Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

Resource created by Leeds Museums and Galleries with thanks to Patsy Lyttle and Artforms.


→ What do you see in this symbol? Do you see an arrow pointing right? Is it a bird flying in the air? Is it an instruction? Do you see a direction, a way forward? Do you decide to go the opposite way? Does it mean the text following it should be more indented? Does it look balanced? Should the tail be longer? Do you totally ignore it?

Symbols are a very basic form of visual literacy. Visual literacy helps us to navigate the world. It means we can find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create different signs, symbols, and representations to help us making meaning from the world. It’s a major part of how we make and interpret artworks.

Everyone is creative. What we have seen and experienced in our lifetimes shape who we are and how we choose to be creative and what we see in the creativity of others. An artist may create an artwork that represents an aspect of their life story and practice, but the viewer will bring their experiences to it and may see something entirely different.

We will talk about some of the artists who have spent time in Leeds through life, work or study, their practices, their visual literacy, processes and techniques. Each one was inspired by amazing Yorkshire teachers to follow their practices.


Curriculum Links

  • KS2 Art & Design
  • KS3 Art & Design


Discussion Ideas

  • Jacob Kramer’s work is shaped by his family’s migration due to conflict and religious persecution. What does it mean to leave a home and loved ones?
    • Is it a planned departure or a hasty one?
    • What does it mean to start again in a new country, a new city?
    • Would you aim to ‘fit in’?
    • What would you do to make that happen? Be sensitive of the relevance for any pupils in your class whose own experiences, or those of their families, have been shaped by conflict and migration.
  • Look at Kramer’s Day of Atonement. Ask: What are the Jewish scholars thinking/saying?
    • What are they feeling?
    • What has just happened?
    • What do you think will happen next?
    • What mood was Kramer trying to portray?
    • How do you feel when you look at the painting?
    • Tell the story that the picture is illustrating. Discuss the style of the painting and the way the figures are drawn. When it was gifted to the Gallery in 1920 it was the most modern painting in a collection of Victorian and Edwardian pictures. Discuss how visitors to the Gallery would have reacted to it.
  • What does Kramer mean by ‘retouching’ photographs?
    • Why would people have done this?
    • Look at black and white photographs of people from the early twentieth century in Leeds.
    • Use a photo editing software to retouch a photograph. Talk about visual literacy, ‘false, fake or filtered’ images in the press today.
  • Thinking about sculpture, ask: what do you think the form represents?
    • Can you see a story?
    • What’s it made of? Has it been cast, or is it made of found materials?
    • How big is it?
    • What does it feel like?
    • What does the space around the form tell you?
    • How does it compare to other sculptures of similar subjects?
    • How does the light change the nature of the sculpture?
    • What happens when you walk around it?
    • If there is more than one part, what’s the relationship or the ‘tension’? What else do you notice?
  • Look at Barbara Hepworth's drawing 'A Poet Reading to His Children'. Without revealing the title of this drawing, work in these four groups to discuss what you think is happening:
    - Eagle Eyes: find clues to what is happening and choose a special part to show the rest of the group
    - Story Spotters: say what you think is happening and what might happen next
    - Feeling Finders: Find clues and hints about emotion and mood
    - Meaning Makers: Say what you think Hepworth is trying to tell you.

    Discuss the differences and similarities between this picture and some of Hepworth’s sculptures.
  • Looking at Francis Segelman, talk about the advantages and disadvantages of ‘speed sculpting’.
    • How does this technique differ from other sculptors that you may have studied?
    • Can you think of any other artists, possibly painters, who work very quickly?
    • How does this impact on the work that they do?
  • Does art always have a message?
    • Does a digital filmed artwork, like those by Georgina Starr or Sutapa Biswas, make it easier to disseminate your message?
    • What happens when this message is challenging?


