Saturday, August 18, 2012

Young Explorers Art/Picture Study - Block 1

Van Gogh's Bedroom

I have always loved the Charlotte Mason approach to teaching art appreciation via picture study. Choose an artist and several selections by that artist. Each week, show one of the art selections and let the child just take it all in. Then, remove or hide that piece of art and ask the child to describe everything he can remember about the picture - this being called a narration. Finally, have a discussion about the piece to further encourage the child to interact with it.  Keep the art visible for about a week. If you pick 6 pieces per artist, viewing one picture per week, you can cover 4-6 artists in a school year.

So simple.

Bridge in Monet's Garden

Having been through this with my older kids (group A), I am taking a bit of a twist in my approach with group B and the Young Explorers learning group. My approach is influenced by the TJEd lifestyle, particularly the principles of "You, not them," and "Inspire, not require." Let me explain.

"You, not them."
Before this principle took shape for me, I would have chosen 5-6 artists and a selection of their artwork based either on a canned curricula or online schedule for picture study. This may or may not be chosen according to the history period we were studying. My choices would be systematic and we'd not look at the next artist until we had finished a good 6 weeks of the current. I'd probably follow the exact recommendation and use the exact artwork specified.  And ask the kids the exact questions suggested by the curriculum developer. Did you like the picture? How does it make you feel? Seems like a rational approach. Easy. Don't have to think too much. Check the box and get 'er done.

Farmer's Garden with Sunflowers - Klimt

This time I have chosen what I love! In other words, I started with ME. Not them.
I spent some time going through my favorite online gallery where you can order prints and posters. I scrolled through the fine art prints (with a price filter on to view the lowest price items first) and chose several pieces by a handful of masters (I love Klimt, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir - they just kept beckoning)  that I could gaze at forever because they are beautiful to me; pieces I would love to have in my own home. Pieces that aren't the size of a postcard.

Add to cart.

Renoir's Dance at Bougival

"Inspire, not require."
Because I am excited about these pieces, I have no doubt my enthusiasm will spill over to the kids!  When I tell them I can't wait to show them the art selection for the day, it will be sincere! And I'm going to be the one taking great pleasure everytime I walk into the kitchen and see the poster on the wall.

So, we aren't sticking to just one artist for each block, although that's a fine and systematic approach. We'll be viewing some classic Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, and Klimt. (We won't go into detail on Klimt's biography!!) But how neat to view paintings of sunflowers from the perspective of 3-4 different famous artists. Monet, Van Gogh, Klimt - they all had their sunflowers. What is it about sunflowers that artist like to paint? I can almost guarantee you my kids will be inspired to paint their own sunflowers, perhaps yours will too.

Van Gogh's 15 Sunflowers

And I love Van Gogh - he painted hundreds! While Van Gogh is probably one of the most commonly studied artists, you can't really get enough of him. (Its ok if the kids have studied him before - he is a classic, which means you can return to him over and over again and get something new out of the experience each time). When the kids see that his still life teapot-and-fruit-on-the-table paintings were ... not really his niche ... as they compare them to his more famous works ... the kids will realize that you don't just begin as a perfect artist. It takes time and practice to find where you fit in.

Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Klimt - they are classics. They are worth knowing and falling in love with.

Klimt's Tree of Life

Later, when the kids are older and more inclined to analysis, we can take a more systematic approach. We can analyze impressionism from baroque. We can talk pointillism. We can study the more obscure artists and what influenced them. 

Van Gogh's The Sower

But not now! Now is the time to give the kids the eye candy and create in them an appetite for the true and the beautiful!

Have a lovely weekend!

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