Art appreciation (or the study of art history) need not be difficult. You don’t need a fancy curriculum or a complicated plan. You simply need the desire to enjoy, along with your children, the beauty of God’s creation as depicted over the centuries by outstanding artists.
So, where do you start? I like to accomplish several goals at one time (the proverbial “killing two or three birds with one stone”) so I tie in art appreciation, art history and hands-on art projects with the historical period we are currently studying. An excellent resource for helping you do this is the book Discovering Great Artists by MaryAnn F. Kohl & Kim Solga. (ISBN 0935607099) This book features over 90 different artists in chronological order from the early 1300’s to the present. (If you’re studying history before the 1300’s.see the tips section below) What I love about this book is that, for each artist, there is a brief biography, an explanation of the artist’s style and a nice little hands-on art project that typifies that artist’s style or technique. These projects are especially suitable for children ages 4 – 12, but I’ve found that teens can also enjoy many of them.
For example, browse through Discovering Great Artists and find one or two artists that lived during the time period of history that the children are studying. Then head to the library to find a couple of good art books that contain paintings by that artist. Spend some time with your children looking at the pictures and just enjoying the artist’s work. Better yet, borrow or purchase a couple of prints to hang on the wall. This will give the children a chance to become even better acquainted with the artist’s work as they daily see the pictures hanging there. (A good place to purchase inexpensive art prints is AllPosters.com. Use the advanced search engine to type in the name of the artist or period of art and the price range that you’re interested in). Once the children have a ‘feel’ for the artist’s work, find a time slot during the week where you can do the art project. Display their artwork and enjoy the process.
Are you studying a period of history that precedes 1300? You will not find any artists in Discovering Great Artists prior to 1300. However, you can still use the same method as described above; the difference will be that you will be studying a period of art rather than a particular artist. Prior to the 1300’s, artists did not sign their work. There’s lots of art from ancient Egypt but we have no idea who created it. The same is true for pre-historic art or the art from ancient Greece and Rome.
Here are some ideas for art projects from pre-1300’s:
- Pre-historic art: find some smooth fist -sized rocks and paint on them with earth-tone tempura paints.
- Ancient Egypt: take out a book on hieroglyphics from the library. Create some stationary using hieroglyphic symbols to decorate the boarders of copier paper. Make copies of the original as needed.
- Ancient Greece: take out a book from the library on the art of ancient Greece. Find pictures of Greek amphorae (vases). Draw the shape of one of the vases on a large piece of poster board. Cut out the shape and have the children decorate it with the type of designs they see on amphorae in the art book.
- Ancient Rome: make a paper mosaic using a simple design from a coloring book. Cut various colors of construction paper into tiny squares and paste them onto the design in mosaic fashion.
- Middle Ages: find a book on medieval coats of arms and have your student design one for your family.
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