Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Art at our house

A while a go I did a post on how I plan to teach Art to my kids.

Looking back, it wasn't a very good post!

It was done in haste, a cut and past job from some other stuff I am working on and didn't really explain what our Art LOOKS like.

This post won't really do it justice either, but I will revisit this from time to time. This blog is a little like my brain in that way, fragmented!

Anyways, art.

Why do we do art?

Two reasons really.

1. To develop an understanding of art - artistic literacy if you will - and the ability to gain a basic comprehension of artistic works.

2. To gain experience with using varied media and and artistic conventions in original creations. In real people speak - make our own stuff!

Why do I think this is important?

Art is a method of communication and expression. Through artwork, people have expressed what is going on inside their hearts and minds and/or what they observe going on around them since creation. This makes sense seeing as we were made in the image of the Creator! Being able to communicate with people, to understand and be understood by them, is a key goal of our homeschool. Being able to experience and pursue personal interests and create something original are also goals of our homeschool. Art is a brilliant way of doing this. That being said, my main art education came from being a model for art classes to help pay my way through Uni and I can barely draw a straight line! I am not an artist, but I am not about to let that stop me!

How does our art look with 4 kids under 5, 2 cats, untold numbers of mice and a house under renovation?

Like this.

Today, we tried out watercolours while the babies were asleep. Billy probably lasted about 10 or 15 minutes before loosing interest, but during that time he had fun, learned about colours and worked on his fine motor skills by manipulating his brush. Erin went for about 4 hours on and off through the day - she is my little artist! I had a go for about 20 minutes. I have not used watercolours before ever. The result? Nothing I am about to frame! And that is fine with me. This was our mess around session. The main aim of this time was becoming familiar with the materials.

Next month begins our new look at an artist. Our (my) chosen artist? Beatrix Potter. An amazing artist, naturalist and author and we have easy access to all her works in books that we own and online. This is why we are having a go at watercolour now, to gain an understanding of them so that we can understand how fantastic her works are!

Likely, we won't reach her standard in three months, it took her years to get there. Each of us will take away different things and spend varying amounts of time on our projects, but that is fine. Not all of us are called to be artists! It is not the product with our art sessions, but the process. Learning about some of the challenges with the materials, subject matter etc.

Notice how I am saying "we" and "us"? That is because I am learning too. I don't teach the kids art, I learn along side them. I share my knowledge and experience, and so do they. It is amazing what you can learn from a four year old who has spent a few hours working a media you know nothing about! And if they see me messing up, starting again and getting excited about learning something new, that teaches them far more than just art.

MUST HAVE elements of an art program, in my opinion, are:

Mess around times.
Learning about the materials by messing around with them makes for much less frustration when you are actually trying to get them to work. Imagine if someone handed you a palate of oils, canvas and the Mona Lisa and said "do that". That is how most kids feel when presented with a project and unfamiliar materials.

Good models.
Something to aim for, to INSPIRE! To want to produce art, you need to appreciate it!

Someone to learn with. Someone to share frustration and elation with in learning is a big plus.

Get EXCITED! If you are, they will be.

DON'T DO elements of an art program, in my opinion, are:

Don't expect the Mona Lisa. While the greats copied the masters etc. they only went on to be great because they loved what they did and messed around with the materials. There were a million 'failures' for every success. Focus on the process, not the product.

Don't do fluffy bunnies. Gluing cotton balls on a picture of a rabbit is not art. Do it if you want to, but don't call it art.

Don't keep going after it is not fun. 10-15 minutes A WEEK will teach more than pushing hours on end - especially with really little ones. If it is not fun, stop and do something else, come back later.

To see how other Aussie homeschoolers "do" art, pop over to Aussie Homeschool

To find a whole heap of different tips about everything under the sun, pop over to Works For Me Wednesday at


Christine said...

Hi Jess,
Great advice here, thanks! I came over from the Aussie Homeschool blog...hope to spend some more time browsing your beautiful blog when it's not almost 5 minutes to midnight :)



Jess said...

Welcome Christine, nice to "meet" you :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jess,

I have also come visiting from Aussie homeschool blog. Do you know what I liked best about this?
Your idea of studying Beatrix Potter! What a great idea to study some children's artists!! (Now that it's out there, I can believe it didn't occur to me :D )

Thanks for sharing!