Sketch Tuesday ~ Tools & Crazy Fruit

Here are our sketches from the past 2 weeks …

Crazy Fruit ~ Prickly Pears

Crazy Fruit 001

Fix-It Tools

Tools 001 Tools 002

Barb of Harmony Fine Arts at Home says ~

This week’s assignment is due Monday, March 3, 2014.

Sketch something that starts with the letter L.

“All sketchers are welcome and there is no need to sign up. Send in your sketches in jpg format and mail them to: by Monday, March 3, 2014 and I will include them in Tuesday’s slideshow. Complete instructions are found by clicking the Sketch Tuesday tab at the top of my blog.”

See you at the slideshow!


Fabulous Fine Arts Fridays

Another What Works! post …

Looking back over the 14-odd years of homeschooling from preschool to high school graduation I want to share what was successful in our home …

Fine Arts is rich, rewarding & relaxing!


We set aside most our Fridays for Fine Arts - art, music, and poetry, and sometimes some Shakespeare.  The simplest way to do this was to plan the “extras” in our Theme of the Day. It is my kids favourite day of the week!

My older children still ask for art lessons once a week. Despite the textbook-based high school curriculum I used for my eldest daughter, these fine art Fridays were the saving grace of our homeschooling journey. In many ways they are the “soul” days of homeschooling.

My kids considered Fridays as free days because we set aside normal seat work and written assignments.  Despite its seeming “frivolous” nature, where fine arts is often considered an “optional extra”, this aspect of education is the most inspiring and rewarding.  At times our Fridays were the only happy days of our week.  Homeschooling can be tough!  Making time to relax and enjoy fine arts is a relief!

Art started with art appreciation lessons, Charlotte Mason-style.  I sometimes added simple art activities to some of these lessons. We discovered famous artists and their masterpieces, observed different art styles over the centuries recording these on my Art Era Timeline, and we tried a variety of art mediums.  The 3D Seurat model is one of my younger girls’ favourite and unusual art activities!  Sometimes someone wept and left the room due to a “flop” lesson, but mostly we admired and encouraged each other as we gazed at our ‘gallery’ … we were enriched!  Importantly, we each have amazing internal, mental art galleries of famous art that we will carry all our lives!

Sketch Tuesday remains a regular constant art activity, which we continue even when we have stopped our formal schooling for school breaks.  It is such a simple, quick session, often with no discussions, research or planning, but Sketch Tuesday has had an enormous impact on our art!  The simple act of regularly looking and sketching develops ones confidence and approach to other more formal art activities.

Classical Music was not always requested. In fact, my older children have an incredible eclectic collection of their own music which plays as we work and do chores, but we streamed or listened to classical music as we did our art. I abandoned planned formal music appreciation lessons as my children grew older, but it somehow has developed naturally into an appreciation and my kids often recognize classical music played in movie soundtracks..

Poetry has been a hit-and-miss affair, where I sometimes do formal poetry lessons with my younger children on our “Tea, Poetry and Shakespeare” afternoons.  We studied some poets through the year and we all found our poetry readings relaxing and inspiring.  My kids never really learnt any poems by heart, but some poems were inspiration for art or illustrations.  Our most exciting poem-inspired activity my girls did when they were younger was The Lady of Shallot with a Lego diorama.

I recently discovered that my junior high daughter is writing her own poems to express her photo collage creations she makes on Polyvore. Her poems are amazing!  When I read them I am utterly stunned with the images and feelings that her words evoke. So, deep down, despite doing poetry informally, poetry struck a special chord in her life.

Our Fine Arts sessions have enriched our relationships.  Somehow, when  we paint or sketch together, or when we lie under the tree talking about a poem, or when we listen to and describe images and feelings that classical music evokes, we share time and experiences that are deep and personal. These are intimate times that make homeschooling special.

My advice to moms who want to “do it right” is to keep it simple and fairly informal.  In my early years of zeal and idealism I came on too hard and my kids almost dreaded the lessons.  I almost lost them to my teacherly-don’t-miss-the-moment approach.  They did my Famous Artist and Famous Composer biography notebook pages, filled in timelines and narrated their observations.  We used my wall charts, but the best lessons were those where we each connected individually and personally to the art.

Now, I am convinced that regular yet informal exposure is better than formal, structured lessons.

Schedule time in your week and just do it!

Don’t worry if you don’t have anything to “show” for your Fine Arts lessons.  It doesn’t have to be recorded or written or filed.  Just talk with your children and listen to their interpretations, encourage their creativity and personal connections.  Look for ways to for them to “make it their own”.

