SchoolArts Room

Editor's Letter: Humor

By Nancy Walkup, posted on Dec 15, 2021

Having a well-developed sense of humor is a definite asset for an art teacher, both for your own peace of mind and your students’ engagement in art-making. This month, we offer a humorous take on personality paintbrushes, exaggerated portraits, monstrous pinch pots, pop art sculptures with a mathematical twist, playfully constructed televisions, paintings based on games, and much more. Where will humor lead you?


SchoolArts magazine, January 2022 issue, Editor's Letter on Humor
Nancy outside the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, California, a timeless resource for humor.

Humorous events in the art room may not always be laugh-out-loud funny, but a lighthearted attitude on the part of the teacher can work wonders with the classroom environment, both in person and virtually.

Discovering Humorous Artists
Sharing contemporary artists who utilize humor in their work is one way to inspire your students and encourage a playful artistic experience. The online Artsper Magazine provides a useful overview of the history of humor in modern and contemporary art, starting with Dada, Marcel Duchamp, René Magritte, and surrealism, on through the sometimes dark humor found in contemporary artists such as Maurizio Cattelan, Banksy, and Yue Minjun.

On social media, websites such as Colossal and My Modern Met are great sources for discovering contemporary artists who use humor. A fun one to start with is Christoph Niemann because he comes with so many resources you can share. Niemann is a self-described visual storyteller and illustrator for the New York Times and the New Yorker. An episode of Abstract: The Art of Design, an original Netflix series, features him, as does the podcast Design Matters with Debbie Millman. Both are suitable to share with almost any grade level.

Other contemporary artists who have a humorous approach to art include Japanese artist Haruki Nakamura, who uses traditional kirigami (the Japanese art of paper cutting) to transform snack boxes into realistic figures; Rich McMor of Paperboyo, who uses papercutting techniques to reimagine famous landmarks around the world; and Helga Stentzel, who photographs household objects to create surreal designs.

In This Issue
This month, we offer a humorous take on personality paintbrushes, exaggerated portraits, monstrous pinch pots, pop art sculptures with a mathematical twist, playfully constructed televisions, paintings based on games, and much more.

Where will humor lead you?

“It’s possible we expect the same from humor [that we do] from art: a break from our usual reality, an escape from our daily life, and encouragement to keep on living.”
—Artsper Magazine

View this article in the digital edition.