Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review Crew: Artistic Pursuits

As one of our last reviews for the year, we were blessed to receive the 4th- 6th grade The Elements of Art and Composition of Artistic Pursuits art curriculum.  I used this curriculum with my oldest, Ben, for a month or so, and am thoroughly impressed!

But let me back up.

The Company.  Artistic Pursuits is a well-known curriculum resources for art history/appreciation/instruction -- yes, it does a lot!  The company believes that art instruction involves four parts:  the elements of art, composition, art history and media exposure (pencil, chalk, oils, sculpture, etc.).

They structure lessons in several parts, according to the age range:
"...The K-3 program covers the elements of art and compositional ideas suited to the age within the context of art history. Techniques are shown as new materials are introduced. In this way even the youngest students experience a complete study of art. Grades 4-12 get a complete, in-depth study of the elements of art and composition based on a variety of applications. Each application offers a different way of thinking about the topic, helping to expand awareness of the visual world."
You can find additional information about the way the programs are structured here; FAQs; and the author.

The product.  In book 1 of the 4th-6th grade curriculum, student gain understanding of the following elements of art (one element per unit)
  1. Space
  2. Line and Shape
  3. Texture
  4. Value
  5. Form
  6. Form using Value
  7. Local Value
  8. Contrast
  9. The Shapes of Natural Forms
  10. Edges
Composition elements the children learn about are found in units 11-16:  Balance, Rhythm, Overlap, Depth, Proportion of the Face, and Movement.

Price for this book is $42.95. They have a full line of art curriculum for ages ranging from 3-year-olds to high school. 

This art course is designed to be an independent study for the student.  An introduction for parents is provided in the "Getting Started" section of the comb-bound book.  This book is designed to be completed in 1 full school year when two classes per week are assigned.  The author, Brenda Ellis, suggests setting aside 1 hour of uninterrupted time for art lessons, noting that as the year progresses, more time will likely be needed -- and desired -- to finish the project.

Each of the 16 units has 4 lessons, so your child would ideally spend 2 weeks on each unit.  The lessons follow this structure:

  • Lesson 1 - explanation of the artistic element being discussed.  "Try It" sections in this lesson encourage the child to begin to experiment with the element.  (Each of the assignments for the child for all the lessons are typed in blue -- making it easy for child and parent to identify the assignment for each lesson).
  • Lesson 2 - art appreciation section.  A nicely re-printed copy of a famous work of art is used to illustrated the element.  Mrs. Ellis also selects out portions of the piece, and uses arrows and text to explain the photo - fantastic information! Additional information about the artist is provided as is some contextual and historical information. 
  • Lesson 3 - This is the "How To" of each unit.  
  • Lesson 4 - This is the "Final Project" of the unit.  Up to this point, you child has completed 3 art assignments in which they've explored the element (be that value, space, balance, etc).  In this lesson, the child is given a larger project.  I love that each of these final projects provides a clear, easy to find and read materials list for the assignment, and a "Student Gallery" photo for inspiration.
Our Experience.  I love Artistic Pursuits' comprehensive inclusion of art history and technique into an easy-to-follow art lesson.  This meets my needs as a mom (with NO artistic background after the 5th grade) to provide something comprehensive to my kids.  I love that it can be an independent study for older students. I love that the materials needed for the courses are clearly listed in the beginning of each book; in fact, the company has links to two different art supply companies that sell a package of supplies you'll need for each course. 

I do think, however, this curriculum appeals to a certain type of child.  My oldest is more of the how-do-I-draw-it child.  He suffers from the "if I cannot draw it well, I just won't draw it at all" affliction, and prefers art books which give specific instruction into drawing.   Having him use this curriculum -- focusing more elements and technique -- was frustrating for him.  He found the pages to be too heavy with text and reading, when he really just wanted to learn to draw. Mind you, this is my child who loves to read -- go figure!

I suspect that given a sequence of art lessons that focus on the "how to" first, followed by this course, his art would really, really take off.  I also suspect that I should not have given this to him to do as an independent study -- he might have gotten more out of it if we'd read it together.

To read what others thought of this product, please visit TOS's Crew Review page here.

    FCC note:  Thank you to Artistic Pursuits for the opportunity to review this product.  In exchange for a copy of this product, I agreed to provide my own opinions of this program -- good and bad.  No other compensation was received.

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