Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An Open-and-Go Art Curriculum We're Thoroughly Enjoying {A Review}

  • Easy-peasy, open-and-go picture study?  Check!
  •  Gentle art theory?  Check!
  • Full body engagement?  Check!
  • Creative (yet easy-to-facilitate) projects?  Check! 
  • Meaningful exploration of varying art media?  Check!
  • Quality time spent together creating works of art?  Check!

I was happy to be offered a chance to review ARTistic Pursuits Early Elementary K-3, Book 1: Introduction to the Visual Arts with my children in exchange for an honest review since I had heard that the curriculum provides an easy-to-use, parent-friendly and well-loved comprehensive art program.  Since receiving the Kindergarten through third grade book, I can attest that the curriculum is just what it is reputed to be -- easy, enjoyable and engaging.

What is ARTistic Pursuits?

Our living room table at the end of our first experience with ARTistic Pursuits, Lesson 1: Artists Compose
ARTistic Pursuits is a preschool-12th grade art curriculum that gently introduces children to various aspects of art, thereby developing observation skills and free artistic expression.  At each level, this homeschool art curriculum encourages children to draw, paint, sculpt and otherwise create art in response to personal observations and gentle lessons about:
  • the elements of art and composition
  • art history
  • art media
  • and techniques.

ARTistic Pursuits Review

The Early Elementary K-3, Book 1: Introduction to the Visual Arts book that my children and I reviewed includes 36 complete lessons on what artists do, what they see and where we can find art.  Within these lessons, children explore clay, drawing, painting, paper art and more.

Nina would not take her eyes off her second exploration when I asked her to hold up her first ARTistic Pursuits project, a project where she chose to frame the seedlings growing on our front windowsill against a background of the windowsill, a light post and an evergreen bush.

In the What Artists Do section, children enjoy 14 lessons that encourage them to:

  • observe, imagine and compose.
  • use watercolor crayons, pastels and pencils.
  • study examples of landscape, people and still life works of art.

Nina outside observing and taking notes in preparation for her Lesson 2: Artists Imagine art creation.

In the What Artists See section, children engage in seven lessons that:

  • explore the elements of art, such as color, form, line and shape.
  • collage, create paper works, draw and mix colors, creating art works that stem from their own interests.
  • exercise skills including the handling of scissors, gluing, folding paper forms, using drawing materials and using a brush.

Luke loves drawing with pencils and is beginning to explore the use of watercolor pencils thanks to ARTistic Pursuits. 

In the Where We Find Art section, children spend 15 lessons exploring art media further while learning about ancient people and art.  In doing so, students:

  • learn about cathedrals, cave paintings, pyramids and more.
  • use chalk pastels, clay, oil pastels, paper work, etc.
  • explore book binding, clay modeling, mosaic techniques, mural and paper art.

Jack loved creating mosaics on Holy Saturday in response to Lesson 32: Art in Churches.

All 36 lessons in the book are organized in the same user-friendly way:

  • First, parents (or children) read the lesson.
  • Then, all participate in short observation activities or discussions about art works by masters.
  • Finally, everyone creates original works of art about subjects of personal choosing.

Jack asks Luke to help him shape part of his elephant sculpture as a part of Lesson 30: Art in Streets.

The "teaching" portion of each lesson packs pointed teaching into five to ten minute discussions (which, of course, can stretch depending on student interest in the topics.)  The "project" portion of the lessons is designed to take 30-60 minutes (but in our family's experience can take much less or more depending on student interest, too!) 

"YOU did that?" My husband was surprised by what his less-than-artistic wife created alongside the children during our first ARTistic Pursuits lesson.  It may not be a great work, but it is impressive for me and my skills.

Early Elementary K-3, Book 1: Introduction to the Visual Arts is currently priced at $47.95 and is geared towards children ages 5 and up.  To use it, you will need to acquire materials such as:

  • an ebony pencil
  • a vinyl eraser
  • a small set of soft pastels
  • a small set of oil pastels
  • 10-15 water color crayons (or pencils, if you have a crayon-despising chil like I do)
  • a #8 round watercolor brush
  • a watercolor paper pad
  • assorted colors of heavy weight cosntrution apper, inccluding black
  • assorted colors of tissue paper
  • scissors
  • 4-5 lbs. of gray self-hardening clay
These supplies can be purchased as a package from ARTistic Pursuits or pieced together on your own.

