Decoding Haring’s Symbols



A lesson in yarn painting sent in by a teacher from New Jersey. Support tools such as the video, "Drawing the Line: a Portrait of Keith Haring" were used and discussed.


To help students understand and appreciate Keith Haring's work and concerns.

To allow students to express their own concerns while assimilating some of the aesthetic themes that are present in Haring's work.

To explore painting by mixing colors and expanding a painting stroke vocabulary.



This piece, "Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil" had already been drawn and made by Keith Haring once before. But the two other art students and I liked the picture and wanted to put our own twist on it. We eventually came up with the idea of a yarn painting. This three month project took almost all of our free school time. -Jason

The Keith Haring Yarn painting that we created was meant as a memory. Originally I had wanted to do a mural of a Mustang to go along with our school name. But it would have been really complicated to do. At first we were disappointed at the way it was turning out. But when it was done we were really pleased at its turnout. -Rob

To be honest, I never thought this project would ever get this big. We were really excited when our teacher, Mr. Michaels, put it in a museum for display. Our parents and friends enjoyed going to see work that we did. I thought this was going to be a regular school project and would just get done and be hung in the school. Besides being in the museum now it is on the Internet for everyone to see. -David

The baby seemed to me to be a symbol for his drawings. I decided to incorporate many of his drawings and designs into this baby. It symbolizes that we all come from the same race, humanity. The rays coming from the baby show that we all give off love, compassion and friendship. -Dustin

After watching the videos and looking though the pamphlets my art teacher provided, the ideas for the piece flew into my head. After planning everything in my head I made my sketches and picked out my colors. I picked the colors that I used because they were all bright. I wanted my painting to stick out and attract the eye, especially towards the angle in the center. One of the items I added after I thought the painting was completed was the arrows. My art teacher suggested the arrows so the person looking at my painting would know where to look. Without the arrows the painting didn't make much sense but once they were incorporated in the painting it was finally completed. I hope you enjoy my painting. -Michael

My motivation for the acrylic piece with the surfing Haring designs was that I wanted to do a piece with surfing because that is one of my passions. I came up with the idea of Haring's figures standing on surfboards. I think that this picture shows that no one person in the world can stand alone. Everyone needs someone to help them rise to the top. The colors and figures I used in the picture were different on each row because there are many different people in the world and that is what keeps us alive and going. -Jason

Drawing The Line - A Portrait of Keith Haring | Video | $20.00


Paint & painting supplies


My lesson begins by showing the students the "Drawing the Line" video, a portrait of Keith Haring. We discuss the essence of the video and especially how Haring was able to communicate ideas through his uncomplicated drawings. Decoding the messages of some of the figures such as the barking dog or radiant baby helps my students to identify with a figure they are interested in drawing. A packet containing Haring's work is then passed out for a few days of sketching. From these preliminary sketches a composition is formulated and colored pencils are applied. A rough draft is completed before the students transfer their compositions and begin their final painting projects.
I am always pleased with the results of the Keith Haring Project.


Find similarities and differences between your work and that of Haring's.

Discuss what aspects of this project were most challenging for you and why.


Create a formal exhibition of the finished work in the classroom. Have a binder with the "artists' statements and a sign in book at the door. Make an opening and invites. Invite another class to write reviews.