Charlotte Mason’s approach to Fine Arts has been an amazing, rich and rewarding = fabulous Fine Art Fridays!

May you find the approach that works for your family!


Sketch Tuesday Updates

Here are some of our Sketch Tuesday sketches we have done over the past month or so …

Something to clean your teeth:

Clean Teeth 001 Clean Teeth 002

Something from France:

Sketch Tuesday France 001


Zipper 002 Zipper 001

Something Cold:

Something Cold 002 Something Cold 001

Something that begins with C:

Something with C

Some weeks I don’t make the time and sit for 20 minutes or so to take part, but every time I do, I am reminded of the joy of creative time as a busy mom.

Charlotte Mason encourages moms to enjoy the benefits of “Mother Culture” and take part in our children’s nature walks, make time to note, draw and sketch and to appreciate poetry, music and art.  Homeschooling that includes these “extras” is rich and deep and rewarding.  Often it is the soul of our education, fulfilling our deepest needs for beauty and culture.

I encourage moms (and note to myself … smiles) to slow down, put the schedules aside, lay down all those high ideals and expectations and simply take part … draw, paint, sketch, be creative … and be refreshed!


Pastel Landscapes

This week we decided to do a pastel landscape.  Using my old, old art book Painting the Four Seasons by Carl Stricker that I bought at a 2nd bookshop years ago, we selected 2 landscapes.

Miss. T18 and I did this lovely rural farm scene:

Art landscapes Art landscapes1

And Miss.K14 chose the stormy, rainy landscape.Art landscapes2

We all loved using our chalk pastels.  Despite “loosing” colour or details now and then as we worked, and having to layer the colours back over again, we all thoroughly enjoyed our art lesson …

All except Miss.L11 who wanted to paint her landscape and couldn’t mix the ‘right’ colours and disliked her painting … leaving the room upset when she was finished.  I love her painting!

Art landscapes3

I realized that 2 factors are contributing to her unhappiness:

  • She’s finding the reality and accuracy she wants to create versus her artistic ability frustrating which is quite common in children between 9 and 11 years old …
  • I am too involved with everyone else and my own work to help her before her frustration kicks in.
  • Note to self: Select an “easier” topic and a manageable medium and focus on helping and being available to her.

Simple tutorials are so easy to follow.  If you find some on the internet I suggest that you print out nice clear prints and hang them up or prop the images up on an easel nearby to copy.  The final picture is very important, so make a larger colour copy.  Also, most paint tutorials can easily be done with chalk pastels, so select one with broad features rather than a picture with intricate details.

Go ahead and try a pastel landscape!


Albert Bierstadt landscapes in Chalk Pastels

This month’s famous artist in our homeschool is Albert Bierstadt.

I have always loved the misty luminance of his landscapes.

My older daughters both wanted to do art with Miss.L11.  After reading a brief biography, we looked at some examples of his works and sat chatting about his paintings.  Each of us connected with a  different painting, so rather than focus on just one piece for the day, I let each choose a painting.

Using our chalk pastels, we covered the backgrounds, filled in dark area and then worked to add focus and detail.  All the while our Famous Composer ~ Chopin’s music quietly filled the room.

My youngest two chose The Golden Gate.

Miss.K14 said that it reminded her of a scene from The Dawn Treader by CS Lewis.

Art Albert Bierstadt2

My youngest preferred to paint her picture. Art Albert Bierstadt3

She is in a “realism” stage and becomes discouraged when her art doesn’t ‘look right’.  She walked away when her smudgy painting was done.  I gently encouraged her to try some chalk pencil details once her painting was dry.  Amazingly, she found that she could pull out the details, smudge white chalk pencil to create the glow the Bierstadt masters in his work, and she and I were very happy with her painting when it was done.

Miss.T18 and I chose The Giant Redwoods Trees of California.  She and I loved the faded mystical quality of the distant trees.

While you can’t see the difference, Miss.T18′s picture is a ‘small’ A4 page, while the rest of us worked on nice large A3 pages. Art Albert Bierstadt1

Bierstadt’s paintings are very big, so it seemed right to paint ours large too! This is my pastel painting~

Art Albert Bierstadt

Here are all our paintings on our school room gallery door ~



Bruegel’s “Hay Harvest”

This is our 2nd week art appreciation of our Famous Artist Bruegel the Elder and we looked at ~

Hay Harvest

The Hay Harvest

We viewed wonderful color plates in the “Bruegel” art book by the Colour Library of Art borrowed from our local library.

