For Part One: Introduction
For Part Two: Why History?
For Part Three: Era, Person, Dress Up, Geography, Explorer study
For Part Four: Reading and Literature Studies
For Part Five: Writing, Narrations and Re-enactments
Art and artist study has to be one of my favourite past times. Whilst I can’t draw a bit, I am very arty and really enjoy the process of learning new methods of artistic expression. And that is my emphasis – always process over product. It matters little to me if what we make looks naff, just so long as we have enjoyed the journey to naffdom! (apparently that is not a word according to spell check!)
It probably won’t surprise you to know that we do not use an art curriculum. Art, for us, is learnt alongside the culture. I believe authentic study of authentic art of the times teaches so much about the culture. And this is usually where I begin to plan from. During the ancient times the artists tended to work as teams of craftsmen, crafting in a particular style that was often peculiar to their own culture. It is always interesting to see the art on the materials available to them. Man has expressed himself through art from the earliest times and we have attempted to at least expose ourselves to the art from each culture we have studied. And always, always we try to replicate it. At times more successfully than others.
In Ancient India we studied the cave paintings and attempted to do some of our own:
We tried our hand at frontalism on real papyrus when we studied ancient Egypt:
Frescos on real plaster slabs when we did the Minoans:
Screen printing on silk during ancient China:
We did a full study on stained glass windows at the start of our study of the middle ages:
Most recently we did a study into illuminations, replicating a picture book we all love so much ‘Marguerite Makes a Book’:
Click on any of the cultures in my side bar and you will always find some sort of art study relevant to that time.
Although we do elaborate picture study in our artist study (described below) I occasionally find the need to do an arbitrary picture study to illustrate some other historical point. We did a picture study on an Ancient Chinese painting and attempted to replicate it, to learn more about the Han society from primary source evidence:
This was a joint effort of all three children and our replica is on plaster , using Chinese brush and Chinese solid inks just as they would have used all those years ago.
Just a couple of weeks ago we did a brief study of Botticelli’s Circle of Hell. Artistically speaking it wasn’t the most successful study, but my purpose in doing it was a literary one as opposed to an artistic one and for that it fit the bill perfectly:
Our largest and most successful studies are of the artists. All throughout the ancient periods I was itching to get to a time when artists took credit for particular pieces of work. I just knew we would have so much fun and we really have.
Our first study was of Cimabue, followed by his student Giotto. This year we are studying the Limbourg brothers. The first thing I do is look on Amazon to see if there are any child friendly books on the artist of choice, sometimes I’ve been blessed to find a book that fits the bill in a charity shop, as was the case for Giotto. That is a massive advantage of planning a year in advance.
We always do some biographical, introductory work using these note pages, after I have chosen which pieces we are going to study. I then get prints from Wikipedia of all the pictures we will be studying. When I am choosing, I look for pieces done in different mediums which allow much wider learning to occur. In the case of Cimabue we looked at a mosaic and then made our own:
A tempera on wood, which we then tried to replicate by making our own tempera using crushed chalk and egg white:
And finally one of his frescos which we also tried to replicate on home-made plaster in a butchers tray:
Giotto was our second artist study last year. I chose Giotto as he was Cimabue’s student and yet was a forerunner of changing the way painting was done in the middle ages. We found some seriously wonderful picture books about the story behind the pictures and his childhood:
We based our first activity on Giotto’s childhood, who spent a lot of his time drawing on rocks whilst watching his sheep. I made rocks from air dry clay and the children drew on them using chalk pastels:
We studied his mosaics and this time actually made the mosaic tiles ourselves, colouring them prior to mixing the plaster:
and them created our own mosaics:
Next we studied the frescos that this book was based on:
And made our own paints again using posh, muted chalk pastels this time:
And then copied the angel onto plaster:
And finally we did a comparison study of pictures of Cimabue and Giotto:
And they wrote a compare and contrast essay:
We are currently studying the Limbourg brothers and we are concentrating on tiny detail of some of their highly detailed paintings.
We live fairly close to the National Art Gallery, London. So whenever possible we pop up to see some originals from the artists in question.
Music and Composer Studies
I am possibly one of the most unmusical people I know, so this is a struggle for me to even include, let alone excel at. I do my best. Basically we listen to music from the time. We are slowly going through some composers (very slowly) covering Guido D’Arrezzo last year and currently working on Guillaume de Machaut. Again I look for interesting books and I aced when I found this, a book all about D’Arrezzo:
If only I could find books like that for all the composers! We listened to lots of his music and wrote notepages about how it made them feel and drew pictures to describe those feelings:
The children also wrote some biography notepages. And really that is all. Give me art to do any day.
Tomorrow is my last post of the series (all breathe a sigh of relief!) and it will be on field trips and presentations both of which wrap up each culture perfectly for us.