ARTistic Pursuits Review

You can view sample pages of the book we have been enjoying and its table of contents at the ARTistic Pursuits website, where you will also find information and samples about all 12 books currently included in the ARTistic Pursuits curriculum.  

Our Experience and Opinion

We have completed six of the ARTistic Pursuits lessons so far, each one of them in a different way, but all of them with joy, attention and learning.

We explored Lesson 1: Artists Compose together at our front living room table, delighting in the ease of the Picture Study as well as in creating our own works of art with watercolor pencils since my oldest hates crayons.

I love that our three-year-old joins intently in our lessons even though the lessons are aimed at ages 5+.

Lesson 2 was used as a "reset activity" one evening when over-stimulated kids needed a fun, focused activity to focus them.  I simply took out our ARTistic Pursuits book and began reading the lesson to myself aloud.

Nine delighted in observing real things outside to spark her imagination.  (And I delighted in the calm and focus that overtook her!)

Luke observed toys and books inside during his reset time while Nina and I forayed outside.  (Jack was sleeping.)  Then, we used out collective "real life inspirations" to imagine and create.

Lesson 2: Artists Imagine calls for watercolor crayons, but my children wanted to use markers.  Not only did I "yes" that, but I "yessed" Luke's desire to use Lego guys in the art work.  he was quite amused with my imagined piece.

We skipped ahead to Lesson 32:  Art in Churches on Holy Saturday, enjoying creating mosaics on a blanket on the front lawn.

Luke and Nina preferred doing the cutting while Jack focused on the gluing during our Holy Saturday team mosaic of Jesus' tomb.

Another day, Lesson 30:Art in the Streets provided a wonderful "reset" opportunity when the children started squabbling outside.  I simply brought our book out with a container of clay and began reading the lesson.  All three children immediately gathered, discussed the master art work and then got to work creating their  own sculptures.

Unkind hands become happy, calm, focused and sculpting hands when invited to join in an ARTistic Pursuits lesson.

Lesson 3:  Artists Look found us inspecting our front garden blooming with spring before drawing with pencils on blankets in the yard.

Luke got seriously up close looking at sprouts and bugs in the mulch before creating his art work!

We found the Communication Exercise as enjoyable as the picture study and project in Lesson 4: Artists Communicate, which we did around the kitchen table.

Before diving into the project with Lesson 4, we used white boards and markers for a guessing game where we quick-sketched action words to try to communicate ideas with one another.  It was so much fun!

Each of the six lessons we have completed so far have proved nothing but positive experiences for the children and me.  We have enjoyed exercising observation, creativity and skills through them and, I, in particular, have loved how flexible the lessons are.  they can be done almost anywhere (once you have the supplies on hand), spontaneously when the kids need a "reset" or planned, when it is a learning time.  We most certainly will continue with Early Elementary K-3, Book 1: Introduction to the Visual Arts lessons until we have completed (and likely revisited!) them all.

Watercolor Pencils add new dimension to Luke's imaginative drawings.
I would not hesitate to recommend this homeschool art curriculum to anyone who would like an easy, comprehensive art program.  We love that it:

  • makes picture study so easy with works of great masters and prompt questions included right in its pages.

  • provides short, pointed and practical lessons in art history, technique, etc.

  • encourages true observation and expressions through the use of varied art media and techniques  (no cookie-cutter crafts here!)

  •  engages all of us, sometimes, as we have experienced, working to reset a challenging moment into a creative, focused and pleasant one.

Granted, at $47.95 for the book itself and more for the supplies, it can seem like a hefty investment for penny-pinching homeschool families.  However, since the book is non-consumable, it will last through multiple years of use (and children!) and we found that between what we already had at home and things I was able to pick up with coupons at craft stores, the cost of supplies was not so bad.  We honestly consider the curriculum and supplies an investment not only in art study, but in our kids and family overall.  We all enjoy spending quality time together getting creative with ARTistic Pursuits.

Learn More

If you'd like to learn more about ARTistic Pursuits?

ARTistic Pursuits Review

ARTistic Pursuits Review
ARTistic Pursuits Review

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