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Charlotte Mason and Art Appreciation – Simple Beginning Steps

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“Art appreciation is regarded with a lot of respect, but teachers tend to be intimidated about how to teach it.”
Charlotte Mason, volume six, page 213

As homeschoolers we’re in the unique position to change our own thinking and look at our children as people with varying needs and interests. Balancing the more academic subjects with an introduction to things beautiful to the mind and spirit brings a sense of joy to our homeschool.

“Art is a thing of the spirit, and we need to teach it in ways that affect the spirit. We realize that the ability to appreciate art and interpret it is as universal to all people as intelligence, or imagination, or the ability to form words to communicate. But that ability needs to be educated. Teaching the technical skill of producing pictures isn’t the same as appreciating art. To appreciate, children need to have a reverent recognition of what’s been created. Children need to learn about pictures: they need to learn about them a line at a time, and as groups, by studying pictures for themselves rather than by reading about them.”
Charlotte Mason, volume six, page 214

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“The six reproductions are studied one at a time so that the students learn to not just see a picture, but to look carefully at it, absorbing every detail. After looking at the picture, it’s turned over and the children narrate, telling what they saw, perhaps, ‘a dog driving a flock of sheep along a road all by himself. No, wait, there’s a boy, too. He’s lying at the river, getting a drink. You can tell by the light that it’s morning, so the sheep must be going out to graze in the pasture,’ and so on. The children don’t miss any details–the discarded plow, the crooked birch tree, the beautifully formed clouds that look like it might rain. There’s enough to talk about to keep the children busy for half an hour, and afterwards, the picture will have formed such a memory that the children will recognize it wherever they see it, whether it’s a signed proof, an oil reproduction, or the original itself in a museum.”
Charlotte Mason, volume six page 214

If you’re viewing the painting on your computer screen, you can have your child move away from the monitor and complete the narration of what he sees in the painting from memory. Over time, this simple exercise helps your child to see the unique style and techniques of each artist you study. A Monet will look like a Monet. A Raphael will look like a Raphael. All ages of children are capable of this sort of activity and all will learn to narrate paintings quite naturally if you offer the opportunity each week for art appreciation.

monet-and-mendelssohn-mini-unit-buttonIf you want some help getting started with picture study, please check out my free plans for six week’s worth of art and music appreciation featuring Claude Monet and Felix Mendelssohn.

Summer 2009 Art and Music Appreciation Plans

Everything you need to get started with a study of Claude Monet is included in the plans, even the paintings and links to viewing them online.

 

I’ve written several other mini units covering other artists and composers. You can click over and read more about them on this page:

Harmony Fine Arts Mini Units

 

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Learning to See – Help for Beginning Artists

learning-to-see-cm-beautyHave you struggled with helping to teach your children to draw? Perhaps because you don’t feel confident in your own abilities or because some time in the past you became frustrated with making drawings that didn’t look “right”. I invite you to read a bit of encouragement from Charlotte Mason and then a few of my own insights from my experiences tackling the job of teaching beginning artists.

“Appreciation for beauty usually comes after recognition. Notice how, from the time he’s little, this young child tries to capture a flower’s beautiful color and graceful form with his own paintbrush. A wise mother is careful to make her child aware and appreciative of stylized art. She has him look at a wild cherry tree from a distance, or a willow tree with its soft pussy willows. Then she shows him how the picture on a Japanese screen has captured the very look of the thing without being an exact representation. When he compares a single pussy willow or cherry blossom with the ones in the picture, he can see that the pictures aren’t attempts at exact duplication. From an early age, he learns the difference between painting what we actually see, and painting what we know is there even if we don’t see it. He learns that it’s more satisfying to try to paint what is actually seen.”

Charlotte Mason, Volume 3, Chapter 7

childs drawing of person

My son drew this when he was about 5 years old. Yes, it is supposed to be me.

