Building On Picture Study: Part Two

Last Monday I posted Part One of this blog entry about developing art appreciation by using picture study. In Part Two I will give you some steps to build on as your family goes beyond picture study. Art appreciation is more of a lifelong journey. It is not like math where once you have mastered it you can move on. A study of art can follow your child long into adulthood and bring much joy. These reflections are drawn from our family’s journey so far and I hope they will help you with some ideas to apply in your family.

Lay the foundation with picture study:
This is as simple as enjoying a painting, closely observing the details and style, and then expressing in words what you see in the painting. We study a few paintings by the same artist before we move onto the next one. Using this simple method, we always have something fresh to look at and to enjoy.

Start to group the artist by time periods and styles:
As the years go by, we follow up our picture study by grouping artists by time period. You can study a few Impressionists side by side, looking for similarities. You can gather artists from the Italian Renaissance period and see how they compare in subject and style. Keep an artist timeline in your notebook or on the wall. Add to your timeline from year to year. Using Child-Size Masterpieces is a great way to easily accomplish this step in art appreciation. Of course, you can include any artist your family is interested in learning about and you do not need to particularly worry about order or time period. If you are set on studying artists chronologically, you can use my Harmony Fine Arts plans to have a schedule all written out using the four year cycle of history.

Art copywork:
Begin to sketch out complete or partial paintings after your picture study time. Help your child to begin to see shapes and colors as you work through a how to draw plan. Use art copywork as an exercise in putting into practice the skills you are learning in your drawing instruction. (I always suggest introducing Drawing With Children and Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad books before the age of nine.) The product in art copywork is not meant to be an exact replica of the painting, but it is a way to practice seeing the artwork on a different level. I think of art copywork as a tool in training the eye to see. Here is a blog entry that shows you a little more step by step how we use art copywork in our art appreciation: Great Reproductions

Develop skills with various art media:
Introduce new media one at a time and then let your children explore. Progress from less messy to the messy if you want to: crayons, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, markers, chalk, tube watercolors, oil pastels, acrylic paints, oil paints. There is no reason younger children can’t use real paints if you work alongside them and train them with the proper techniques for using and then cleaning the paints up afterward.

Watercolor Bierstadt

Visit museums and exhibits:

If all you ever do is look at art on the computer screen or in a book, you are going to miss out on a huge part of the joy of learning about and appreciating great art. It can be such a rewarding experience and worth all the effort to get your children up close to a painting in real life. When your child sees a painting they have studied hanging up on a gallery wall, it is an experience they will remember for a long time.It is sort of like meeting an old friend. The first time I remember this happening with my boys is still fresh in my mind. We traveled to San Francisco to see a whole exhibit of Claude Monet’s paintings. The minute they saw his Water Lilies painting and how LARGE it was….they were in awe. They studied the brushstrokes, color combinations, and the gloppy paints put thickly on the canvas. It was a moment.

Lots of time for free exploring with art materials:
Make the art supplies readily available for everyday use. There is no greater way to generate enthusiasm than to have real art supplies on hand for your children to experiment with during their free time. It does take some effort and organization to make this sort of activity available on a regular basis, but in our home it is one that has been worth every ounce of effort. Yes, we have had messes and spills on occasion, but it really is all a part of the learning process. When your walls are filled up with child-made art, you will not be sorry you made room for a few messes.

Offer opportunities for other areas of creative work:
As your children grow, their areas of interest will expand. Photography, video making, ceramics, graphic arts, scrapbooking, model building, jewelry making, sewing, and so many other opportunities bring the whole artistic creative world alive for our children. You do not need to do it all at once. There are many years for you to build up the creative juices and the activities that you offer in your home. Build a creative fire, it lasts long after your formal homeschooling is done. Each child is different and if you are open to the possibilities, art will enrich your lives in ways you never dreamed of.

Don’t stop at picture study once you have that habit established in your family. Take it a few steps at a time. Resist the need to keep it neat and tidy. Keep the creativity rolling!

I have another installment in this series rattling around in my brain. It pertains more to high school students and art, but I think you will be interested in hearing how we have returned to picture study in high school and how it has helped keep our days balanced. Look for Part Three in this series next week.

You may wish to read my post: Artist Study Using Notebooking Pages

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