoy the beauty of materials, not only the beauty of forms. I love to see the grain of the wood assert itself in its own right and become integrated in the representation. I like to polish the stone to bring out its beauty.” — Raquel Tibol, ​“The Work of Elizabeth Catlett,” Los Universitarios (Magazine of the National University of Mexico, Nov. 1975): 15–16; cited in Thalia Gouma-Peterson, ​“Elizabeth Catlett: The Power of Human Feeling and of Art,” Woman’s Journal4: 1 (Spring/​Summer 1983): 48.

During her lifetime, Elizabeth Catlett (1915–2012) achieved international fame for her powerful explorations of race, class, and her own African American female identity. As a young woman, she studied art in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Art with a social message became particularly relevant, with the U.S. government supporting public art through the Works Progress Administration and other programs.

Art With Kids Portfolio put together a very informative slideshow about the works of Elizabeth Catlett that you should check out.

Art Project: Clay Figure Sculpture

For more information visit Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Quote: Smithsonian American Art Museum

Career Information: Philidelphia Museum of Art

Artwork Information: Art With Kids

Educational Slide:

Art Project: That Art Teacher

Andrea Pippins

The correct spelling of the artist's name is Andrea Pippins.

Art Project: Create A Pippins-Inspired Coloring Page OR Self-Portrait

There are no lesson links for these art projects, so you'll have to use the written directions below and your imagination - which I know you can do because you're so creative! Since I'm coming up with these art projects on the fly, I'm giving you two options.

Create A Coloring Page


  • White Paper

  • Black Pen (An extra-fine tip black marker will also work.)

  • Colored Pencils (You could also use crayons or markers.)

On a white piece of paper, use black ink to create doodles using repetitive lines and simple shapes, surrounding a focus word or combination of words, such as "dream BIG."

If you're not comfortable using ink, start with a pencil and trace over your pencil lines in ink, once you've perfected your design.

Once the ink is dry, begin filling in your design with colored pencils, crayons, or markers.

Pippins-Inspired Self-Portrait


  • Bristol Paper or Canvas

  • Acrylic, Tempera, or Gouache Paints (If you'd rather your child not use paint, you could easily create this art project using paper and markers, while following along the basic concepts.)

  • Pencil

  • Marker (A fine tip Sharpie works best.)

Begin this project by taking a photo of yourself, creating a side profile, to use as a reference when sketching your outlines.

Once you've taken your photo, choose five colors of paint you'd like to use to create your self-portrait and set them aside. You'll need paint colors for the following: background, skin, hair, body, charm, and outlines. Some simple guidelines to follow when choosing your colors...

  • Your background color should be lighter than your hair, skin, and body colors.

  • Your outline color should be lighter than your background color.

  • The color of your hair will be the same paint color you use to create your body doodles unless you use a marker to draw your doodles.

Draw your portrait on a scrap piece of paper following the steps below, before moving on to your canvas!

Next, you'll want to begin sketching your outlines, starting with your head and neck. Your body should take up approximately 3/4 of the canvas, leaving 1/4 of the canvas at the top.

Quick note: It's OK if your pencil lines overlap! You'll be filling in the shapes with paint, so the sketch lines will not be visible once the painting is complete.

After you've drawn your head and neck, move on to your body. Remember to keep your lines smooth and with little detail. Your shapes will be painted flat to reflect a stylized design.

Once you've drawn your head, neck, and body, continue by drawing your hair. If you have short hair, it's OK to exaggerate the proportions a little to reflect Pippin's style, but keep the shapes round and organic.

The last shape you'll draw is the charm. You may want to draw an earring similar to the images below. If you don't enjoy earrings, you could draw a necklace instead.

Now that you've drawn the outlines of your shapes, you can begin painting! Let's follow the same order as we did when sketching... start by painting your background with a light color. Next, fill your body shape with paint. Then, do the same with your hair shape followed by your body and charm.

Let your paint dry completely before moving onto the next step.

Now that your paint is dry, you can begin creating doodles on your body using paint or a black marker. Pippins' artwork contains botanical doodles, simple shapes, and repetitive patterns, so try incorporating these aspects into your self-portrait doodles.

The final step of this art project is to paint your outline. Using a thin brush and the lightest of your paint colors, begin to outline your shapes, creating a thin line, covering all edges. (If desired, you could use a paint pen for this step.)

For more information visit


Educational Slide:

Video: Corita Art Center via YouTube

Dream Big Image: Vickie Howell

Portrait Image: Andrea Pippins

Painting Image: Nappy

To close, I'd love to share some of modern Black artists I admire and follow on Instagram. In no particular order here are their Instagram account links...

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

©2020 by Christalle Bodiford. Content may not be used, replicated, or posted to any platform without the artist’s permission.

Subscribe Form