Van Eyck Artist Study

Van Eyck is the first artist we have studied from the renaissance period, albeit the Northern renaissance.  I was looking forward to this study because he is often called the father of oil paint, being one of the first to perfect their use, and I haven’t had the chance to paint with oils since I was at school.  We started off the study by leisurely flicking through a few books:

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The writing in the actual Van Eyck book, I think, was written for serious adult art enthusiasts and was in very small print.  This did not endear either the children or myself to perusing any more than the pictures.  And there were many to peruse, in fact I would be surprised if we weren’t exposed to all of Van Eyck’s paintings.

I printed out the following lesson from this website.  This is a seriously informative website which offers lessons in many of the famous artists.  Erin, from The Usual Mayhem, recommended it when she did a Vermeer study with her daughter.  Her study was simple yet effective and so beautiful I felt I needed to check it out for myself.  I was not disappointed!

Obviously, with any study one does, one could go mad very, very easily.  Especially art studies (I can get a bit carried away).  So in an attempt to rein myself in I jotted down a couple of ideas I wanted to focus on.

  • Oil Paint

Although Van Eyck has been credited as being the first to invent oil paint, in fact it is more accurate to say he was a perfecter of their use.  Whatever the case, I felt it might be fun to attempt to make our own oil paints using linseed oil, egg yolks and colour pigment.  We have tried crushed chalk before but the softer artists chalk pastels work much better as a colour pigment.  The finer you crush them the better:

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Having made the paint, I photocopied a picture, thought to be a self-portrait of Van Eyck, Man with Turban, for them to use their home-made paints on.  The children went over the outline with a soft pencil, turned it over and placed onto an oil painting sheet of paper.  They then rubbed over the page using the pencil until the image over leaf was transferred.  It would be this image they would be painting:

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I have found that if an outline is given, the children (especially the one who finds art hard) enjoy their paintings much more than if I had given them a blank page to fill.  And here are the beautiful end products:

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  • Picture study of the Arnolfini Portrait

We used the following websites for this study:

Jan Van Eyck | Homeschool Art Lesson Resources

The children also had a short time on their computers to research on their own about this picture.  We had a chat afterwards about the symbolism found within the painting and I encouraged the children to share their opinions.

Each child had a picture, a postcard, some oil paints and a canvas to paint on
Each child was given a colouring picture, a postcard, some oil paints and a canvas on which to paint

This time we managed to make a copy of the colouring-in sheet on the canvas and it was the right way round! (the first picture we did was flipped):

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T12 hated using these oil paints.  In fact, no one except for me enjoyed using them, and although the girls and I were painting for well over an hour (T having given up almost at the start) none of us actually finished our painting.  We learnt that to do an oil painting properly it needs to be done over a matter of days rather than in one sitting.  If we ever use them again, I will prepare the children much better, and maybe even find a how-to book or video to teach us how to use them successfully.  As a first try, I thought (almost) everyone did really well.  T12 called his the ‘Unfinished Arnolfini Portrait’, I thought maybe ‘The barely started Arnolfini Portrait’ was more apt, or maybe even ‘the blink and you’ll miss it Arnolfini Portrait’….

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Our next art study will be on Leonardo Da Vinci.

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