Emotions and paintings

General Aim

To connect visual arts with theater

Learning goals

– Recognising emotions and relations from a chosen painting/drawing/sculpture.
– Being able to create a scene based on the observations and playing it in pairs or alone.
– Connecting visual arts with everyday life’s situations.
– Developing emotional management, social skills (interactions, cooperation).
– Acquiring improvisational theater techniques.

Short description/background/Introduction/Tips for the trainer

The facilitator invites the participants to choose a work of art and observe which feelings or situations come to their mind while observing it. Later, they split into pairs and create a scene in connection with the work of art they’ve chosen.


18-60 years old

Suggested group



paper, pencil


120 min


If circumstances permit, the group goes together to an exhibition. It’s recommended to dedicate a whole session to this so the participants have enough time to visit the exhibition, choose a work of art and observe it as long as they need. Everyone has a paper and pencil so they can write down the feelings, the situation or maybe a memory from their life which they associated with the painting/sculpture/painting.
If it isn’t possible to go to an exhibition then the facilitator collects and prints pictures from different works of arts and the participants can choose from that collection.
The facilitator writes the participants’ name on a little paper then they start to choose from the names, that’s how the pairs randomly form.
They have 20-30 minutes to make up the structure of a scene in connection with the chosen work of art (it can be a memory, a dream, a recent event or a made up tale). They decide where they are, who they are and what they are doing, what is the relationship between each other, or if there is a conflict between them.
Then each pair shows their scene (the sentences are improvised). If someone doesn’t want to take part, only watching is possible. In these cases the facilitator or if there’s an assistant, then he/she can jump in the scene after a short discussion.
After every scene, there is a little conversation: first of all they discuss what kind of sensations the audience members are feeling. And only then, the actors tell the others about the chosen works of art and the connected feelings and reflections.
After all scenes there is a closing discussion circle about the feelings, and the activity.

Evaluation/Final debriefing

They are encouraged to write at home about their reflections or draw or write a poem (Haiku, 17 tag).
If it is necessary, the facilitator could be available to have a conversation privately for someone who needs it.


Viola Spolin – Improvisation for the Theatre
Simmer, B. (2013). Theatre and Therapy:
Robert Wilson. In Re: Direction (pp. 147-156). Routledge.