Saturday, January 26, 2013

Draw What?

When I read the theme for this week's Virtual Curriculum Fair, "Seeking Beauty: The Arts and Everything that Brings Beauty to Our World, I wasn't terribly excited. Art has never been my thing. You see, when I was a youngster, oh those many years ago, I was told "Draw the apple." At my dumfounded look, whoever it was that was talking to me at the time, said "Just draw what you see." That made no sense to me. It still doesn't, not really. I do now know that part of drawing is breaking things down into lines and strokes, and if I look really hard, I can see some lines and strokes in and around an apple. But draw one, no thanks. However, art is definitely Rocket Boy's thing. So here I am, a non-artsty mom, posting about teaching art to someone who, it seems, lives & breathes the subject. Exactly how do you do that? Well, I'm not sure how one is supposed to teach art, but I can tell you what we did, so hang on, this ride might not make any sense at all! 

The Early Years  You see, even though I couldn't draw at all, I still admired some paintings and in general, and a warm fuzzy feeling about the topic. Art would be a fine addition to our home.  Over several years,  I did something many homeschoolers call "strewing."This simply means that I made art supplies, books about art and anything else related to art readily available to him. We had a three drawer rolling cabinet that we called our project center. I kept it stocked with construction paper, copy paper, crayons, pencils, glue, scissors, eyeballs, fuzzy things, old boxes, paper towel tubes, whatever. This was great fun for Rocket Boy. He would invent a lot of stuff and make a general mess. I think we started with the project center around the age of four and kept it up through the elementary years, the contents changing as he got older.  

As a voracious readers we visit the library often, and it was there that I found some great art books to strew around. You can find these books at stores and at libraries. Here are some of the favorites from the younger years:

Child's Book of Art by Lucy Micklethwait
Big Messy Art Book by MaryAnn F. Kohl
Vincent Van Gogh: Sunflowers and Swirly Stars by Joan Holub
The Yellow House: Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin Side by Side by Susan Golman Rubin
Museum ABC by (The) NY Metropolitan Museum of Art
I Spy: An Alphabet in Art by Lucy Micklethwait

 I had read somewhere that to have a child really appreciate color, you need to provide good quality colored pencils for them to work with. Well, sometime around the fourth grade, I invested in a good quality set of Prismacolor pencils. Even my untrained eye could tell the difference with these pencils - they covered the area better, we smoother and deeper somehow. These pencils are ridiculously expensive if you compare them to Crayola, but the the 40% off coupons at national craft chain stores bring them down into the realm of tolerable. 

Middle & High School Years
Late in elementary school, or early in middle school, I can't really remember, we gave Rocket Boy an inexpensive, basic Kodak digital camera, which led to more fun. I had on old copy of Photoshop that I didn't use, so we loaded that on our school computer as well. A copy of Photoshop for Dummies got him started on fun effects, and then the following fall he took a beginning digital photography class in our homeschool co-op. By now, we realized that he had a real interest in the art of photography. 

The next artsy thing I remember is that in middle school, I decided to do a preplanned art curriculum and found Artistic Pursuits. The lessons each have a picture study and a lesson on technique with a few practice assignments. You can purchase a reasonably priced kit of supplies from the company, which will save you some time running around looking for that odd little thing.  Rocket Boy completed Artistic Pursuits Junior High Book One and dabbled in Book Two.

During middle school, he also picked up a couple of art classes through our co-op, but by the end of the last one, it was clear that he'd outgrown the basic technique classes. What to do next?

The summer before ninth grade, I found some art camps at the state art museum and enrolled Rocket Boy in a week long photography class. He thoroughly enjoyed his week and was encouraged by the instructor to apply for a position on the Teen Advisory Board at the museum. He did that and in 9th grade began volunteering in that position. Through our contact with the museum, we discovered that they hosted "Sketchbook Saturdays," which were 1 1/2 hour long art lessons, each based on a particular work of art at the museum, so he began taking those as well. He aged out of them during his freshman year, however.

Now, throughout out all of this, I continued to strew resources around the house. The bargain sections at the chain bookstores were a treasure trove, as was the annual library sale. By this time, the books were mostly technique books with an odd art history book thrown in here and there. Here are some titles we have:

The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to Postmodern by Carol Strickland
An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers by Danny Gregory
DK Art School: An Introduction to Art Techniques by Ray Smith, Michael Wright and James Horton

The last book listed, DK Art School, was a fantastic find. It sat around the house for about a year before Rocket Boy got into it, then wow! The book has extensive sections on drawing, perspective, watercolor, pastels, oil painting, acrylics and mixed media. We significantly increased the number of trips we were making to the chain stores to lay in supplies. After more than a year, he is still learning from this book.

In addition to books, we have visited special museum exhibits. We've been to an exhibit of Norman Rockwell's work, where he learned about the use of art in politics and the impact of politics on art, as well as how Rockwell conceived of, modeled and executed his artwork. His favorite piece there was "Uneasy Christmas in the Birthplace of Christ." We've also been to a Monet exhibit and when we were in Europe this past fall, the Van Gogh Museum and Rembrandhuis, where we saw hundred of Rembrandt's works.

Currently, in addition to continuing to work through the DK book, he is taking lessons once a week from a local artist. He's also continuing to serve on the Teen Advisory Council at the museum.

What's Coming? 
Well, I don't really know, but I have some ideas!

I'm going to talk with the artist soon about adding a more rigorous art course or tutoring for next school year. I have the Alpha Omega Lifepacs for High School Art, which I picked up used at our local homeschool store, so that may come into play.  The AP Studio Art Exam for drawing has also caught my eye, that would take considerable work to pull off, so I'm not sure the art teacher would go for that, but it's an idea.

So, to recap, a non-artist teaches art by doing nothing other than making resources available. These resources include:
  • books
  • museum visits
  • art supplies
  • art classes
  • volunteer opportunities
  • outside classes
  • freedom

This is the final week of the Virtual Curriculum Fair, so stop by Homeschooling Hearts & Minds and thank Susan for organizing it! 

As the stops on the Virtual Curriculum Fair become available this week, I'll add them below so that  you can browse. Don't forget to make yourself a cup of tea as you browse!

37 FREE Online Art and Music Resources by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds ~ Homeschool Without Traditional Art by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool ~Flower Pony Tail Holders - Beginning Sewing Projects by Julie @Highhill Education ~ Seeking Beauty- Virtual Curriculum Fair by Karyn @ Teach Beside Me ~ Creating an Artsy Homeschool, even if you're not by Erin @ Delighting in His Richness ~ Living with an Artsy Boy by Annette @ A Net In Time ~ Virtual Curriculum Fair Week 4- Seeking Beauty: The Arts and Everything That Brings Beauty to Our World by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road


Susan said...

I'm kind of a strewer of resources, too. Both of my boys are very much into creating through drawing. I'm artistic myself, but not much at teaching technique, so I just provide them with books and videos and art supplies and let them go to town. Works pretty well. ;)

Thank you for contributing to the Virtual Curriculum Fair. I've enjoyed reading your posts.

Annette said...

i have bins of recyclables that can be used to make crafts and further story lines along. :)

Annette @ A Net In Time

Christy said...

We aren't big into drawing art here either, or photography. Sounds like you found a good way to work through his love of art.