Okay, I Won’t Be Intimidated…But Where Do I Start Learning About Art?

If you want to explore art, explore it!  Don’t be scared of art or artists, we’re crazy, just like you.  If you’re not sure where to start, start with Daily Art. (See below).  Here are some other tools, especially if you want to expose your kids to the wonderful, crazy, amazing stories that weave through art and history.

If you’re here because you followed my Classical Conversations Fine Arts lesson plan supplements, then please know that I am working on Cycle 2’s schedule of Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Monet and more, it’s coming in a few days (or at least Rembrandt is…)

But before I start uploading all of that, I thought I’d also include some art resources which can help to most easily incorporate art into everyday life and/or education with little extra effort. Because if there’s one thing I know we all lack, it’s TIME.

For Digital Folks: DAILY ART

One of my new favorite art apps is “Daily Art”.  This free app is on my phone, and it delivers a piece of art every day, along with a story behind it.  The stories vary: sometimes they introduce a particular artist, sometimes its about the inspiration of the particular piece, sometimes its showcases the techniques which created the work, occasionally, it talks about what happened to the artwork itself.  Once the piece arrives on my phone (or any device, I’m sure) it only takes a couple of minutes to read through.  In six-plus months I’ve had this app, I’ve learned a lot about the development of art, learned some new names, and discovered some new favorite pieces I didn’t know about.

Image result for japanese literature

This piece, “Woman Looking at the Moon” by Uemura Shoen was one of my new favorites from Daily Art. Completed in 1944, I thought it was a beautiful, peaceful reflection of traditional Japanese culture–all the more interesting to me, since my other “job” is a WWII Pacific Campaign researcher and author. Quite the contrast, since by 1944, the end of the war was becoming inevitable, the only question at that point was: how high would the price be?

One word of warning: if you have younger children, this is one app which might be best pre-curated.  Of the 200+ pieces of art I’ve explored with this app in the months I’ve had it, there have been a handful (between 20 and 25) which, for various reasons, I wouldn’t want to expose my kids to quite yet (my kids are between 4 and 8 years old.).

Otherwise, it’s been wonderful, and you can even explore which time period the work comes from (ancient, Greco-Roman Classical, medieval, renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern, Post-Modern), or where it fits in the timeline of history.  The cultures are varied, as are the time periods.  Today’s (7 January) art piece was “Steamboat Leaving Boulogne” by Edouard Manet, 1864. (see below)

Yesterday was “Madonna Nursing the Child (Jesus)” by Hans Memling ca. 1430. December’s pieces included a satirical painting by Grant Wood of American Gothic fame (“Daughters of the Revolution”; 1932; December 30, 2016 entry); a photo of Napoleon’s Imperial Throne (1805; December 29th entry); Illuminated Christmas Mass music from 1392 ( Dec 24); “Dream Vision” a sketch by Albrech Durer (Cycle 1; Dec 17) “Queen {Nefertari) playing Sennet” c. 1255 BC, Egypt (Dec 12); St. Cuthbert’s Pectoral Cross c. 700 AD (Dec 9), plus several from Rembrandt (Hello week 13!), Van Gogh, Fra Angelico (Cycle 1) and Monet (Week 16) among many, many others.

Um Quadro Por Semana As Obras de Sir Winston Churchill (7)

This piece, “A Flat Calm on a High-Prowed boat” was another piece I learned about through Daily Art. This is a Winston Churchill piece, completed in 1925. Despite the 60-year gap between the Manet and this, you can see similar influence in brushstrokes…or maybe that’s just me.

I personally like the app, and you can ask my techie husband…that’s RARE.  I generally hate adding apps and learning how to use them.  This is really organic feeling and easy to navigate.

If you prefer a downloadable then printed resource: Enrichment Studies

Erica Johns is a homeschool mother of six, who figured out that one easy way of introducing her children to art was just to print off pieces of art annotated with the name of the artists, when it was created, the materials and techniques, and an interesting fact about the art, then post it around the house in various places the children will see it as they go about their day: in the kitchen, by the table where they eat meals, on the kitchen cabinets where they wash dishes or do chores, even in the bathrooms where they kids can read while brushing their teeth or, well, you know…

It works!

