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How to Bring Art Into Your Home or School Classroom

How to Bring Art Into Your Home or School Classroom
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Find out how you can bring art into your home or school classroom with these easy and affordable tips.

By: Andrea Mulder-Slater and Jude Vick

Building a Mini Art Collection

Look for reproductions of paintings that you like. Articulate why you like them – the color, the images, the composition, memories the image evokes, good drawing, experimentation, etc.

Students can participate in this collection as well. Have them explain why they chose a certain work and what they liked about it. Reader’s Digest runs a painting on the back of their magazine – you could begin a wonderful collection of small prints with these.

Accumulating Images from Various Art Periods

Renaissance paintings are wonderful for depicting medieval themes, people, environments, landscape – of course too, the role the church played – there are differences between styles depending on the country. IE: British Isles, Netherlands, Italy and so on. Historically, some fascinating things are beginning to emerge politically and consequently geographically.

The Baroque Period depicts lifestyle changes, try introducing the music from this period.

The Impressionists – a familiar and comfortable group of painters, controversial in their day,. Explore why this group was controversial. Describe why their painting style is different. How has the style changed? What were they trying to achieve? Describe their use of color. You can group these painters into subject areas (landscape, portraits, social groups). How do they tell a story about the people, their times. What noticeable differences are there between then and now? Look for paintings by Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Picasso, Renoir, Turner and Degas.

Post Impressionists – A growing interest in different cultures. Masks play an important roll. Artists include: Van Gogh, Gauguin, Rousseau, Matisse, Toulouse Lautrec.

20th Century Art is a lot of fun. Try out some of the abstract expressionists from pre and post World War II period – particularly the German groups. Paul Klee is one example of an artist children will relate to.

Check out the work done by the political artists of 20th Century Russia as an example of social and political repression. Look for work done in this century by artists commenting on social injustices during the second World War. Kathe Kolowitz is a very articulate example. These artists and the art they produced is a great way to introduce periods of social/geographical change.

The work of Canada’s Group of Seven was very controversial. Explore the images of artists A.Y. Jackson, Lawren Harris, Frank Carmichael, Fredrick Varley, J.E.H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer and Frank Johnston. Discuss why the work was controversial. How do these artists portray Canadian landscape? What feelings do these images evoke? How did these artists change Canadian painting? Which work do you like the best? Why?

Don’t forget Tom Thomson‘s work. Although this artist was associated with members of The Group of Seven, he died before the group was officially named. His well-known images are symbolic of Canada’s rugged wilderness and are still as hauntingly beautiful today as they were 70 years ago when they were painted.

Native [Canadian] Art including West Coast and the Eastern Woodland school are tremendous sources of imagery. Contemporary Native Art is challenging and at times controversial, it often dispels stereotypes and creates a dialog between the work and the viewer.

There are a wide range of posters and books available in all these areas and often accessible at frame shops, museums and art galleries. Check “remainder” or used book stores for great $1.00 to $10.00 books. They are invaluable resources.

Gaining Symbol Knowledge

This is helpful in trying to understand or read the painting. Some contemporary artists make that process difficult because they develop their own set of symbols, however, one can simply ask for interpretation or begin decoding themselves. Historically, the same symbols or variations of the same symbols are used. Colors are symbols as well as in some cases the composition of a work will indicate a symbol.

Trusting Your Intuition

Your intuition will tell you a lot. Never be afraid to share how you feel about a work. It is your opinion and a valuable one. If a painting or sculpture makes you feel angry, frightened or sad, figure out why. In a lot of cases, we tend not to work through those feelings when we look at work because the feelings make us uncomfortable – in most cases, the artist wanted us to feel that way. Ask yourself why – what issues arise from those feelings? Confrontation is not unusual in a work. Again, examine what response the artist is trying to elicit.

Using Analogies

When Describing a Work of Art, ANALOGIES Are Very Helpful.

Art, music and language arts all use the same descriptives and they virtually mean the same thing.

A composition is the same in each of the arts – a building of words, notes or images that will eventually tell a complete story.

Lyrical, harmony and balance are all great words to describe a work of art.

Encouraging Risk Taking

ENCOURAGE Children to Take Risks with Their Work

The more often they do art work, the more inclined children will be to take those risks. Their work will not be so precious to them.

Repetition, like math and spelling, reinforces their skill and their ability to move forward.

Encourage students to work with “mistakes”. This challenges, yet also enables them to problem solve.

Creating an Environment Free of Certain Art Tools

You are doing sculptures with egg cartons and you don’t have enough … what other materials could you use?

Take away the color red or blue or black in your student’s palettes.

Have the students choose three colors they hate and create something they love.

Dealing With Criticism

When a student criticizes their own work, ask them what they DO like in it.

Encourage them to find something positive.

Involve them in a positive critique of the work.

What would you have done differently?

Do you think you could change the way you did that the next time?

Some Final Thoughts


Try what the students are doing – you’ll run into the same snags they will and this will help you answer the questions that arise.

Take an art class, teaching styles vary and you will learn a lot.

Register in a beginner’s watercolor or drawing class and apply the techniques you learn to the work your students are doing.

Try a parent/child art class that you can participate with your child in – a valuable experience in many ways.

Don’t forget to use Community Resources – the Internet, the library, local art clubs, art gallery, retail art gallery, print shops, colleges, community artists and art associations in your area.

Don’t forget to try a variety of activities – Illustrate a book, try some printmaking, build a sculpture, do a loose experimental work, try some precise, very articulate drawing.

Just remember – the best part of art is to have fun, experiment and yes … make a (controlled) mess!!!

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