 

An example of this is when your children try to draw things like the human face or human hands. These are things that they have seen hundreds of times and yet they often draw hands with five fingers all sticking out and eyes as big as saucers. They understand that the hand has five fingers on it and they draw it that way. But, that is not what we usually see when we look at someone’s hands. We see parts of hands, parts of fingers, and hardly ever the palm facing out.

 

This is where we see the struggle of the child trying to draw what he thinks a hand should look like as opposed to what he really sees. The same thing happens when children draw ears and noses and mouths. They end up drawing the symbol for what they think are these facial features instead of what they really appear to be on the human face.

drawing of apple

Here’s another example that illustrates this phenomenon. Notice that my son drew the apple seeds that he knows are on the inside of the apple even though we are looking at the outside of the apple. His brain is telling him that there are seeds inside even though clearly his eyes don’t see them. I find this truly fascinating.

Art copywork using great artists painting

Viewing Art – How do other artists solve these problems?

I learned from Charlotte Mason’s writings the value of viewing paintings as a way to learn how to represent objects realistically in our own artistic pursuits. To see from a variety of artists the solution to making hands in a painting look “right” is just a matter of taking time to study each painting one by one over a period of time. This is called “picture study”. We can see how other artists have solved the problems before us and learn from their examples.

From My Archives

Just What is Picture Study? – Here are a few beginning steps to viewing famous artwork with your child. As your child gains some experience with really looking at great art, they will start to see how various artists make things look life-like. This takes some time so just get the process started and little by little your children will come to appreciate each painting and remember it like a friend.

art copywork john singer sargent

Great Reproductions- Another Helpful Lesson in Copywork – Here’s an entry that gives you loads of instruction on how to use picture study and then art copywork as a stepping stone to learning to draw more realistically. This entry is aimed at high school students but you could easily use the resources and adapt the ideas with younger children.

 

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Drawing With Children – Helping Moms to Learn to Guide Little Artists

A valuable resource for helping your family to learn to draw is the book, Drawing With Children by Mona Brookes. I recently shared some thoughts about this book here on my blog. I invite you to read her words and be encouraged to use her methods with your family.

Here is the entry: Drawing With Children – Free Lesson Plans

“We need to stop mystifying the drawing process and explain to students how artists actually achieve the results they do. For instance, Picasso and Michelangelo both copied other artists’ work for at least two years as part of their initial art training. When Picasso began to express himself in what were considered “unique” styles he was actually copying many of his images from African masks. Painters such as Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec worked from photographs of their subjects, and many famous painters have used each other’s paintings for inspiration.”
Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes, page 11 in the section, Changing Your Attitudes and Abilities

 

Please note these are Amazon affiliate links to books I love and highly recommend.

“Pleasures of Winter”

 

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“When there’s frost or snow on the ground, children have fun sliding, throwing snowballs and building from snow. But even when the snow is slushy and dirty, or the sky is gray, they should have interesting things to do outside so that their hearts are cheerful even when the day is cold and dreary.”
Charlotte Mason (in modern English) volume 1 page 85

I normally talk here on this blog about art and music and my love for both as part of my family life and my business. But, there is also the love I have for the great outdoors and the study of the things found there. This week I’m sharing a post from my archives that hopefully will give you some incentive to get outside even though it is the winter season. I’ve embraced cold weather nature study since moving to Oregon and have found the benefits of even a few minutes a day outside far outweigh the inconveniences of being cold.

Please click over to read my thoughts on “The Pleasures of Winter”.

Have you checked out my nature study website lately?

 

Handbook of Nature Study Logo

If you’re interested in an Ultimate Naturalist Library Membership, you can use the discount code NATURE5 to get $5 off a membership.

Winter Wednesday ebook

Here is one of the winter ebooks that you can find in the Ultimate Naturalist Library membership. We are currently working through the nature study ideas together each Friday. You can download a sample here: Winter Wednesday ebook sample. 

 

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