Writing + Art: It’s as Easy as ABC

Reginald Baylor (American, b.1966). On Duty, Not Driving, 2010. Acrylic on canvas.

People who are good at something do warm-up exercises to prepare for their activity. Pianists play scales. Runners stretch. Public speakers do vocal drills. Here is a warm-up exercise that will help you get your verbal juices flowing.

Go in search of a work of art that has a lot of objects, people, or animals in it.


Carefully examine the artwork. First, look at the piece as a whole. Then, inspect the details. Study the shapes, colors, objects, clothing, and activity in the piece. Explore the top, bottom, and sides. Look at the foreground and background.


On the left side of your paper, write the alphabet, one letter per line. Use more than one sheet or page if needed. For each letter of the alphabet, write a word the artwork calls to mind. Use nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs. Feel free to skip around the alphabet as you complete your list.


After five minutes, get together in groups of two or three to compile a master list. Your goal is to have a word or more for each letter of the alphabet. When all the groups are finished, have one group read its words for the “A,” a second group state its words for the letter “B,” and so on through the end of the alphabet.