Friday, November 25, 2011

Awesome Art History

You might not think that very many junior high age boys would enjoy, be interested in, or willingly attend an Art History workshop. I wouldn't have guessed it either, but I currently have more boys than I know what to do with in my classes.

When I decided to offer Art History following my Hands on Science for homeschoolers, most of the parents of boys said they would just be bringing the kids for science only. Now, I often see more eclectic interests in homeschooled kids than in ones who go to school, but still, not many of the boys had a budding desire to sit and chat about old artwork.

The funny thing was, when it was time for Art History, no one wanted to leave. Every single kid stayed. I'm pretty sure they initially stayed just to continue hanging out and having fun with their friends, but by the end of the first workshop, I think I had most of them actually interested. Even the art....Renaissance paintings no less.

I'm using some Famous Artists Portfolios that were put together by our local Art and Science Museum. Each portfolio has 8 to 12 poster sized  hard backed prints all along a theme. Sometimes it's a period in art or a style of art or an artistic concept. Some are all works from one artists or about a particular subject. There's an accompanying book with info on the artwork and some sample project ideas.

I start the workshop with all of the prints displayed on easels. The kids are in groups and each group chooses a painting to study for a bit. The backs of the prints have information about them and I give the kids a sheet with some ideas to discuss.

After the groups talk amongst themselves, it's time to present their paintings to the rest of us. I try to do this "museum docent style."  We all gather around the presenting group and their painting, and tell us about it. It's really interesting to me to see the different things that the kids come up with and notice about the artwork- texture, style, lighting. and all sorts of details I might have otherwise missed. It's awesome to see these kids getting so into art, especially the energetic young boys.

After we've talked about all the paintings, we do a quick project. This group has a really wide variety of abilities in that respect, and I have yet to delve as far into the projects as I'd like to, but I'm optimistic we'll get more into the project side in the future.

Initially, I thought I'd go through art history in some sort of a linear order. But, when I managed to catch their interest of the unlikely students with the first class, which was full of beautiful old Renaissance paintings, I decided I didn't want to push my luck and risk losing them.

So I used the Sports portfolio full of boxers and horse races the next time. The action paintings were a hit. We've also done a portfolio on space and another on Mt. Shasta. The museum has a pretty wide variety of portfolios, so I figure I'll keep mixing it up each time we meet to keep it interesting.

If I could get them on board, I'd love to submit a collection of their art work to display next spring in a student show. I'm not there yet, but I am enjoying working with these kids in the mean time. Their observations are great, and some of what we're seeing and doing is new to me too. I'm having a great time learning right alongside them, and look forward to seeing what they pick up next.

I guess you never know what a kid will be interested in until you toss out something new to them.