Friday, September 11, 2009

Art, Naturally

We don't do much of curricula- or instructional books-based art in our home. Neither has DS ever attended art classes or art summer camps.

He loves anything that's naturally beautiful. He'd pause in the middle of the street (and scare the living daylights out of his parents) awestruck by pink and mauve-streaked skies during sunsets. He's a nature lover and is besotted with colors, lines, shades and shapes around him.

DH loves to dabble with oils. I just adore pen and ink drawings and painting/ sketching with watercolor pencils. And DS has the makings of a very artistic kid. But possibly, not in the sense the world around us expects (not yet anyway). He doesn't pay attention to details, likes to color pictures too dark or too light, won't stay within the lines, draws more out of proportion than you would expect an almost seven year old to and draws stick figures that barely resemble humans. I can so see him being ridiculed for all this in the standard school classroom.

I tried using popular homeschool art curricula some time earlier in our homeschooling journey but these just languished on our shelves. Of course, he'd add drawings for history narrations or make crafts or scribble with crayons and read about great artists and have the occasional art gallery field trip but otherwise we just couldn't put aside any dedicated time together to truly enjoy art. All the art curricula resources I researched seemed like dead ends for us because I couldn't stomach being told this was how one should teach art.

Eventually the lightbulb went on. It just made sense to appreciate art together by tapping on his obvious love for nature and animals.

Sometime in 2007, still in my throes of Charlotte Mason adoration (we're still partial CM-ers, just not as disciplined with nature study as we used to be), I decided to invest in nature journals.

I bought a Mead Flex binder (they're often on sale at Walmart or Staples) and some Bienfang Watercolor paper (Walmart sells the cheaper Mead brand watercolor paper which I feel is equally good). We also got some good quality watercolor pencils like Staedtlar's Ergosoft (it was a lot cheaper than Prismacolor). Of course, I bought a binder for myself too :)

But for a while, we only used his binder (I inserted page protectors) to collect miscellaneous leaves, bark and pine needles DS kept picking up for leaf and bark rubbings. We'd also add any drawings he did for our study of Life Science into the binder. No "arty" art for some time yet.

Then, one day, I happened to chance upon Fog City Press' The Encyclopedia of Mammals at Borders for $2.99. It seemed like a steal and when I thumbed through the pages I knew I had struck gold. They were chockful of gorgeous illustrations of animals complete with interesting facts and Latin names too. We used the book as inspiration to draw (copying as closely as possible in many instances) a few animals the very next day and DS was in love. After doing an Amazon search, I found other books in the series (on Reptiles, Fish and Birds) too!

Of course, over the years, with all his other interests, I don't get to regularly put time aside for these nature-themed drawings but I'm glad we at least now have an option that works for us and DS has lots of fun doing it with no one telling him 'this' or 'that' is 'the correct' way to draw or color (though I must admit it's hard to resist pointing out color choices to him LOL). Plus he gets to learn the animals' Latin names too :)

Here are some photos from his and my "Art, Naturally" journals dating back to 2007.

I just wanted to share this with the hope it'll help someone. To let you know that even if there's some area of study that has been difficult for your family to include, to not lose heart. That one day, you'll very likely have an idea that *will* work for your child :)


  1. Oh Suji, you are SO artistic! And what a FABULOUS post.

    I think we're echoing you: we made art bags today and did some watercolour painting outside in the garden. I have yet to blog about it though. Wouldn't it be great to be neighbours and hang out doing this sort of thing together?


  2. Suji -- Both of you are so so talented. This is one skill that I just do not have the DNA for and I so admire folks able to draw like this! Can I send my boys to you to learn?

    Sound like you are settling in well into the new place.

    Lots of love -- Amita

  3. sheila, I would count myself very very fortunate to be your neighbor and have DS meet and befriend such fabulous kids like yours. It's a challenge sometimes to find similarly kindred souls/ people on the same wavelength nearby. DS and I both feel lonely about that sometimes. I honestly declare that one of the best things about writing a blog is that I get to "meet" candid, refreshing gems like you :)

  4. Gosh Amita, my cheeks are reddening already! I will tell you that I couldn't draw very well till my preteens and my "art" was always the subject of ridicule not only among peers but also my teachers. It was weird but when I was about 13 or 14 something happened to me and I would stay up nights drawing and drawing and drawing. I still can't draw well from imagination but I can "copy" pretty good LOL.

    Thanks so much again for your kind words :) DS will be very happy to learn his art is appreciated.

  5. You have so many wonderful posts that I haven't read through yet (late-comer). I chanced upon this one and love all your artistic goodness! Both of you are so talented.

    K and I did a drawing yesterday...maybe I should share them too. But I've gotten lazy about uploading photos. I will get to them eventually, I hope.

  6. (blush) Thank you! :)
    Please upload your drawing when able, I'd love to see it!


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