The Inspired Outsider Art of Howard Finster

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11796

"Art" is difficult to define. Some say, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," so everything probably appeals to somebody. Get inspired by one artist who had no formal training but made an impact!


History, Visual Arts

Fine Arts
learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Who gets to call themselves "artists?"

According to some people, an artist has to be someone who has undergone years of training and practice, and who understands the ins and outs of the art world. Then there are some who think like Pablo Picasso, who reportedly said, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

  • Which view do you agree with more?
  • Does it take special training to be a real artist, or can anyone be considered an artist?

It has happened to most of us: our preschool and kindergarten years were full of so many joyful hours of creativity and artistic expression.

Then, the serious subjects take over as the school years go by, and our former lives as artists are long forgotten. Many schools are cutting art programs because of funding shortages and other problems.

A few inspired people hold on to their artistic life, though, determined to express themselves no matter what! Art school is one way to develop artistic talents, gathering information and practice based on tried and true methods. Formal schooling is only one way to learn, however, and some of the coolest artists are those who never took an art class in their life.

The art they produce is sometimes referred to as art brut or "outsider art." Listen to a short radio show about outsider art. As you listen, write down key information that will help you create a definition for the term outsider art.

Watch this video from Christie's, What is Outsider art?, featuring a brief tour of several self-taught artists. Then, share your thoughts with your parent or teacher, and discuss the following questions:

  • How would you define outsider art?
  • What are some of the advantages to an artist not being formally trained?
  • Why do you think outsider art is enjoying an upswing in popularity these days?

Outsider art is one of the most exciting and vivid areas in the art world. In the Got It? section, you will explore the art of one of the greatest — and most unusual — outsider artists of the late-20th century, Howard Finster.

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