Looking back at my own education I realized there was a topic missing – famous artists! I’m sure my teachers touched my various painters and sculptors over the years, probably in the vein of history, but apparently I didn’t retain much.
The good news is … school isn’t the only place we can learn about such things! Together, my kids and I are learning about famous artists and illustrators and it has become one of our favorite topics to explore. If you too feel like your awareness of famous artists is lacking, jump on the train and introduce your children to famous artists with me. I’m guessing you’ll learn a thing or two too!
In our exploration of artists we opted for a haphazard approach. We simply chose an artist to research each month. No rhyme or reason, just one that piqued our interest. If you want to approach your artist study in a more organized fashion you could choose a specific genre of art or time of influence and work your way through artists that way. Regardless of how you go about it, any awareness and appreciation will be a step in the right direction.
I do map out a few months at a time so I can be on the lookout for books, art projects, and other resources. Library holds can add up so be sure to plan ahead there so you have everything you need when you need it!
Next we simply carve out a time or two each week to read and discuss our artist! Our family calls this time “symposium” which historically is a gathering for intellectual conversations with music, dance, and libations. Our symposium is a bit more tame – just snacks and conversation. Still, my kids really look forward to this circle time because it symposium sounds so grown up and official.
We work our way through a children’s biography of our artist as well as a larger picture book featuring the artist’s work. Many of these often have discussion questions or prompts and I use those to fuel our conversation. Things like, “What is unique about this picture?” and “What do you think the artist was feeling?” We discuss contemporaries, both in art and music, as well as what else was going on in the world during the artist’s time. Our conversations often sideline into geography, so we’ll grab the globe, or even foreign language, which leads me to Googling proper pronunciations.
Once we have a handle on our artist and their works I turn to the wonderful world of Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and Outschool to find an artist-inspired art project that will bring our artist to life. Here are a few projects we’ve especially liked:
- Claude Monet’s Water Lily Project – This is free and includes some awesome biography slides.
- Art and Lit Connection: Art History for Kids – This class covers VanGogh, Matisse, Klee, and Kandinsky over four weeks, the teacher is EXCEPTIONAL and if you’re new to Outschool you can get a $20 reimbursement on your first class making this one only $9 or just $2.25/artist.
A few times we’ve simply been inspired by the artist’s work and attempted to recreate a scene or element on our own. Most recently we did this with Edgar Degas’ ballerinas. My son even added a cheering audience into his colored pencil sketch 🙂
Are you excited to kick off an artist study with your kids? Below are the artists and illustrators we’ve studied so far and a few we have on our radar!
- Jan Brett
- Henri Matisse
- Eric Carle
- Edgar Degas
- Mary Cassatt
- Vincent VanGogh
- Claude Monet
- Georgia O’Keefe
- George Seurat