There’s no perfect way how to teach art, but I like to keep a few goals in mind:
1. Expose kids to great art and music, learning about the artists and musicians along the way.
2. Teach them the principles real artists use (line, shape, unity, balance, color, etc.)
3. Let them have real experiences and practice
4. Allow them to be creative and unhindered by too many rules
Focus on Art Principles and Accomplished Artists
To accomplish these I generally plan my art lessons based on either the work of one of the masters or on a principle of art (or both). For example, I show them a picture of Van Gogh’s Starry Night and we have a discussion about it.
- What did he use to create it?
- Does it look realistic?
- What kind of texture do you see?
- Are his lines straight and geometric or curving and organic?
- What colors did he use and what do those colors make you feel?
- What do you see in the foreground? The background?
We also talk about Van Gogh’s life and his experiences. We find out why he became a painter, where he lived, and whether his art was popular during his own life. Then we look at some of the artist’s other work and compare it.Finally, we create art based on the artist’s style. The kids get to make their own Starry Night paintings by using dark construction paper and painting a simple mountain and village scene, surrounded by a bright and swirling star-filled sky. They could mix and swirl the paint on the paper as Van Gogh did. They could add small brush strokes over larger swirls in his style. They could use many shades of the same colors as he did.
Afternoon Arts and Crafts
Not all of our art is so formal though. Every afternoon we do some kind of fun project. Sometimes we make our own lip gloss, make beads or clay sculptures, do a marble painting, or some other creative art project. During each holiday we usually create our own decorations and make a lot of other holiday-centered art.
I also let my kids do a lot of art projects just for fun all on their own. They have a scrap box filled with artsy types of things–paper, stickers, old tins, bottles, boxes, fabric, yarn, pipe cleaners, shoe boxes, wiggly eyes, bottle caps, and anything else I find to throw in there. My kids have created robots, homes for their little toys and action figures, story boxes, sculptures, mobiles, fairy houses, and puppets. I don’t tell them what to do. I just give them whatever supplies they need and let them go at it.
Making Music A Part of Creative Time
We also listen to a lot of great classical music while we work. They recognize and enjoy lots of music because it’s a part of our everyday. All of my children also play the piano and take formal music lessons because I truly believe in giving them a musical education along with our other art studies.
Art is partly about learning history and principles, and partly about creating and thinking in new ways. Both are valuable and both have their place in the classroom and home.
Here are a couple of great art links–
Most of all, art should be free and fun! I always make the projects right alongside my kiddos, so I get to be crafty and creative and they get great one-on-one time with Mom too. Everybody wins!