Art Appreciation: A Starting Point

Building a love for beautiful artwork is something that happens over a period of time. When we first started homeschooling thirteen years ago, art appreciation appealed to me, but I didn’t know where to start. Sometimes you just need to dive in and give it a try and that is exactly what I did with my children.

Even though I had no real background in this subject, I did have a passionate interest in paintings and art history. I had a desire to learn more and along with my children we learned together as the years went along. What did we do to get started? What method helped us get our feet wet with art appreciation? How did we progress slowly through the years? What things have stuck with us?

My Best Hints
  • Use a series of artwork from one artist and that will help define for your children the artist’s style. Pick four paintings you like and share those one at a time.
  • Closely observe and enjoy one painting at a time, increasing your child’s awareness of what it means to have a “style”. View the artwork together and have your children tell you what they see in the painting…many people call this narration or picture study. Most paintings have some sort of story to tell, encourage your children to try to guess the painting’s story.
  • Keep the artwork you are studying in plain sight for a period of time. Make the painting your computer’s desktop background or have a print of the painting in a prominent place where you spend time each day.
  • After you have studied two or more painters, begin to compare and contrast the artists. How are they different and how are they similar? Over time this will help your child learn more about the periods of art history but in the beginning, just make casual observations.
  • Come up with a way to review the artists from time to time. Keep your prints in a notebook, binder, or folder. Pull them out at the end of each term and spend a few minutes going back over the various paintings and artists. This is a fun time for children once they start to accumulate a number of artists. Keep the mood light and do not make it like a test.

When my boys were younger, I chose an artist where their style was particularly apparent and easy to see. We studied Mary Cassatt, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Pierre Renoir, and a few others that appealed not only in subject matter but in showing a distinct style.

These early years were focused on gaining an interest in art and not so much in learning about art movements or art history. The viewing of artwork and then perhaps learning the title of the painting and the artist’s name were about all we did for art appreciation.

If your child has an interest or you are starting your program of art appreciation with older children, of course you can add in a little more depth by reading a biography for the artist or perhaps making a drawing of the painting you are studying.


Here is a sample of how I used to print out the paintings for each child’s notebook. Not really fancy but it worked for us. I would print out four prints on a sheet of photo paper and then slip it into a clear sheet protector. Those would go into a three ringed binder.

I also used Dover Coloring Books to go along with the artist’s paintings as a quick follow up for an artist if the children were interested and had a desire. We kept everything very casual and positive. ( I have started including some of our Dover Coloring Book projects on my right sidebar of my blog for you to see as examples.)

As they got older, we would attach the art prints in a spiral sketchbook. They would print the title under the print along with the author’s name. Again, keeping it simple and enjoyable.

Getting Started with Young Children
1. Study one artist at a time.
2. Study at least four prints one at a time, using careful and casual observation.

To Add a Little More Depth or For Older Children
3. Follow up with learning the name of the painting and the artist’s name if desired.
4. Store the prints in a three ringed binder or in a spiral sketchbook and review at the end of each term.

To Include a “Hands-On” Activity
5. Follow up with a coloring page from a Dover Coloring Book if desired or sketch a part of the painting or the whole thing.

Remember that your goal is to spark a love for great artwork. This goal is one that can be achieved using any artist that suits your family. Here are some websites that I find helpful for viewing artwork:
Artchive.com
ArtinthePicture.com
ABCGallery.com

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