Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pursuing Art

Do you remember back in grade school when you had to read out of literature books that were composed of stories written by random contemporary authors specifically for inclusion in that text simply as a means of illustrating foreshadowing, mood, setting, etc.? As a child, I remember finding these stories particularly forgettable (meaning BORING). As an adult, I find them to be a waste of my homeschooled students' valuable time. This is why we choose to read classic literature to teach those same elements in our literature program. We choose to learn from the masters.

I pretty much feel the same way about teaching art. Why teach shading, perspective, composition, etc. using a drawing by an anonymous illustrator, no matter how competent they are when you can instead choose to use a piece of classic artwork? A real masterpiece.

Even better, why not teach about the artist at the same time, alongside with teaching about his time/art period, his medium (the materials used), and his style. What a novel idea! All the most interesting and rich aspects of art taught cohesively together so that they all make sense and give the child more than a knowledge of the name of a piece of artwork, but also a sense of the history behind it AND an understanding of how the art relates to life...his life, the artist's life, the lives of others.

Getting started with Lesson One...This book worked well for all ages...3-15.

Artistic Pursuits does ALL of those things I just mentioned. Their books teach about individual artists, their art period and style, and about their techniques. Then they go one step farther by having your student learn the ways of the old masters in the way of the old masters---learning by doing---learning by imitating the great works of others.

Ladybug and Cowboy's renditions of Blessing Farm

Lady L's son, code name Falcon, did this one

Tex and Firefly's watercolors...there is a house under all that black Firefly used...really.

This last month we have had the opportunity to review one of Artistic Pursuits' amazing art study books, Stories of Artists and Their ArtGrades K-3, Book Two . This book is composed of 32 lessons with projects which focus on works of the old masters from the Gothic, Renaissance, and 18th Century periods.

This book "focuses on unique projects which give students opportunities to make original works of art. Units are based on individual artists within major periods of art. The purpose of the text is to place in students' minds the primary character of each artist and his work through short fictional stories. Each artist has given us a unique vision of the world he or she lived in. Students can come to know that vision and apply it to their own creative works." (from the text, page 4)

You can read more about the Artistic Pursuits philosophy HERE.

The artists included in Book Two are: Cimabue, Giotto, Limbourg, Van Eyck, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Angiussola, Durer, Breugel, Parmigianino, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Fragonard, Turner, and Millet.

Pages from Lesson One

Some of the techniques covered, with projects, are: watercolors, gold leaf, fresco, papier-mache, oil pastels, textured paintings, carving, tempera painting, blending and washes, printmaking, relief painting, blocking out, sculpting, studio drawing, sketching, rubbings, and mixed media. Find out more details HERE.

Who would this art program be good for?
  • Teachers with limited art skills
  • Teachers with many art skills, but little time to plan
  • Students with artistic talent
  • Students with little confidence in their art abilities
  • Multi-age groups
  • Single students
  • Co-ops
  • Charlotte Mason teachers
  • Classical Education teachers
  • Eclectic types
  • Delight-directed families
  • Unschoolers with an interest in art
  • Let's face it, this program is good for EVERYONE!

Artistic Pursuits offers books at the following levels: Preschool, K-3, Grades 4-6, Junior High (7-8), Senior High (9-12). Check out THIS page for more information.

You can find out more about them by checking out their newly-designed website HERE.

I looked up from what I was doing to find this artist-in-training out on the deck 
trying to get a better picture of her subject. So adorable!

What did I think about this program? I will admit that I have looked at these wonderful books in the past and walked away from a purchase because of the $42.95 price per book. I wasn't sure if it was worth the investment, and being on a tight budget, I wasn't willing to risk the expense. Now I wish I had. 

I am so glad we were chosen for this review because now I know how great these books are. They are exactly what we have been looking for. Some programs are heavy on the sketching (which can be tedious with young kids, if it is the only thing you ever do, especially those younger ones who still struggle with using a pencil), while others are filled with fun projects, but are absolutely random and have little substance (beyond the payoff of having done an art project). This series of books teaches serious art in a fun and interesting way that is easy to understand, do, and teach. You couldn't ask for more. 

To purchase the Stories of Artists and Their Art: K-3, Book Two text, click HERE.

What did the kids think? 

The Three Amigos enjoy painting watercolors of our home, Blessing Farm.

  • The Three Amigos had a blast. Each lesson is designed so that there is a fictionalized story of the focus artist to read aloud to the students. More detailed information specific to each story or technique is also shared in each lesson, along with a representation of one of the artist's works, and often some questions about the selection. If I could add anything to this program, I would suggest that questions be added for each section, but it was not difficult to come up with questions on my own. After the reading, the project is outlined, materials needed are listed, techniques explained, and examples of student work are shown to encourage your students in their endeavors. None of the projects are overly intimidating, the materials needed are fairly simple to gather, and the payoff of a completed project is immense. 

  • I bought 3-D box frames to display my students' work and we made an art gallery on the stairwell wall, so we can enjoy the ever changing variety of family-produced masterpieces. I received an electronic photo frame for Christmas and I plan to put photos of all of the kids' artwork to it, so they will have an archive of all of their artwork. I have seen them grow in both skill and confidence, and expect they will continue to do so.

Tex and his friends, Hawk and Falcon, working on watercolor paintings from lesson one.

  • Tex enjoyed the project as well, and found it interesting. While the particular book we reviewed is considered a Primary Level text, we adapted it to our mixed group by having Tex look up a bit more information about the artists online, viewing a few extra pictures by the artists, and at times, checking out and reading additional stories about the art period, technique, or artist. Since we do have such a diverse group, I figured it would be easier to raise the expectations for my older student than to lower them from a higher level text for my youngers. In any case, the information in the book I chose is exactly what we were looking for and was perfect for us. 

Tex looked for other works by Cimabue online

To see information about other titles, check out the Artistic Pursuits website HERE.

We will continue to enjoy this book throughout this school year and part of the next. I will definitely be purchasing others in the series once we have finished with this one. I am hooked. And glad of it!

  • For more information, you are welcome to contact the folks at Artistic Pursuits HERE.
  • To purchase any of these books, click HERE.
  • To see what others on the Crew thought of their selection of books from Artistic Pursuits, click HERE.



I received this book in order to give you an honest review here on my blog. I am relating to you our experiences with this product, and my opinion about it. I would like to think that your experiences with this wonderful book would be as great as mine, but I cannot guarantee it. However, if you are looking for a good art curriculum for next year, I feel absolutely confident in recommending this one to you. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Rodna Allman said...

We did Junior high Book 1.
Well, we are still using it, actually.

I am stopping by from the Blog Walk.

I know I am behind, but I am catching up.

It looks as if I am already following you.

Would love a follow back, if you are not already following.

Thanks. Have a great day.

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