Activity Ideas


Art and Design:

  • In thinking about any artwork work, using sensory, mindful practice is often a good way to start. Look at the artwork for longer than you usually would. Research suggests that most people in a gallery look at an artwork for 27 seconds.
    • Try looking for 3-5 minutes. (You could use the Slow-looking Videos resource. What do you actually see? Look deeply, Look slowly. Think about the colours the artist uses – what do they remind you of? What feelings do you think he trying to convey? Think about the shapes he uses, and how he uses them. Is everything lifelike, or more abstract? What do the angles tell you? Is there repetition or flow across the canvas? What are the figures doing, thinking, saying? What do you feel when you look at the artwork? Are they heavy or light? If you could touch the angles and colours, what would they be like? 
  • The best way to find out about art is to experience it. Book a school visit to Leeds Art Gallery to see artworks by Kramer, Hirst and Starr; the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, for Moore; the Hepworth Wakefield for Barbara Hepworth; and Cartwright Hall, Bradford for Sutapa Biswas.
  • Taking inspiration from Kramer, look at an object or person. Simplify the shapes into triangles, circles, squares and graphic lines. Draw, paint or mark-make to create abstract angles. Does it still look like the object or person? Does it need to? Does it convey the essence of the subject? How do you angle your lines to convey emotion in a face? Compare with simple emojis, which use very few lines to show a face. What colours will you use?
  • Discuss the feelings of both friends as Epstein creates the sculptural bust of Kramer. Pair up and make a bust of someone in your class using clay or papier-mâché. Describe the feeling of being the model and the artist.
  • Sculpt your own forms inspired by Henry Moore or Barbara Hepworth:
    - Make a soap carving. Take a cheap bar of white soap and draw a simple design on it in pencil. Use teaspoons, potato peelers and possibly knives (adult help required!) to carve out your shape.
    - Use clay to make smooth natural forms. Go outside and look at shapes in nature as inspiration.
    - Use pebbles to create forms in relationship, or tension to each other. Connect them with string. This is temporal and temporary. Take a photo to keep the artwork.
  • Inspired by Francis Segelman, do a speed sculpture or drawing. Set a short time limit, like 5 minutes and see how quickly you can create a representation of person.
  • Starting with Georgina Starr as inspiration, use a tablet to make a magical film. Will you fall down an Alice-esque rabbit hole to a new world? Fly in the sky to highlight the climate crisis? Or swim in the sea and meet weird underwater creatures who can help you solve world poverty? Plan a message and a story, create characters and storyboard, script, create costumes and sets or plan locations and film. Use simple editing software to put together and create magical effects. Create several films that can be shown together over multiple screens. How do they interact? What’s the relationship?

History (changes over time), PSHE:

  • Kramer began his time in Leeds in The Leylands and attending Darley Street School. He talks of other places in Leeds, like the Midland Railway, Leeds General Post Office, Leeds Music Halls and Whitelocks. Look at maps and search on Leodis to find out where the buildings were, what they looked like and, if they are still standing, how they have changed. What caused the change? Use images to talk about the life of a child in the slums of Leeds in 1900.
  • Jacob Kramer ran away from home aged 13 for weeks at a time. He has told us he went to Middlesbrough, Manchester and Blackburn. How far are they from Leeds? This wouldn’t be recommended for a child now. Compare and contrast Jacob’s experiences to those of a 13-year-old now. Imagine what he was running away from? What could he have found? What made him return?


  • Thinking about Kramer and Moore’s First World War experiences, read the poetry of ‘Woodbine’ Willie (see Supporting Links).
  • Inspired by Sutapa Bitwas, write a poem or narrative about something you feel strongly about, something you want to change. What words will you use? How descriptive can you make it? How persuasive? What images would you put with it to make it into a film? Would they match the words, or jar with them? Are the scenes literal or metaphorical?
  • Research the history of Leeds School of Art. Find out when it was renamed ‘Jacob Kramer College’ and for how long it was called that? What is it called today? Find it on a map. Are there any famous people from Leeds who studied there? Do you recognise any of the names? Research some of the artists. Compare their work with the work of Kramer.