Art Lessons The Easy Way ~ ARTistic Pursuits #review
Art can be a difficult thing for homeschool parents, if, like me, they feel like they have no artistic talents whatsoever. I doodle. That’s it. Teach drawing? I wouldn’t know where to start, other than supply paper, pencils, and a plethora of “how-to-draw” books – which, for years, has been our approach to art. Supply materials and let them create at will.
For the most part, that’s an approach that everyone is content with – except that I know that there is the potential for so much more. One of the easiest ways to add more structured learning is through art curriculum from ARTistic Pursuits. Chey and Chris have been working their way through the early units of Middle School 6-8 Book One: The Elements of Art and Composition.
ARTistic Pursuits is designed to be nearly as simple for the parent to implement as the “supply material” method, and the content for grade 4 and up is written directly for the student to use. The titles for younger children (K-3) are an exception to this, but then that’s the way things generally are; younger students simply need more direction all the way around.
ARTistic Pursuits has recently updated their materials to a new 3rd edition; while we *have* previously reviewed an elementary book, I don’t have it here for comparison, so I’m not able to point out what the exact differences might be. Suffice to say, pages are cleanly designed and easy on the eyes. Units, lessons, assignments, along with the desired goals for each lesson, are consistent throughout the book.
My only dismay with this 3rd edition is that the books are still comb-bound, which makes the pages irritatingly easy to tear. I’d really prefer it if they were spiral-bound. Since we’ve had previous experience dealing with comb-bound books intended for heavy use, the first thing I did was take the book apart. A binder with view covers, plus sheet protects, solves that problem; it will last *much* longer this way.
This edition of ARTistic Pursuits includes 16 units with four lessons each, which is enough for 32 weeks if two lessons are completed per week. There are over 90 full-size pages, and many lessons included color and black & white examples of both student work and works of art. These examples serve two purposes: one, the artist works skillfully exemplify what is being taught in the lesson, showing the potential, and two, the student works show how other kids have applied the information. It’s a powerful combo, in that students see both others at the same level, plus what is possible with dedication, and if my kids are any example, they will strive toward the upper level.
A grading rubric is included with detailed instructions, which I found quite helpful. Each of the four units in a lesson has a different way of approaching the skill being taught in that unit, and as such, there are slight differences in the grading recommendations between lessons. The rubric shows exactly what to look for, which is perfect for parents who don’t have an understanding of the subject themselves.
ARTistic Pursuits, with their focus on being user-friendly, has included a complete supplies-needed list along with the table of contents at the beginning of each book, for both the first and second semester. There’s no digging through individual lessons to figure out what might be needed, and all items are widely available at art stores or online. We had many of the supplies on hand already, but I priced out the year’s worth of materials for my two students, and it could easily be obtained for under $30.
Chey and Chris have been following the recommended two-lessons-per-week plan; while Chris has been enthusiastic, Cheyenne has been less so – it appears she’s become a bit self-conscious about her artwork. The biggest change, so far, then, has been with Cheyenne – with specific goals to work toward, she’s beginning to understand that the entire purpose is learning, not *already* having the skills!
For us, twice a week has been easy to implement, because I can just put it on their schedule, and they’ll fit it in when they have some free time during the week. As 5th and 7th graders, they’re easily able to follow the instructions independently – my involvement generally consists of two things: suggesting ideas if the lesson is open-ended and they want some help deciding, and admiring the end results. (Grading, of course, comes into play, too – but with Chey’s reluctance at showing her work, I didn’t want to put more pressure on her by doing any grading at this point. That meant that Chris, too, hasn’t been officially graded, because if one got grades, the other would feel they needed to, also.
Unit topics include Space, Line, Texture, Shape, Form, Value, Line Values, Composition, Visual Paths in Line Center of Interest, The Elements Combined: Values and Forms, Balance & Symmetry, Balance & Asymmetry, Rhythm, Space Without Depth, Space With Depth, Perspective, and Proportion. There are also four short instructional pieces on combining two elements: Space and Line Variation, Lines and Textures, Values and Forms, and Solid Spaces and Lines.
Artistic Pursuits has curriculum for all ages; the breakdowns are Early Elementary, K-3; Elementary, 4-5; Middle School, 6-8, and High School, 9-12. In the Elementary level and above, there are two books in each; book one is focused on skills needed for the elements of composition, while book two incorporates the use of color in those compositions. The three K-3 titles combine art history with a variety of hands-on activities, including painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, and more.
Each title is priced at $47.95. This, along with the comb-binding, are my only disappointments. While I greatly appreciate the quality of the curriculum, the price is high enough that it creates a significant barrier to some families, especially since art is an elective, rather than core curriculum.