Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Study Art For Free Without a Curriculum

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My kids are artsier than I am.  I appreciate and admire art.  They like to create it!  Last school year, I developed a system of studying art that appealed to all of our tendencies...including my "book-ishness."  

We chose 1 artist to study for 3-4 months.  Last fall I chose Grandma Moses as our featured artist.  Each month I picked a new painting and hung it on the side of the hutch in our dining room. (You could hang yours anywhere it is sure to be seen-- the refrigerator door, the bathroom wall, the chalkboard.) Then, during that month, we rotated through 4 activities, one for each week

Week 1: Study the painting.  Identify the name of the artist and the name of the work.  Talk about what you like and dislike about the painting.  Point out colors and lines.  Talk about the style of the artist (abstract, pointillism, etc.)

Week 2: Read a book about the artist.  These are the books we enjoyed for their story-like qualities, but you could chose any that appealed to you or that were available at your local library.

The Year with Grandma Moses
by W. Nicola-Lisa
Grandma Moses by Alexandra Wallner
Grandma Moses (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists)by Mike Venezia
Grandma Moses' The Night Before Christmas

We also veered off and read a few books written and illustrated by Grandma Moses' great-grandson, Will Moses, and compared the style of their works.  (A few to try: Mary and Her Little LambJohnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend, or my favorite, Silent Night.)

Week 3: Orally describe the painting, using as much detail as possible.  Pretend to describe it to someone who has never seen it before. 

Week 4: This was a favorite!  Get out paper and art supplies and recreate the painting or a portion of the painting.  Do your best work, but don't aim for perfection.  The original painting is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece and you will never fully capture its essence. 

When we studied Pumpkins, Maddie chose to recreate the whole landscape...

...while Gavin chose to focus on only a small portion of the same painting. 

In a Charlotte Mason-style education, narration plays a large role.  Narration is "retelling in your own words" what you've read or heard.  Recreating a painting is a visual and hands-on form of narration. 

During the spring, we studied Georgia O'Keeffe, using the same weekly format. 

Again, these are the books we enjoyed, but you could choose others. 

My Name Is Georgia: A Portrait by Jeanette Winter

The kids found O'Keeffe's work to be easier to imitate   As opposed to the bustle and busyness of Grandma Moses' folk-art, O'Keeffe's  subjects were singular and more simplistic.

Gavin's Apple Blossom

Gavin's Red Poppy

Owen's Ram's Head

Do you use an art curriculum?  Do your kids take art classes?  How do you study art in your homeschool?


  1. We haven't started formal art education. We are still in a season of simply creating our own art. I really like your approach though and we'll probably start something similar in a year or two when more of my students will be able to recreate with some level of accomplishment.

  2. When we belonged to a co-op my kids often took art classes there. I am more like you appreciating art but not really making art myself.

    I like your ideas to give them a way to do art (one especially loves art) rather than just studying about artists.


  3. We are using a similar approach based on COAH's World's greatest artists series (we got it as a freebie and I really like it). It's pretty much what you're doing but it's a little more detailed.

    They also get a lot of art classes at our co-op (mostly because I'm teaching it there lol).

  4. LOVE this! Are you following the same approach this year? How do you go about choosing which artist to study?!!

  5. This year we are taking a small break from this approach, not because we don't love it, but because we found art workbooks that we wanted to try. We'll probably go back to it next year.

    As far as choosing artist, I don't have a method. I go with what appeals to me at the time. When Alaine was a baby, we did Mary Cassatt because she painted a lot of children and mothers with babies. When Maddie was super interested in ballet, we did Degas because he painted and sculpted ballerinas. We chose Norman Rockwell a few years ago because his paintings were fun. I know other families who have chosen artists based on the period of history they were studying.


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