Cycle 1 Week 4- African Masks

Though the arts and ethnic groups of Africa are vast, one common trait is the making of masks.  Even within this commonality, African masks can land on a broad spectrum from representational to completely abstract.  In this lesson we will look at abstracted masks from the regions of Ancient Mali and Ghana (week 14 history sentence and geography) as well as other cultures surrounding those areas.  Even though we will study and gain inspiration from their designs, students are in no way expected to copy them.

What we do want students to learn from this lesson:

  • What the term “abstract” means
  • How to create an emphasis in an abstract deisgn
  • How to gain inspiration from other work, but change it to make it our own

I hope you and your students enjoy the lesson!

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Cycle 1 Week 1- Egyptian Art

The new Foundations Guide came out this year, but you’ll notice that drawing for weeks 1-6 are the same as in the past. Since Cycle 1 looks at the history of ancient kingdoms, I will be combining the drawing concepts alongside art from ancient civilizations.

Week 1 starts out with the basic elements of drawing using the OiLS concept. We will use Egyptian symbols to practice studying what we see and copying that on our own paper. Remember, these are drawing lessons: the point is to learn to draw well, not necessarily express creativity. Once drawing skills are developed, students can more easily express their own thoughts because they have the skills to do so! It is okay to ask students to slow down, follow directions exactly, and even re-work their drawing to improve it. This will be so effective in the long run, and the students will see that the results are worth it.

Below you will find lesson plans with videos for ages 4-6, 7-9, and 10-11. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Happy drawing!

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Cycle 3 Week 13- Grandma Moses

Starting out the “Great Artists” this year we have Grandma Moses. Her work is considered folk art, meaning her art pieces reflect her community, culture, and the everyday things around her. She was not a formally trained artist, and amazingly did not even begin painting until her late seventies. In her paintings we see the quirky nature of her self-taught art: the flattened buildings, the funky use of perspective, and the robustly busy scenes. They are charming and endearing, and your students will love to create their own scene as well.

Though the lesson is primarily about Grandma Moses and folk art, this plan will also focus on learning the terms “foreground”, “middleground”, and “background”. It’s always nice to throw in some extra art terms and use these projects to practice specific techniques. Continue Reading →

Cycle 3 Week 6- The White House (final drawing)

For the final drawing I usually don’t try and include all the concepts from the previous five weeks, but this year I gave it a go.  In order to pound those pegs in a little deeper, this project will touch on mirror-image drawing, perspective, shading, and, just by its nature of being a drawing, OiLs.  (It also includes an American flag as in week four’s abstract art.  Kind of a stretch, I know.)

Hopefully the kids are excited when they discover how much about drawing they already know.  If your students get the concepts, you can give them verbal directions only or write the steps on the board and let them work at their own pace.  They’ll love the autonomy of figuring it out on their own! Continue Reading →

Cycle 3 Week 4- Abstract American Flag

Since we are studying American artists later this year during the “Great Artists”, I wanted to incorporate some famous American abstract artists into this lesson as well.  I’ve included examples of paintings by Calder, Rothko, and Johns.

Jasper Johns (born May 15, 1930) created a painting called “Flag”, which, simply, is of the American flag.  This is a great example of how confusing abstract art can be.  As one of his critics said “Is this a flag or a painting?”.  Exactly.

Even though abstract art can be hard to understand, we can still have great conversations about the elements used and how they make us feel.  Talking about the lines, shapes, and colors helps us appreciate the beauty and depth of the artwork.  To begin this lesson, show images of abstract art (I have included a PowerPoint of images I thought helpful) and have a discussion about them.  Include “Flag” by Jasper Johns as a segue to our final drawing.

We will be using elements from the American flag as we design our abstract work.  And in addition to using the elements, we want to use the principles of design.  This project will focus on repetition and balance in particular.

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Cycle 3 Week 3- Statue of Liberty (upside down drawing)

When I practiced this lesson with my own kids, it made me laugh because they begged for me to to turn the image right-side up for them to draw it.  Something about an upside-down drawing drives kids nuts.  Its hard to shut off the part of the brain that wants to see an image and to just let the lines be lines.  I tried to explain to my kids the whole point of the exercise.  As we draw, we need to simplify everything to OiLS (remember week 1?) and not even think about the subject matter.  Upside-down drawings train us to do just that.  Unfortunately, my kids didn’t care about the reasoning, and we even had to deal with some tears before the drawing was finished.  Art is hard, people.

