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from "Work the Range 2: Creative Constraints vs. Open-ended Art Making" in Section 2

...excerpt from “The Art of the Prompt”

As important as specificity is to a good prompt it is also essential to make sure that prompts are not too determined or didactic.  The point of a prompt is not to suggest to a student-artist what their work should look like, sound like, or mean.  Rather it is to open up possibilities for the student to determine the work.

The table below compares prompts that we feel are more generative and lead to better student work with some that are less inventive or effective.  Clearly one difference is that the more generative prompts are more specific and therefore lead students to think in more particular ways thereby developing an original vision or aesthetic.  But you may see other differences that distinguish the two types of prompts.  We’d be very interested to hear what these are. 

Good Prompt vs. Weak Prompt

 

Good Prompts (more specific)

    Weak Prompts (less specific)

 


Generate a list of weather terms, the more specific the better. As in, “F-5 tornado” or “low-pressure system” or “gale force winds” or “sun shower” or “aurora borealis.”

 

 

Equate yourself or someone you know to one of these terms. Make a metaphor, not a simile. Write this, paint this, sculpt it, act it, dance it, whatever.

 

Poetry examples:

My mother is an F-5 tornado that we knew was coming but couldn’t escape…

 

My little brother has become a low-pressure system. He moves throughout the house, high winds shaking the windows loose, all his Legos swept into miniature cyclones that circle his ankles…

 

 

 


Describe the weather on your favorite day. What do you see, hear, smell, taste?

 

 

Describe someone who reminds you of your favorite kind of day. What does he or she look like, sound like, etc.?  Write this, paint this, sculpt it, act it, dance it, whatever.

 


Look around your classroom and find one potentially dangerous object. Make it come alive by describing what it does when it gets disturbed, angry, jealous, a headache, or gets its way.

 


Look around your classroom and find an object that stands out to you. Make it come alive by giving it a voice or human actions and emotions.

 

 


Find a piece of art that you really like (a song, a painting, a poem, a dance, a monologue, a photograph, etc.).  You can choose something outside of the medium in which you are currently working.

 

 

Describe its qualities in specific terms.

Describe what it reminds you of.

Describe the emotions you feel when considering it or that you feel live inside it.

Ask it one question that you know it would never deign to answer.

Give it a new title based on your above responses.

 

  • Look at your responses and create something that works in the opposite direction to things that you just named. If it is a song in 4/4 time then create one in 7/4 time. If it reminds you of your first kiss then what you create could remind you of your first break up. 
  • Make your piece answer the question.

 


Find a piece of art that you really like (a song, a painting, a poem, a dance, a monologue, a photograph, etc.).  You can choose something outside of the medium in which you are currently working.

 

 

Describe its qualities in specific terms.

Describe what it reminds you of.

Describe the emotions you feel when considering it or that you feel live inside it.

Write down questions that it raises.

Speculate what you think the artist intended by this piece or what meaning that you think it conveys.

 

Look at your responses and find a line or sentence or idea that interests you and pursue it further—developing a new piece in your medium that follows that thread.

 


Isolate three movements from a phrase in a dance with which you are familiar. Use them however you like (but include all three) to create a 12 beat phrase that conveys a specific emotion. Vary their speed, energy, and the space in which you move in order to create that meaning.

 

 


Come up with three separate movements and use them in a 12 beat phrase. Vary their speed, energy, and the space in which you move.