Curricular Expectations

Visual Arts, Grade 9, Open (AVI10)

  Complete Curricular Expectations


On Your Own

Visual art can be a powerful form of personal expression. To interpret an artist's message, it is helpful to carefully describe the work. Using description you can record the facts before you offer an opinion about a painting. This is where the process of critical analysis begins.

Look closely at Jane Ash Poitras' The Contrary. Focus your attention on the part of the composition that Poitras has emphasized with colour, proportion, or line. Record what you see by writing your observations in a notebook.

Emphasis is an important principle. It is used to create a point of intense visual interest. This part of the painting is often called the focal point, and it is where your journey of discovery begins.

From the focal point, let your eye wander around the painting. Follow lines in a process of movement, or search for similar patches of colour that bring rhythm to the work. As your eye wanders, stop often to write down what you see as you see it. This part of the assignment should take 20 minutes. We will organize your description later.

In Partners

When you have finished writing your notes it is time to work with a partner. Share your observations with a classmate. Listen carefully to each other. Answer the following questions when you are finished:

  • Did you and your partner choose the same focal point?
  • Did you both choose to record the same facts/details about the painting?

In many cases, what you choose to see in Poitras' painting will be different from what your partner sees. This is ok. Use your discussion to compare your notes. When you have carefully examined the painting together you should have a complete set of notes describing Poitras' work. When your notes are complete, move to step #3.

On Your Own

It is time to describe The Contrary. A good description can help recreate a picture with words. Write a paragraph of 100 words that describes The Contrary for a friend who has not seen the painting.

Your paragraph should describe subject matter and elements of design. To see a sample descriptive paragraph, click here and read about our curator's interpretation of Emily Carr's Shoreline.

When you have finished writing your paragraph, ask your partner to proof read your work.

With the Class

Share your description with the class. Together, discuss how the process of description helps, or does not help, your viewing and enjoyment of art.


Use your description of The Contrary to start a research project about Jane Ash Poitras or Canada's First Nations people.

  • Pick an image from the work and learn about the history that Poitras has presented.
  • Look for more works of art by Poitras and report what you have learned about her place in Contemporary Canadian art.
  • Expand your research to include other Canadian First Nations artists. The following names will help with your research: Gerald McMaster, Carl Beam, and Edward Poitras. Click here for an ArtiFACT link to Norval Morrisseau.

Build on your knowledge of The Contrary. Create your own original work of art.

  • Read Poitras' artist comment again and put yourself in the role of "storytellers and teachers in mainstream society, applying historical values to contemporary situations". Consider your own history and tell your own story in a mixed media work.

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