They also display several enlarged selections from the main painting.  We enjoyed looking back at the original to find where these smaller focused areas appeared.

Some of these selections made wonderful art works of their own.

My youngest daughter especially liked the focused area of the three peasant women in the  “Hay Harvest” which she traced by herself, and which I then enlarged on my printer.

Bruegel's Hay Harvest

Miss.L11 used pastels for her first attempt at the art work and she was unhappy with the results.

She then tried her second picture with water-color paints and was very satisfied!

Bruegel 002

As I’ve shared before, an art appreciation lesson does not require any actual art activity.  Charlotte Mason encouraged detailed observation.

We often enjoy simple oral narrations, but many of our art activities are  spontaneous, as with this painting.

I love the child-led interest.

And why not? We are building an amazingly rich mental art gallery!


Leonardo Pastel Portraits

Leonardo’s da Vinci’s portraits are beautiful.

Leonardo Pastel Portraits

Something about his unfinished sketches draws the viewer’s eye to the glorious shading and luminescence of these faces.

We used an extract picture from “The Virgin of the Rock” (because it was on the font cover of my Leonardo art appreciation book – just using what we have ;) )


I made a simple outline drawing ~

Leonardo portrait 001

Free download ~ Leonardo da Vinci portrait

We all started our own “incomplete version” of a Leonardo portrait.

  1. Cover the entire page with orange, yellows and browns and ‘fist it in’ or blend it well.
  2. Do all the hair with dark browns and even black areas and cover the areas around her face with dark browns and blacks.
  3. Add shadows to the face – under the chin, the neck folds, the  lower cheek, the creases in the eyes, the bags under the eyes, the nose and lips – and blend lightly.
  4. Then add skin color or light beige or cream for highlights and blend slightly.
  5. Now it is time for details – dark, dark brown or black on the upper eyelid and the pupil of the eyes and the nostril.
  6. Add shading to the eyelids, the nose and the lips.
  7. Emphasize what is really dark and those areas that are light.
  8. Add light yellow swirls to the hair.
  9. Maybe add some white to her collar.
    Leonardo Pastel Portraits1

There were moments of frustration … add in “wanting to give up” … when fuzzy pictures were difficult to ‘pull out’.  We also all struggled  for a moment when the picture was ‘almost done’ and it became fuzzy again and we ‘lost it’.  (It is best not to “over-work” this type of   pastel art.)

But pastels are wonderfully forgiving and you can just layer on top of the colors or textures you need to change.Leonardo Pastel Portraits2

It is phenomenally difficult to capture the pristine beauty and luminescence of the original … but we all felt quite happy about our efforts.

A spritz of fixative and our portraits were done.


Sketch Tuesday ~ Favorite Food

This week’s Sketch Tuesday‘s theme is

Favorite Food

Favourite Food 002

A bowl of soup!


I was shocked.  I really thought it would be something with chocolate … a pudding, or a cake, or some sweets … or Chinese food … or fruit …but, she really surprised me with this sketch :)

Favourite Food 001

I love Chinese food … but my hubby doesn’t, so we rarely eat out of my beautiful china Chinese set.  I enjoyed painting a quick watercolor of a still life.

Stir fry is on the menu for tonight!

What’s your favorite food?

See you at the slide show!


New chalk pastels!

Last week we did our first chalk pastel tutorial

and I realized our pastel set was under-stocked and inadequate.

So I splurged on 2 sets -

a 24 set of chalk pastels


& my waited-so-long-on-my-wish-list set of pastel pencils!


When I put both sets out

and opened a new Hodgepodge chalk tutorial ~

Wind in the Tree

EVERYONE joined!

My older girls seldom do art with us,

but the new array of beautiful colors drew them closer …


and we all enjoyed a relaxing time with our pastels.




(The pastel drawings done from top to bottom by 10-year-old, 13-year-old, 18-year-old and me.)  

Several of us did a 2nd pastel picture not shown here.

Thanks Tricia for making our first lessons so easy!

Here are some pros and cons of chalk pastels ~

Pros ~

  • bright colors
  • covers a large area with very little effort or work
  • layers of colors can cover up ‘mistakes’ or smudges
  • limited colors layered on each other produces new shades and tones
  • blending with finger or paper nub makes beautiful shading
  • quick lessons because you can’t ‘work it too much’

Cons ~

  • smudges easily
  • lack of fine detail frustrate some kids
  • can become messy if not careful
  • chalk pieces break very easily
  • some popular colors are often finished before most the other colors

Even if you only have a small set, or limited time, go ahead and try a chalk tutorial!