Monday, March 20, 2006

Our Picture Studies

Doubting Thomas
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 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.

Often, my children will save up allowance and birthday money in order to buy more small prints from the artists studied. I think this is a wonderful way to spend their money and encourage it. We go online together, and find even more paintings that we haven’t studied. Renoir is an excellent example of this. I think some of his most child-friendly, beautiful works are practically unknown. After doing a search online, we bought many of his paintings of sisters and family and he is a favorite among my daughters.

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.


  1. Ya know Linda, I do this, it is a good thing. I love it but the boys, they just put up with it. I should take a picture of their faces sometime. Its comical really.
    Sometimes I think they do it to amuse me because they know how jazzed I can get, which isn't a bad thing.

  2. Dana, this is why I don't follow the Ambleside selections and order of artist study. I like to tailor mine to my children's interests a little bit. This is especially important when first introducing Picture study. If a child's first visitation with art is with a painting he doesn't care for, than it can ruin his love ofr the subject. Certain boys will appreciate battle scenes or Native Americans such as Geronimo, or Greek tales, etc... My daughters really love Renoir because along with a few of his most famous paintings, I chose some others of his that are about sisters that we thought were beautiful. If I had shown them just the AO selections, they would have never fallen in love with his paintings. So, I just encourage you to find subject matter that appeals to your sons.


  3. Linda,
    Where do you find prints for your art studies? Do you find them online? Is there a charge for them? Thanks


  4. Congratulations. Its a nice blog you are keeping here. Keep it up and all the best.

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  5. Trina, the post above mentions that I find them at online museums. These are free for downloading and then you can put them on a CD and take them to a local photo developer.

    I use several places. A few are:


  6. Linda,

    Another wonderful post! What a great idea! I do have a question. Do your children put the pictures in their albums according to the order of artists studied or to their chronological place? Doing it chronologically sounds so complicated.

    I have so much more to ask and chat about with you. We need a hot pot of tea over your kitchen table! I'll email soon.

    Betty in Miami

  7. Hello Betty,

    It's so nice to meet you. I peeked in at your blog. Very lovely.

    Art books- I was very fussy about this, at first, but gave up trying to be chronological. The kids didn't care. It wasn't the purpose of the exercise, anyway. So we just add them as we study them.

    I have a great big art notebook with 8x10s in it. I keep them in chronological order. I no longer update this. The kids never looked at it. They liked their own. So we continue to look at the big prints on the computer screen and they keep their own personal prints in their books.

  8. Betty3.1.07


    We're using Home Educator's Tutor and the featured artist of the term is Jean Baptiste Camille Corot. This magazine has 6 works of the artist. Online I found a few more that I liked. I want to get a photo album for our artist studies like you have. How many works per artist do you find is enough for the children to put in their albums? Is it possible to have too many works to look and be overwhelming?

    Thank you much!

  9. Betty, generally,I give my children one each week, but sometimes we skip a week or two in a term. We study a new artist every six weeks rather than twelve so they have alot of prints. They usually like to order two or three prints more at the end of a term. Our photo albums hold a lot- 300. I've heard H.E. Tutor is quite nice from several folks.

  10. Hey Linda,

    Just though you and your readers might find the index I've written helpful. It is an index of artists, and where to find the pictures. At this point it is just the AO selections and AO artist Yahoo groups - but I find it hard to find a particular artist without the index.

    Hope this helps someone!

  11. How did/do you decide which pictures to use?

  12. Rachel,
    If you read the following post it should give you some ideas:

  13. Anonymous27.8.13

    Hi, I am a grandma and new to CM and homeschooling. My granddaughter is 9 and we are trying to begin from scratch. I can't thank you enough for all of the help I have gotten from your site. I do not have a college ed. and it has been a long time since I have been in school so we are learning together.


    1. Hi Lori,

      What a blessing (and challenge ;) to be able to teach your grandchild. You have so many golden moments ahead of you!