ARTistic Pursuits

One of the joys of homeschooling is that you get to be part of your children's creative process.

Not sure how to do that effectively? We've got the perfect solution!

ARTistic Pursuits is an excellent art program, designed by a homeschooler, for homeschoolers. Author and artist Brenda Ellis wanted to allow homeschoolers the opportunity of a creative environment – even if none of the family has gone to art school.

And so Ellis created an art instruction program that starts in early elementary school and goes through high school, offering a constant expansion of artistic knowledge and skill.

The ARTistic Pursuits program is extremely well thought-out. It incorporates four pillars of art education:

  1. The Elements of Art, including line, color, shape
  2. Composition, including balance, emphasis, contrast
  3. Art History, including cultures (Greek, Egyptian), movements (Impressionism), people (Picasso)
  4. Media, including pencils, pen and ink, pastels, clay
    (You can see a more thorough list, with definitions, at the bottom of this page.)

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What does a lesson look like?

Each book has eighteen units that follow this pattern.

  1. Build a visual arts vocabulary. This introduces an element of art or composition--shading and shadow, for example.
  2. Observe, with creative exploration. Do an exercise to put this element to use. The student chooses the subject, making the exercise more personally meaningful.
  3. Look at art. Here, the student looks closely at a painting by a master, and answers some questions designed to make you think about the painting in depth. For example, "Is this a peaceful scene or a busy one? How can you tell?" Linger on the work and observe. This, too, is the work of an artist.
  4. A dip into art history. This might be as much as a page, or as little as a paragraph, but the student learns about the painter or the art movement.
  5. Learn about art materials and how to use them. Practical teaching on light sources, the benefits of a specific type of pencil, how to show value with a marker, how to make textures, etc.
  6. An original work. At the end of the unit, the student creates a new work of art based on what they have learned.

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More things you need to know

Across the nine books, there is little overlap. Concepts taught at a lower level are repeated from a different angle in older levels, but if you have elementary students, we recommend you start with Grades K-3, Book One: An Introduction to the Visual Arts. This book introduces what artists do and what artists see, and begins the art history progression that continues through the next two books.

The books are also useful for more than one age, so feel free to combine students.

The thorough guide requires no parent prep time in advance. Like Sonlight Instructor's Guides, the ARTistic Pursuit guide is open-and-go.

And the guide assumes no prior knowledge of art. Even if you have no artistic ability or knowledge, ARTistic Pursuits will teach you and your children, so you all grow in your skills.

The program is incredibly affordable. In my area, art classes for children range from $35 to $43 per lesson ($215 for five). For about the same price as one class for one student, you get an instruction book with 36 lessons for as many students as you have.

And no need to commute to class--the teacher has come to your home.

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And no Need to Go Seeking Supplies

Like with Sonlight Science Supplies Kits, Sonlight offers all the supplies you need for the first book of each level. ARTistic Pursuits doesn't stick with tempera paints and crayons. Rather, the projects use real art supplies, including oil pastels, ebony pencils, and watercolor crayons in the first book, and on to pen and ink and charcoal in the later levels.

The Sonlight Art Supplies are high quality. When one family used up the watercolor paper, some time after finishing the first book, they sought a replacement but failed to find one they liked as much. (For the bargain hunters out there: if you like to find a deal, do be aware of the difference in quality between supplies. There's a reason art students spend more on their materials than toddlers--the quality is not the same. If you're going to take the time to create art, do yourself a favor and use quality materials.)

Comb bound to lay flat. Full color printing, with examples of student projects.

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The Philosophy of ARTistic Pursuits

ARTistic Pursuits wants children to produce work that is meaningful to them. As such, the books don't teach step-by-step copy instructions, nor do they do exercises such as "draw this circle, and this angle," as they believe that hand-eye coordination develops as students work on what is meaningful to them.

The teaching assumes that, if you offer a student art tools and the student's choice of location and subject, the student will choose something meaningful to them. With training in the foundations of art and composition, combined with the students' direct observation, the student will produce art.

The ARTistic Pursuits website mentions several things that you won't find in their programs. No exercises drawing circles or cubes. No step-by-step copy instructions. No tiny squares to fill in. And, my favorite:

NO kids sitting in front of the TV or computer screen. Assignments guide children to work from life. The stillness of a natural setting revives our spirits. To be in nature helps us to become keen observers of our surroundings and active in our participation. Children benefit from time spent observing, and learn to "focus in" and "ponder" rather than "tuning out" to harsh sounds and fast paced visuals that TV and computer programs present to them. One mom wrote, "My son took his ARTistic Pursuits book and art tools out to the pasture. He's been sitting there with his dog for quite a long time, drawing something in the distance. I couldn't be happier!"

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What do you learn using ARTistic Pursuits?

ARTistic Pursuits incorporates four pillars of art education: The Elements of Art, Composition, Art History, and Media. What does each of these mean?

The Elements of Art, or what artists focus on when they draw, include

  • Shape: circle, triangle, square, etc.
  • Line: straight, curved, thick, thin, etc.
  • Form: three dimensional shapes: sphere, pyramid, cube, etc.
  • Value: how light or dark something is
  • Color: red, yellow, blue, etc.
  • Space: the area used in art
  • Texture: the look of the surface of an object

Composition, or the way elements are arranged, include

  • Balance: like weights on a scale, elements should not all crowd into one corner of a drawing
  • Rhythm: repeating any element within a picture, to draw the eye through a piece of art
  • Depth: objects in the background are smaller and higher, giving an appearance of distance
  • Contrast: emphasize the difference in a space (i.e., go from light to dark)
  • Symmetry: two sides mirror each other, often imperfectly
  • Perspective: lines that converge as they go into the distance
  • Proportion: how the parts of the body relate (i.e., not making the head too big)
  • Viewpoint: the eye level of the artist
  • Unity: using an element throughout the artwork to hold the picture together
  • Emphasis: which part stands out from the rest

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Media, or the art materials and techniques, include

  • Pencil
  • Marker
  • Ink
  • Oil pastels
  • Color pencil
  • Printmaking
  • Clay
  • Charcoal
  • Watercolor
  • Sculpture

Art history, which includes cultures, countries, movements, and artists, include

  • Egyptian
  • Greek
  • Roman
  • World art
  • American
  • Impressionism
  • The Realists
  • Pop Art
  • Picasso, O'Keeffe, Hokusai, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Monet and many others

The first three books, Grades K-3, cover general art history, including the Lascaux Cave, Rembrandt, Picasso.

The two books designated Grades 4-6 cover American art.

The two books in Junior High cover world art.

And the two books in High School cover European art.

That's a comprehensive art history program.