A page protector and some silly putty or push pins is all it takes, (or a 3M hook, or even a cheap 8X10 frame from a dollar store) and if you swap the artwork once a week, the kids can see 50+ works over the course of a year.  (as Ms. Johns puts it: If you have two spots in your house, your children can be exposed to over 100 pieces of fine art in the course of a single year, every year)  If you want to discuss the art, or what they see, some really interesting conversations develop. Even in my own work, I’ve been surprised the meanings people have pulled from my stuff which I didn’t deliberately put there, but they can see because of their different background, life experiences, and perspective.

She has collections that cover artists, composers, scientists, poets, presidents and more, with packets ranging from$5 to $15, as well as sales and lifetime memberships.  If you sign up for her newsletter, every month she’ll release one packet for free, the discount code is in the newsletter.  This month, January 2017, the free packet is works by Peter Paul Reubens, a contemporary of Rembrandt, who we will be studying in Week 13.

Full Disclosure: I am a member of Ms. Johns website, however, I am not getting anything out of writing this recommendation.

For those whose kids respond to cartoons on YouTube: Art with MADI and DADA

I found this series while trying to learn about Giotto ahead of Week 13 last year. Each 8-ish minute episode shows Mati and Dada working in art, time traveling to meet an artist and learn how they approached art, then returning to try the techniques.  My kids got so into these, for Presentation one week, they presented on Giuseppe Archimbolo, an artist I wasn’t familiar with, but they’d seen on Mati and Dada.  His art is certainly memorable!

The episodes are geared towards kids 5-8 years old, but certainly can bleed up and down that age range a bit (my 4 year old loves them!)

Episodes include Giotto, but also DaVinci and from Cycle 2, Rembrandt and Berthe Morisot

This series is a YouTube series, so it is not pirated.  They also have a website.  The creators are Italian, but thankfully, the series, for those of us in the English-speaking world, is translated into English and they have an English website, if you want more information.

If you have Amazon Prime, I recommend their series “Creative Galaxy”.  While this series is less specific artist-centric, it does touch on various artistic techniques, and show kids how they worked.  Later episodes also go into cooking, small engineering projects and other aspects of creativity.

For the book lover or younger kids:  Mike Venezia

My parents got me his “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Vincent Van Gogh” book when I was about 11 or 12.

Image result for Mike Venezia

Despite the book being geared for younger audiences, I read it to pieces, just because the mixture of actual work by Van Gogh and the cartoons which highlighted aspects of Van Gogh’s life were both poignant and funny.  While Venezia does not gloss over harsh aspects of some artists’ lives (he mentioned Van Gogh cutting off his ear and his supposed suicide in his book) he doesn’t dwell on it either.

Venezia went on to do Getting to Know composers, Scientists, and Presidents. The Artists books went out of print until a couple of years ago, when Venezia re-worked some of them, and they were re-printed. You can now find his work in many libraries, on Amazon, but also used book places as well. I re-purchased Van Gogh for Christmas this year (for me), and “for my kids”, I got his books on Rembrandt, Edward Degas, Leonardo DaVinci, and Mozart.

The National Gallery wants to help you explore art

For those who are maybe 8+ or in the upper end of Foundations/Essentials (or even those in Challenge) some of these might be useful.  (Or even the person who always wanted to understand more about art!)

The National Art Gallery has put together a resource called “An Eye for Art”.  It’s available for purchase as a single volume, 9both at the Nationall Gallery and Amazon) but also has artist-centric PDFs for download, plus other themes covering nature, portraiture, land and cityscapes, Narrative Painting (telling a story in an image) and more.  Each PDF is about 4 pages long, and features many works from the artist or theme.

They have a number of other resources geared towards families too, just check it out!

I’ll be back soon with things for Rembrandt, Linneaus (I’m so excited we’re focusing on one of the many science-artists), Gainsborough, Monet, and more!

Until then explore art without fear!