Studying Art with Kids

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Who loves to create? Compose? Pretend?

The dramatic, the imaginative, the musical…they are artists! Every one of them.

Studying Art with Kids - By Jennifer K.

Yet, I was surprised that my kids were unsure of exactly what all this entailed. So, we have been talking about the different things that artists do. For my younger children they are learning that artists are creators of images, music, literature and theater.

There are so many different forms of art to enjoy and experience. As we do so we can talk about what we see. Talking about art is good for our kids’ minds! It’s such a great way to encourage critical thinking, reasoning skills, attention to details, and expand how they see things in the world around them. Yet, to have a deep and rich discussion about art, be it a painting or sculpture, a photograph or a piece of music, it can be scary to those who are not so “art savvy”. Is that you?

Here’s the thing. We don’t have to have all of the information. In fact, my kids are less interested in me telling them about a piece of art instead they are more interested in how they see it. They love to look at a painting, and try to figure out how the people in it are feeling. For pieces from long ago, we image what different objects are for; we try to determine if we were there, what would it be like. I like to help them find the correct words to express their thoughts and I love to sit back and listen to them talk about how a picture makes them feel. From my little one focusing on the children in a piece, to my son who finds all the animals and my oldest son who ponders the feelings and thoughts of the art and those in the image. There are so many different ideas and perspectives that come from just one piece of art.

Today, we were looking at The Courtyard of a House in Delft, by Pieter de Hooch from 1658.

We discussed this simple piece at great length.

“What do you see?”

My younger son saw the puppy; so cute and cuddly, soft and playful.  He wants the little girl to let him go so he can run and play…so he says. My daughter sees the little girl and loves her pretty skirt that is like the sun – it’s long and it looks fluffy.  My oldest son noticed the sword and pondered why it was left hanging so far away from the men on the other side of the courtyard.

We discussed how this is real art. When we go to the museum, we see real pieces of art. There are also lots of great books you can look through together if you cannot get to a museum. Choose an artist, a form of art, or a subject (cubism, collages, sculpting, animals in art, etc.) and then explore those together.

We have to be open-minded when we are involved in art studies too. Each child could very well have their own ideas about that one piece of art.  It can be hard at times, but as my oldest son says, “Art is great because it is all right; there is no wrong. Its in how I see it.”

We make sure to take our time with art too.  I encourage them to look carefully. I tell them to spend some time studying those little things; enjoy the colors and then details of it all, look up close, look from various sides and angles. I ask questions like; Does anything change if you look closely at it from up high, the side, near or far? (I think of Seurat – when you get close you can see lots of small dots; further back you don’t see the dots, but a beautiful image!)

As we enjoy and explore the art, I strive to only ask open-ended questions like: “What do you see?”, and “What’s going on ?” Then we explore it deeper with questions like; “How do you think the artist made this?”, “Why did the artist choose to make this particular piece?”, “What would you add/take away, if this was your creation?”, “If these folks could talk (or that dog) what would they say to you?” ,”What would you say to them?” and “What do you see/feel as you look/listen to this one?”

Then its time to find an opportunity for them to do a bit of creating themselves based upon what we were just studying. I believe this really helps with understanding and really enjoying art in any form. When we look at an image like the one above, we see the simplicity of life and we can relate to that, in our own way.

After we finished studying this piece, my son decided to compose his own image of our “courtyard and house”.  Our garage is not really pink by the way, but as he said, “Its how I imagine it”.  He drew it as he sees it with his brother outside on his scooter; his sister racing about the driveway and his baby sister right there watching all of them going by.

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This is what art is all about too.  It is how we experience life; it is often things that we love. Moments that are precious to us.  It is tangible; it is real.  Let us encourage our little ones to create and express themselves in art!

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