I chose the Statue of Liberty because of the loose, imperfect drape of her robes.  I tried to create a drawing that appears almost abstract, only becoming recognizable towards the top when adding the head and arm.  Hopefully this encourages students to focus on the lines and not the subject matter.  Even if they do recognize it as they draw, the point of the exercise remains the same- study what you see.  Don’t draw the Statue of Liberty from inside your head, draw the upside-down one you see in front of you.

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Cycle 3 Week 2- Liberty Bell (Mirror Image)

My dad is a huge early American history enthusiast, so I am extra excited to study this year’s curriculum.  The next five lessons include symbols and landmarks of the United States, and we’ll start off with the Liberty Bell.  Originally named the State House bell, this iconic piece hung in the Pennsylvania State House, which is now called Independence Hall.  Inscribed on the bell are the words “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.”  Wonderfully, these words are from Leviticus 25:10, and have been a symbolic statement of freedom for our nation throughout our history.

We will be using the Liberty Bell to practice a mirror-image drawing.  Below you will find lesson plans and video tutorials for ages 4-6, 7-9, and 10-11.  These age groupings are general, so please use the lesson best suited for your students. Continue Reading →

Cycle 2 Week 16- Mini Monets

This week we move into Impressionism.  When we think of Impressionism we think of Claude Monet.  And when we think of Claude Monet we think of water lilies, landscapes, and dabbled paint.  This is exactly what we want our students to think of as well.  Hopefully by the time this project is done, they will have a permanent impression of Monet’s work and will be able to recall the imagery and technique of his style.

Not only will they see his style, but they will know what it feels like to paint as he did… with one exception.  Monet usually painted outdoors.  Though the Discovering Great Artists lesson has students painting what they see outside, this is hard to do during winter.  Here it is cold and snowy, with very little color outside.  To compensate for this, my lesson has students copy parts of Monet’s work, then do a landscape from their own head using his dabbing technique. Continue Reading →

Cycle 2 Week 13- Portraits

Oh, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Portrait drawing can be the most nerve-wracking art assignment.  The features always look a bit wonky, it never looks like the person you are trying to draw, and it can be embarrassing to have to show it off to other kids in class.  Though portrait drawing is a challenge, following a simple mathematical formula can greatly improve the outcome.

In this lesson, students will learn the basic structure of all human faces.  Using this guideline, they will draw the portrait of a parent in class.  The focus is learning the structure, not creating a perfect likeness of the subject.

The famous artist tied in with this lesson is Rembrandt van Rijn.  A famous Dutch painter of the 1600s, he painted landscapes, biblical scenes, portraits and self-portraits.  To begin the lesson, give an introduction to Rembrandt and his work, then dive into drawing your own portrait. Continue Reading →

What is Mealtime Monets?

What is “Mealtime Monets”?  It is the thing that will save your sanity!!!  Ok, I like to exaggerate, but still… it is a tool that will give you free time while your children practice real art skills that relate to Classical Conversations or drawing in general.  I’m calling it “Mealtime Monets” because dinner prep is the time I find I need a bit of space, yet my children (and dog) like to be stealthily right behind me every time I walk to the sink so that I trip over them as I back up.  Or they ask to help make dinner as I’m in a whirlwind panic of pulling the baked chicken out of the oven as I remember that I forgot to make the rice (again).  I do love having my children cook with me, and we do this often, but there are some nights that I’d like to have them occupied while I’m working on it.  And when I realize I’ve screamed “Just go play OUTSIDE!” four times, I need to find an alternative for them to do.

Mealtime Monets are helpful because your kids can sit at the kitchen table and work on the projects while you’re near them in the kitchen.  They like this, of course.  Even if you don’t use the projects near dinner time, they are a good way of keeping kids occupied and engaged in something meaningful while you do something else (like work on math with another kid.  Or have some time by yourself).  They use simple materials and little prep time.  Perfect.