Mar 23, 2011

Artistic Pursuits

When we had the opportunity recently to try ARTistic Pursuits in our home we were elated. We love art. When we lived in Houston we had memberships to the Museum of Fine Arts and it was not unusual to dangle the bribe "if we get all of our school assignments completed by lunch-time we can go to the museum!" and contrary to what one might imagine it was usually quite effective as a bribe!

ARTistic Pursuits is an art curriculum that teaches students of all ages (K through high school) the elements of art and principles of design (composition). Each grade 4-12 book is divided into sixteen units with four lessons per unit; this gives great flexibility in the time span to be covered by each book. A lesson weekly will take two typical school years to complete, two lessons weekly will allow the book to be completed within a year's time. We reviewed "Senior High Book One--The Elements of Art and Composition". The four lessons for each unit are (in order) "Building a Visual Vocabulary", "Art Appreciation and Art History", Techniques" and "Application".

The book uses examples of classical European art to discuss such concepts as texture, form and color while seeking to demystify art in general. From the student introduction..."Do artists really see differently?...artists do see the same as everyone else, but have learned to focus on a particular aspect of what they see while at the same time blocking out other types of information. The language of art uses code words called the elements of art...which include space, line, shape, texture, form, value, and color. The next secret of artists tells us how to see the world using these elements."

Chapter 14, for example, is titled "Proportion, the Face" with the stated objective "to stretch ideas on what a portrait is and came become through exploring new possibilities and to evaluate the results. The first lesson introduces the concept of proportion ("the correct relationships of the parts of an object") and the role that it will play in drawing objects, particularly faces. Lesson two challenges students to explore the concept in several different ways, inviting students to explore facial proportions in art, specifically Albrecht Durer's "Self Portrait; 1498". A biography of Durer is given along with a synopsis of the time sin which he lived. The assignment for the lesson is for students to draw their faces while looking in a mirror, using clothing that tells who the student it, a reflection of the importance of clothing as social status indicators during the time of Durer as discussed in the lesson. Lesson three discusses drawing expression, and recommends an additional reference text. Examples of many different facial expressions are given from fine art and tips are given for the student to better identify the aspects of the work of art that give life to the expression. Lesson four assigns a formal self-portrait as well as explores the student's responses to drawing from a live model.

At the back of each book is an evaluation page for the parent to use in assigning a grade to their student based on levels of achievement. There is also a guide for assigning high school credit. There is no nudity in the books because, as the author explains, "I believe, even though the public accepts nudity in artworks, and you will certainly not be able to go to an art gallery and not see it, that it is up to the parent to decide when, at what age, and how much, they want to expose their child to." A concern that students will find nudity distracting is also mentioned.

Each book retails for $42.95. The books are non consumable and thus can be used for years to come. Art materials are not included but can be purchased separately either in packs listed on the web page or individually by parents at stores local to them.

When we got this curriculum to review I knew immediately that although I would eventually be using it with multiple children I had one specific student that I was going to be handing it to for purposes of evaluation. This daughter of mine has long enjoyed drawing and I thought that she would appreciate tools to help her take her sketching to a new level. I was correct. Her sketch pad went with her everywhere--when she went to do her chores, when she sold for us at a farmers market. She carried it with her constantly. She enjoyed exploring the elements that make art and as a history fiend having the references to artists and how they were influenced by the periods in which they lived was a big bonus. She chose to progress through the lessons at a faster pace than is suggested, completing three units weekly. I would normally rein in a student in favor of a slower, more in-depth exploration of the subject but as this student is in her last year of high-school with all other year requirements met that I would leave it to her discretion how quickly to progress. In all honesty I see her returning to the curriculum at a more leisurely pace, probably over the summer when things slow down--she is enjoying it that much--she will just have to be prepared to make it available to her younger siblings as I intend for them to use this book next year as well.

I received this art curriculum free in exchange for this unbiased review as a part of the The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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