Rockwell Refinements

I’m working on Andrew Wyeth, which is a “resist” project, but in the meantime, my director did something really cool for our kids, which I wanted to share, and what I designed for my Abecedarians had some requests on facebook, so here it is.   My director’s idea worked great for our Apprentices through Masters and sparked some great discussions about how different elements can tell different stories.  Scroll down for that one.


I’ve tutored Abecedarians for three years now, but this year is different. Before, my class was Abecedarian-Apprentices because my chapter was small enough we needed to combine these ages.  This year, I’m tutoring just Abecedarians, and, in a further wrinkle-I have NO PARENTS in my classroom.  Every abecedarian in our chapter is the child of a tutor, who is tutoring one of the other Foundation classes, or Challenge (which meets the same day on my campus). So the only parent in my room is…me. (My youngest is also one of my students). This has lead to an interesting learning curve for me!  (Thankfully, my director is FANTASTIC about stepping in and helping when I need it, but it is different when I don’t have parents who can help me re-direct more quickly!)

My class often finds drawing something specific (or using a specific idea) on a blank page too overwhelming, and since I can’t always help each one (and it only takes one going, “I CAN”T DO THIS” or “I DON’T LIKE THIS!” to start a chain reaction,) I’ve been trying some other techniques.

So for my students, I made three half-draw/half color pages.  These are Rockwell paintings where I’ve removed a very large element, and asked them to fill in what they think the character is looking at or thinking about:

“Stuck Inside” (1922) This painting is actually in the tutorial. The little boy, stuck inside with a book (likely at school), is looking longingly outside at his dog, homemade fishing pole and a can (presumably for worms/bait). These details tell us where he’d rather be right now. I removed the dog, and asked my kids what the boy sees now.  (one drew two kids playing outside, made great sense to me.)

“The Daydreaming Bookeeper” (1924). This painting originally showed a bookkeeper, staring off in the distance while a bubble behind him showed a galleon ship and the words “Adventure” behind him.  I removed the ship, and asked my kids, “what do you think he’s daydreaming about?”  (One drew swimming in a pool with his dog and some lemonade)

“The Connoisseur” (1962). This painting originally showed a well-dressed man standing before a VERY modern painting (looks like Jackson Pollack to me, but Rockwell did it himself.) I removed the painting, leaving the “frame” blank.  I asked the kids, “what is he looking at? Out a window? At a painting?  Through the wall?”  No one chose this one in class, but a few took it home.

I showed the kids the original “Stuck inside” but not “Bookkeeper” and “Connoisseur”, since there was a “frame” for them to work in, and I didn’t want them to copy what Rockwell did.  Here they are.


My director came up with this AWESOME idea.  Since Rockwell almost always worked from live models, or photographs he commissioned of the models, she decided our kids would be drawing from a live model, just like Rockwell.

She moved a rocking chair from the nursery, a ficus tree from somewhere else in the church, and a little folding table from the lunch room, and put them together. She then added an empty mug, and a newspaper, and asked for a volunteer to sit and read and “model” for the class.  One dad volunteered to sit for all the classes.

I then wrote a bunch of questions to help the students figure out the “story” behind the dad reading.  We he inside, or outside?  Where there other people around?  Was something happening-or about to happen?  It went REALLY well, and the kids loved to show the different stories they could each tell using the same central character in the same position. It was a great discussion about how the details in a painting can tell a story, and the kids could look at Rockwell works and notice these details later.

I included a “cleaned-up” version of the questions, and the sketch I did this morning of the set-up (I forgot to take a photo at community yesterday-sorry!)

c3wk14 Rockwell Questions to Tell a Story