Four Ways to Steal Like an Art Teacher

Steal Like an Art Teacher

I was talking with two awesome art teachers at the Art Educators of Iowa annual conference when I noticed that one of them was putting together a collage of mini monochromatic self-portraits. I mentioned that I too use that lesson to start out my year. She told me that she latched onto the idea from my article here on AOE, and I told her that I grabbed it from Pinterest and adjusted it to meet my own objectives and class practices. The three of us then had an awesome conversation about “borrowing” the best ideas from other teachers and artists and making those ideas our own. We agreed that there are four key things you have to do to take a pin from Pinterest (which is often little more than a thumbnail of someone’s finished work) and turn it into a meaningful art room experience.

1. Change something…or better yet, change five things!

Make the experience your own by tying a technique to a new subject matter. Take a topic you always love exploring and try a new medium. Adjust a lesson for a new grade or developmental level.

2.  Identify the objectives.

We often start out with, “Oh WOW! That looks so cool, I want to do that with my students!” Use that enthusiasm to drive your planning. Outline objectives and expectations so that you can make that really cool finished product part of a rich, meaningful learning experience.

3. Read this book.

Steal Like and Artist:10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon is a nice short little read (with illustrations!) about creativity and looking at everything as fodder for remixing and re-imagining.


4. Give credit and share.

In order for great ideas to spread, art teachers must be brave enough to share the incredible work they do with their students every day. Don’t be afraid to post your stuff in the hallway, on a website, or around your community. Add citations and “adapted from..” liberally. Share and be shared!

Where are your favorite places to “steal” ideas from?

How do you go from brilliant idea to finished student products?

Sarah Dougherty

My name is Sarah Dougherty, and I teach elementary art in a large urban district in central Iowa. I love working with our diverse population of K-5 students to bring art to their homes, communities, and everyday lives.


  • Charmaine86

    My “go to” sources, in no particular order, are my collection of back issues to Arts and Activities and School Arts (with post-it’s hanging out of the pages everywhere), the digital versions of those magazines now, AOE, art teacher’s blogs, Incredible @rt Department, Pinterest, and looking at famous, local, and not-so-famous artists’ work and figuring out how to modify the ideas to suit my curriculum and students. My problem is forgetting to note the sources of my lessons, so when I want to share them it can be hard to give credit where credit is due.

    • I agree that I can be better at giving credit to the resources I use. An important step that many art teachers skip, I’m sure.

  • Jorena

    Until Pinterest, my favorite places to “steal” ideas were Arts and Activites Magazine and School Arts Magazine. Also years ago, I used to check out the school’s one digital camera (the one that used a floppy disk LOL!) and take it with me to the state conference. I felt like a spy taking photos of other’s work and using them for my own purposes. Now with smart phones, this practice is common place.

    • Yes! I have binders full of tearsheets out of those pulications. Great resources! I see teachers taking photos constantly as well.

  • Georgia Parsons

    I find ideas everywhere, from art in galleries, artist videos on youtube, magazines, advertising, blogs and of course Pinterest. My favourite thing about Pinterest is that I can organise all my thoughts and ideas into virtual folders rather than having my desk cluttered with real folders. I rarely follow the links on Pinterest to see “steps” for making art, rather using the image as my inspiration and jumping off point. Having been a mother or 4 before an art teacher, I also think back to the fun things I did with my own kids, and the wonderful kid’s TV show in Australia, Play School, which gave me heaps of inspiration as my kids were growing up.

    • Pinterest has organized my online inspirations a bit more too!