Picture Study, sometimes called Artist Study, is a favorite in our homeschool, probably because each of my children has their own ‘Book of Masterpieces’. They are extremely proud of these albums and since they have been such a success in our school, I thought I would mention how we use them.
Every six weeks I introduce a new artist by downloading one of his paintings and displaying it on my computer full size. I read just a little about the artist’s life from Pictures Every Child Should Know by Mary (Delores) Bacon (free and online). This book is rather old so not all artists are included in it. Sometimes, I have to do an artist biography search ahead of time. We only spend a short amount of time learning about the artist's life. Most of the time we are looking at paintings.
After spending 10 minutes reading about the artist’s life and viewing the print very carefully, the children try to narrate the painting to one another. Sometimes, one of the children will not look at the painting and the others will narrate to her. She pretends she is blind. This helps the others narrate in more detail. Afterwards, they critique each other. I have taught them to always mention something positive about the narration before they point out something missed. Then I pass out their individual copies of the print in postcard form. I just take a disk of the prints I downloaded from an online museum (generally artrenewal.com) to the local photo developers and they print them for about 15 cents each. I make sure the resolution is pretty good and I don't print anything larger than 4 by 6. (I do this only once a year and plan ahead) My children place them in their albums and write down the artist’s name and the painting. The albums are large, nicely bound photo albums that have a space for labeling. Afterwards, I go into my computer’s control panel and make the print become the background.
These albums are very special. Our children love to peruse them and show our guests the paintings they have collected in them. My eldest daughter has been doing artist study for 10 years now. She is familiar with approximately 200 paintings and the artists. She is very opinionated about her favorites and enjoys looking at art as well as drawing and painting. Her knowledge and passion for art has broadened her world in many beautiful ways--and I only spent 15 minutes per week enjoying pictures with her. The rest of her learning occurred naturally and on her own accord because her interest was kindled. A Charlotte Mason education capitalizes on the child’s curiosity, rather than using lectures, workbooks, quizzes and other ‘schoolish’ methods. I heartily recommend trying it.