Monday, April 30, 2012

Art Appreciation

I didn't really grow up around fine art.  I did get to know theater arts fairly well as a dancer and as someone with a lot of friends who acted, but not painting and sculpture etc.  I have truly enjoyed learning about the amazing ways some of the masters have managed to express emotion simply through the texture or color used in their painting as an adult.  The thing that has really blown me away though is how my daughter "sees" fine art.  It is so unfortunate that a hole world of expression is being lost to today's generation.  If an art education for your child is important to you, in most situations, you will need to take the matter into your own hands.  Here are some resources I have found engaging and enlightening for myself and my younger students along with a few activities you might try.  Hope you find these resources as helpful as I did.

For your baby or toddler:  Series of board books: "Quiet Time With ________"  (Fill in the blank with an Artists name.  I know they have Cassatt, Matisse and Picasso).  Poetry matched with copies of works of art by the artist in the title.  Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober

For Your Preschool Child:
Little Einsteins depicts famous works of art within the cartoon while your child also listens to, and gets a lesson in classical music.

For Your 3-7 year old
Actually DO art.  Unfortunately what most kids get at school is largely not art, they do crafts, however the projects where they are given a media (paint, chalk, pencils, charcoal, clay. . . ) and allowed to explore it on their own terms in their own time allow them to begin exploring what artists do.  There are a lot of  creative ways to work the process too.  For example, tape a paintbrush to a flashlight and let them "paint" the light spot in the dark  The youngest ones won't really realize that as they move the brush to "follow" the light made from the flashlight, they are also moving the light.  

You can experiment with the different media on damp and dry paper.  You can also experiment by making usually dry media wet (dip the chalk or charcoal in water).

Painting does not require a brush.  Finger painting is a great sensory experience and doesn't really require paint that is specified "finger paint".  You can also use: spatulas, bubble wands, sponges, craft sticks, bubble wrap, balloons, pipe cleaners, fly swatters, thimbles. . . as your painting implements. 

You can also blow fairly thin paints and inks around by blowing through a straw.  Though I wouldn't do this with the youngest artists because they might try drinking the paint. Try puting watercolor paint in your bubble solution and blow bubbles at a large piece of paper.

You can also look at art with your child.  Surprisingly to me, some kids will look at a great piece of art and see a story there.  At three and four, mine often wanted to tell me the story of the artwork sooner than paint or draw something herself.  But then, she is a talker.

There are also plenty of picture books that include master artists or an art-related theme.  Two that are favorites at our house are: 

Chasing Degas by Eva Montanari  - This delightful picture book follows a young ballerina "Chasing Degas" through the streets of Paris in order to return his paints to him and get her tutu (their bags were swapped accidently at the opera house).  Along the way she meets other impressionists including Renoir, Monet and even the American Cassatt.  

Art and Max by David Wiesner - This book demonstrates the art process (as well as different styles and media) within the story through fun, fanciful and interesting mis-adventures mostly shown in the pictures that accompany the story.  Check out the artist's own explanation at

There are a number of picture books on or related to this subject I have not yet had the opportunity to view myself.  If you go to and do a search "picture books about art" you'll get a whole list of them.  Please let me know if you find any other treasures not yet mentioned here.

For Your Elementary School Child:  
Any of the books listed in the preschool category, particularly the last two might still be used with older children as well.
"A First Look At Art __________" Fill in the blank with a theme word such as places, journeys, or weather.  First Published by Chrysalis Children't Books in UK.  Also published in US by Chelsea Clubhouse 2005 (  

These books are organized in such a way as to present a work of art with a little information about the artist and the work itself.  The text includes questions that ask the child to look for specific things within the picture.  There will be pages with a work of art (or often two to compare in some specific way) followed by another two pages with a realted art project a child can try that incorporates a technique, concept or theme that was used in the works of art at which they were first asked to look.  There are "Arty Tips" and "Picture Hunts" included.  

For example, in "A first Look At Art: Journeys", There is a page layout where "Train Landscape" and "The Westbury Horse", both by Eric Ravilious are presented on opposing pages.  One of the art pieces is depicted from inside the train and you can see the Westbury Horse carved into a hillside through the train window.  The other artpiece is from perspective of the hillside above the horse looking down into a valley where you can see a train weaving its way through the countryside.  The child is asked to ponder how the artist made the train, or the horse more or less important within the painting.  Other layouts may highlight works of art showing contrasting weather using different colors, how shadows show wear the sunlight is coming from, cool vs. warm colors, a layout may contrast use of mainly primary vs. secondary colors etc.

You might also try the series "What your _______ needs to Know" (insert a grade level, K-6 into the blank) edited by E.D. Hirsch Jr.  It always has a section on "art" and includes Examples of paintings, sculptures, etc. with related activities or a series of questions to answer while looking at the artwork.  The questions and activities are fairly similar to those in the "A First Look At" Series, but there is more related text and they offer a different set of works of art.  The books also include activities for the other subjects such as Math and History.

"Come Look With Me" by Gladys Blizzard, is yet another wonderful series of books about masterworks.  In these books, a painting is depicted on one page and on the opposing page is a series of questions intended to inspire "close looking" at the artwork.  The questions are then followed by a paragraph or two biography of the artist who crafted the work shown.  These books are also organized around themes such as children (portraits of children), World of play (celebrations and games depicted in art), exploring landscapes (landscapes) etc. 

This last book I am going to reference is one I want to own and always have on hand in our household.  It presents pieces of artwork chronologically and then gives each a "story" to which kids will be able to relate.  On pages following the opening page about each artwork presented, a little historical context is introduced, as well as critical information to help the observer truly look closely at the painting.  It even offers "close ups" of each masterwork showing especially important details and gives glimpses of other masterworks to which the artwork at hand can be compared for a variety of reasons.  The book offers a wide sweep, gives a sense of art history, and offers up ideas of things kids can try to do themselves (some of them somewhat more related to the science behind the art, some related to art skills and techniques).  The amazing thing, is the truly fun way it does all of the above.  I am excited to really delve into more of this one with Alice.  It is called, "The Story of the World's Greatest Paintings" and was written by Charlie Ayres. 

Again, there are books related to a variety of art topics for various ages I have not yet have the pleasure of enjoying more fully.  The Eyewitness series by DK publishing has visual encyclopedias on a number of topics that include art such as perspective.  You can also explore art through cultures in this series of books by looking at their book on certain time periods or places such as Midieval Life.  Of course they also have books on the greats like DaVinci and His Times.

I know the Magic Tree House series has a guide to DaVinci that is intended to compliment one of the stories in the series.

Again, please let me know about great finds you may encounter by adding a comment below.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comments!