Exciting paintings

Home learning focus

Learn the basics of exciting paintings.

This lesson includes:

  • three video clips demonstrating different famous artists and their exciting paintings

  • three activities to try at home


When painting, it can be hard to imagine how you will make your piece of work stand out against others.

It can be useful to look at the work of famous artists and get inspiration from how they achieved it.

In looking at previous exciting paintings, try asking yourself:

  • What topic have they focussed on?
  • Which techniques have they used?
  • What style have they delivered in?
  • How have they left their own personal touch within the piece?

We're going to take a look at three artists - Andy Warhol, Wassily Kandinsky and Jan van Eyck.

Of course, there are many other artists you could look at for inspiration, but by doing this we will see how each artist provides us with a very different set of answers to the questions above.

'Marilyn Diptych' by Andy Warhol

In the following video, taken from the Your Paintings series, we look closer at the painting 'Marilyn Diptych' by Andy Warhol.

By doing this, we can see Warhol’s fascination with celebrity, as well as explore the techniques Warhol used to create his works.

Publicity image (c) 2020 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
Andy Warhol's 'Marilyn Diptych'

In the early 1960s, Andy Warhol began to experiment with his screen-printing in the style of advertisements.

He took mass-produced images from American popular culture, such as Campbell's soup tins and Coca Cola bottles, and began his own style of pop art.

In 1962, he created his series portraits of Marilyn Monroe, and other celebrities included Jackie Kennedy and Elvis Presley.

By using bright colours and repetition, Warhol gets you to look at the subject of his art in a new way.

'Schaukeln' by Wassily Kandinsky

In the following video, taken from the Your Paintings series, we look closer at the painting 'Schaukeln' (or 'Shaking') by Wassily Kandinsky.

By doing this, we can see Kandinsky’s role in the birth of abstract art and his use of shapes and colours to express feelings.

Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images
The style of Wassily Kandinsky
Kadinsky's 'Schaukeln'

After one day viewing his own painting upside down, Wassilly Kandinsky pioneered abstract art in the early 1900s.

Instead of showing what he saw, he started to use shapes and colours to show the emotions he felt when he saw them.

Music influenced and appears in Kandinsky's works - he is known to have referred to his artworks as 'compositions', each piece composed by him.

'Arnolfini Portrait' by Jan van Eyck

In the following video, taken from the Your Paintings series, we look closer at the painting 'Arnolfini Portrait' by Jan Van Eyck.

By doing this, we can see how Van Eyck painted clues into the picture that give meaning behind things like dogs, candles and even oranges.

Jan van Eyck's 'Arnolfini Portrait'
Jan van Eyck's 'Arnolfini Portrait'

Jan van Eyck was the first artist to master oil paints.

Where previously eggs had been used, which dried quickly, oil dried much slower and allowed him time to capture more detail within his works.

The meaning behind his painting 'Alrnolfini's Portrait' is still debated to this day, 600 years after it was created.

This is because Jan van Eyck hid clues within the painting to give deeper meaning to it - the more you look at the painting, the more clues you'll find.


Now you can try and put some of what you have learned about making exciting paintings into action.

Activity 1

Follow along with Tate to create your own pop art in the style of Andy Warhol.

You can make a selfie artwork, similar to 'Marilyn Diptych', for which you will need a smartphone or a digital camera, a printer, six coloured pens or pencils and paper.

You can also design your own soup can in the style of 'Campbell's Soup Cans', for which you will just need a pencil and paper.

Warhol pop art - Activity 1

Activity 2

In the style of Wassilly Kandinsky, draw a range of emotions and feelings:

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Excited
  • Scared
  • Tired

With each one, think about which shapes and colours would work best for each one and how you relate to that emotion or feeling.

Activity 3

Have a think about how you could work in the same way as Jan van Eyck - what objects have a meaning to you or to those around you?

Make a list of at least five objects you could include in a painting, making note of their implied meaning.

Where next?

Continue your learning with these links:

More from the 'Your Paintings' series

There's more to learn

Have a look at these other resources around the BBC and the web.

More lessons for Year 4 and P5
KS2 Art and Design
KS2 Art and Design
Art and artists by Tate
More artists covered by Magic Lantern
More artists covered by Quizlet