Jacob Lawrence most often utilized bold and saturated primary colors. Primary colors are blue, red, and yellow. Look at the colors used in On the Way. Find repeated colors throughout the painting and identify them.
What shapes and lines are in the composition? Are they repeated? Where? How are they varied in the different sections of the image?
Which shapes and lines are curvilinear, vertical, horizontal or diagonal? (For example, the diagonal lines of the yellow ladder or blue lines on the floor; curving lines in the human forms.) How did Lawrence create movement and a sense of rhythm through these lines and shapes?
Narration and storytelling is an important aspect of Lawrence’s work, as he wanted to tell the experiences of the African American people. However, Lawrence’s later works, such as On the Way, became increasingly abstract, making it even more important to look carefully to discern what is happening. What do you think is going on in this picture? Describe your interpretation of the scene.
Jacob Lawrence’s pictures often tell a story. Look at On the Way and write a story suggested by this scene. Or make up your own story that corresponds to the painting.
As a keen observer of his surroundings, Lawrence gained inspiration from the environment in which he grew up. On the Way depicts people in the community going to work and doing various tasks. Just as Lawrence observed his community as the basis for his art, look around your own community and make a list of all the activities that can be seen on the streets.
This picture was made in 1990. Would a street scene look different today? How would it be different? Or the same? Discuss.
Discuss your observations of Lawrence’s scene. How do your observations differ from others? Would your observations apply to your neighborhood? Why or why not?