Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Homeschool Art Doesn't Have to Be Hard (and a look at our Georgia O'Keeffe study)

I loved "art" as a child - both art class at school and drawing with my dad at home. I still enjoy it and I want my kids to have some "art" in their lives too - exposure to great artists and opportunities to develop their own artistic skills and creativity.  So art has been a part of our homschooling the past two years.  It's my hope that the kids will someday take art classes with a professional.  But they're still young-ish and for now I think regular and enjoyable exposure is more important than intense lessons.  I sometimes toy around with idea of plunking down money on an art program that has rave reviews, like Meet the Masters or Child Size Masterpieces.  But I always back off from that because of cost and because... well, let's be honest - I like to do my own thing.  

How we "do art" is sort of like how we "do music."   I gather as much info and as many resources as I can with as little effort as possible and we jump in.  Here's how:

* Calendars.  Yep!  So far, every artist we've studied has been based on which art calendars  I could get on the cheap from  (Summer is the time to get current year calendars for 1/2 off!)  This *trick* is much less expensive than buying real art prints from museums, or wherever you buy art prints, and you can get a nice variety (12 pieces to be exact!) of an artists' work.  Last year, based on calendar availability, we studied impressionists - Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edward Degas, and Vincent VanGogh.  This year we took on American artists Mary Cassat, Winslow Homer, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Norman Rockwell.   

* Introduction of artist's work with silent observation. I choose about 7 or 8 paintings I like best and set them out on the table.  We all look at each one carefully (in silence, if possible!) and end by standing in front of our favorite.  Then we take turns describing the painting and telling why it's our favorite.

* Visual availability.  We hang up the paintings in our dinging room for the duration of the artist study.  Toward the end of the quarter, it's sometimes replaced with the artwork of the kids.

* I sometimes buy a set of art cards (books of postcards) for an artist we study.  They are for the kids to look at independently and for variety's sake. 

* Picture books. We read and re-read the books that I've found on the artist.  I usually get anything I can find on him/her from the library children's section and then keep what I like and weed out what I don't.  I also usually end up buying one or two that I found Amazon but that our library doesn't carry.  (If I had my way, I'd buy all of them to have in the house all the time, but you know, budget.  *Sigh*)

* I check out the Internet for whatever other resources I can find - documentaries and YouTube videos, mostly.

* Simple projects. I make up art projects to do that coincide with the artists.  Sometimes we attempt to copy our favorites and sometimes we try to create something original that at least follows a favorite theme or technique of the artist.  I always participate, creating my own artwork along with the kids.  It's good for them to see that I'm participating and trying to improve too!

* We usually "do art" when Clare is asleep.  I learned this the hard way the day when I thought, oh sure, it's no big deal to let her use the chalk pastels.  Clean up took longer than the project itself :)

* I usually include Ruth in our "art stuff."     I don't think I'll ever forget the day we were visiting friends - it was a few weeks after our Mary Cassatt study - and she plopped down in their big blue recliner and said, "Mom, look.  I'm like the Little Girl in a Blue Armchair."  I was so proud!

*   *   *   *   *   *

Here's a little look at our Georgia O'Keeffe Study (third quarter)
(please feel free to use these ideas for your own artist study!)

Calendars... from

Art cards...

Introduction to her artwork...

The books we read (over the course of 6 weeks)...

3 part "series' on YouTube of interviews with O'Keeffe!    It was so great to hear about her work straight from her own mouth!

A very short animated movie about O'Keeffe.

There's acutally quite a bit about her on YouTube, but those were the only two things we watched.

The art we did...  

Copying her yellow Squash Flowers using oil pastels.  (This project didn't go quite as I had hoped... We've since been practicing using oil pastels to get better results.)

clockwise from top left - artwork by Aaron, Ruth, Dominic, Georgia :)  
Looking at her shell painting, choosing and drawing our own shells using oil pastels.

by Dominic
by Aaron
Copy using chalk and oil pastels.

from one of the calendars
by Aaron
by Dominic

The rest are copies that the boys worked on independently (of their own free will!  The previous art was "mandatory") during rest time...

by Aaron (chalk pastels)
by Aaron (colored pencil)
by Dominic (colored pencil)


  1. I am in awe. The boys start art lessons tomorrow and I thought THAT was commendable but you put me to shame, girl! Want to come do art lessons? :)

    1. Ooh!! I can't wait to hear about these art lessons! Keep me posted :)

  2. Oh my! This post is incredibly helpful!! I am so intimidated by "doing art" that I haven't known where or how to start. You are a natural at this teaching shtick! I want you to come teach art here too! Btw, the kids artwork is impressive!

    1. Thanks! Don't forget you've get much more important stuff going on right now and don't need to spend time away from that baby searching out books :)

  3. I'm definitely more of an art appreciator than an art creator (I draw bad stick people), but I really love your approach! When I was in school we did Meet the Masters once a month but it was really hit or miss as to whether or not it was effective (or enjoyable). The idea of using calendars and postcards is brilliant, though, and keeping them out in the open for all that exposure for familiarity is great.

  4. New reader here! Found you from FB, in the Catholic blogger group. :)
    Wow, this is impressive and inspiring! In 4 years of our homeschooling, I've dreamed of doing art better, and now I'm seriously excited by what we can do.

    1. Hi Gina!! I'm so glad you liked this post. I'm looking forward to hoping on over to your place to read what you've got going on! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


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