Part of my school plan for the girls is that we will do an artist study for a couple of months at a time. This includes studying their style, medium, personal life and most of all the beautiful images that they create. This might sound a little much for a four and six year old but this has without a doubt become a favorite aspect of our formal school time together.
For our first study, I chose a famous local artist, Maud Lewis. She was a perfect choice for so many reasons; her folk art style is bright, cheerful, simple and very appealing to the eyes of young children. Hers is a story of a life full of difficulty, loss, and disability and through out that she continued to fill her life and the lives of others, with beauty and with joy. I want the girls to learn from the stories of men and women who live with strength and character, but also who are not typically the people that our culture holds up as examples.
For the start of our study, I chose a book about Maud Lewis called Capturing Joy (click title for link) from the library and we began by reading that. The girls were immediately drawn in both by her art and by the story of this tiny arthritic woman who loved life and who expressed it through her paintings.
Over the weeks we read our book, looked at her paintings (mostly from a calendar that we have of her paintings), learned a little about some of the painting techniques that she used (although she would not have likely called them that.), and spent some time with one describing her pictures to others so that they could guess which picture was being described. I had the girls try to paint in her style and also I plan to have them try to copy one of their favorite paintings of hers.
Art only happens a couple of times a week and because each time isn't totally focused on the artist that we are studying, it allows the girls to make a more lasting connection with the artist and their work as they come back to it from time to time. Ideally, I would have found other books about her but lets just be honest, I was proud of myself for managing to be as organized as I was for this first artist study and that I managed to find one good book.
Maud Lewis actually lived about 30 minutes from us in Marshalltown and so one day we were able to stop at the monument that sits where she spent her married life. We were also very excited to discover that her tiny little home that she so cheerfully covered with her painting has been restored and remains on permanent display at that Nova Scotia Art Gallery in Halifax. We rarely make trips to Halifax but were finally able to make it there in the past week. It was the perfect culmination of our study and the girls were thrilled to see her cute almost doll like house if a little disappointed that they didn't actually get to go inside her house.
This is a gallery perfectly set up for children to enjoy. We were happy to find and read some new books that featured Maud Lewis' paintings and the girls enjoyed a little video about Maud.
There were also many, many of her paintings on display and it was fun looking at the ones that we'd not seen before and also finding the ones that we'd spend time looking at at home.
I haven't yet decided which artist study we will focus on next and I'm quite certain that none will be quite so perfect and easy to engage the girls with but I must say that I'm pretty delighted with how our first artist study has both the girls and I excited to learn about more artists!