Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Review of ARTistic Pursuits

My daughter loves to draw. Often times she's sketching out an illustration for a story she authored or just keeping her hands busy while listening to a book on tape. Recently she's taken an interest in improving her drawing independently. We own a variety of step-by-step drawing books, but they have an emphasis on following directions rather than art understanding or application. Drawing technique books have been rejected for looking too technical and outside art classes, while enjoyed, have been too group and project-oriented. Nothing seemed to fit an independent and creative art student in need of some direction. So, it was quite timely when I had the opportunity to review an art curriculum that was not only comprehensive, but directed at the student.

ARTistic Pursuits, authored by Brenda Ellis, is an art curriculum created for homeschoolers by homeschoolers. For review, I received the Junior High Book One, The Elements of Art and Composition. Designed to be a full year of instruction, there are 16 units which can easily be divided into weekly two lessons, one hour each. Through pencil, ink and wire projects, students learn various art techniques in addition to exploring world history and examining art work by the masters. The curriculum is directed at the student, involving them in the creative process.

Each unit has four unique lessons: Building a Visual Vocabulary, Art Appreciation and History, Techniques, and Application. Each lesson introduces either an element of art or a principle of design, giving students the exposure and practice to automatically incorporate it into their thinking and drawing. Through these projects, students will learn to apply the secrets of the great artists:

1. Learn to observe the world around you – to really see it.
2. Learn what to look for.
3. Learn to focus on one element of art at a time, while drawing, and block out the others

An element of art or composition is singled out in each lesson. Concepts are arranged so that they build on each other with opportunity for earlier concepts to be applied in later projects. Click here to view a full lesson and also see a list of contents for both the Junior High One and Junior High Two books.

Inspiring student work is shown throughout the book. Encouragement to create a personal work, rather than copy step-by-step instructions, gives students a sense of accomplishment. The emphasis in ARTistic Pursuits is to develop skills through the student's own observation and creativity. You can read about the instructional philosophy of the author here.

There is a lot to be appreciated about ARTistic Pursuits. It is extremely user-friendly. The layout and organization of the lessons is nicely done. A list of supplies is included on the first page, divided by semester. I had most of the needed supplies already, but all of the supplies can also be purchased as a kit directly from ARTistic Pursuits. From a practicality of use standpoint, the comb binding allows the book to lie flat when doing the lesson. I also appreciate that the book is non-consumable.

In terms of content and instruction, I like that art history and art appreciation are integrated into the lessons. Pictures of master works are included right in the lesson, in color. The introduction of single elements in each lesson makes this program approachable to beginners yet not overly simplistic for more talented students. However, my favorite feature is that students can work through the book entirely on their own, taking full ownership of their art instruction.

Being able to work independently was also a favorite feature of my daughter, age 12, and she enjoyed going through the lessons at her own pace. She also positively commented the following,

“It allows you to use your own creativity, but gives you examples to guide you. It also gives background information on the art, like history, for example.”

Below is A Horse under a Willow by Utagawa Kunisada and my daughter's "rough sketch", used as an exercise in observation of line. Students works from the work of other artists to better understand what they did, not to make an exact copy or complete and precise work. After a quick study or sketch, students can then apply the same techniques on another project.

My daughter is looking forward to continuing with ARTistic Pursuits, making it a thumbs up from both of us.

If you are looking for a user-friendly and comprehensive art curriculum, ARTistic Pursuits is definitely a program to consider. Books leveled for preschool, K-3, 4-6, junior high and senior high are priced at $42.95. You'll find order information, articles on art, sample pages, FAQ and more at the ARTistic Pursuits website.

**For those of you with younger kids, click here for an opportunity to win a 5-lesson sampler of the ARTistic Pursuits Grades K-3 Book One.

Visit the TOS Crew's Official Blog to read more review on this product.

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