Category Archives: Art and Picture Study

Helpful how-to’s, fun ideas, and great resources for your Art Studies

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling

Last year I was so blessed to go to the Charlotte Mason Institute’s 2016 Conference. It was an amazing 4 days of immersions and workshops, friends and fellow CM mamas, and learning and growing. (if you have a chance, you should go to one. They now have 2 full conferences a year: CMI East and CMI West. This is where my online video CM group met – and we’ve been reading her volumes and discussing them together for about 2 years now. They are all great ladies – and what a fabulous support group! But I digress…)

The keynote speaker was John Muir Laws (aka Jack Laws), noted naturalist, artist, author, and educator. His presentations were fabulous – especially since he had taken the time to read Charlotte Mason’s works. It was neat to see and hear how modern science is proving the things that Miss Mason said about  training our brains and how important nature study is, even today.

(John Muir Laws at lunch with my group! 🙂 )

I invited him to eat lunch with us one day and we had a fun time learning how to dry brush in the field. He’s lots of fun…and his ideas on involving people in nature and in recording what they see are inspirational and motivating.


CMI usually has pre-Conference reading book lists and so Jack’s new book was on the list. I actually resisted it for a few months – it is $35.00 after all, and I already have tons of field guides and lots of reference books on Nature Study. I finally bought it for the family for Christmas. It is AMAZING! It also is not what I thought it was, either. This book could easily replace several others on my shelf. It has so much stuff in it!

We have been using the drawing instruction section once a week as our “Drawing Lessons” for about 10-15 minutes. Then the next time we are drawing in our Nature Journals I encourage the kids to remember what we have practiced in our drawing lessons. So far it has worked really well.

If you don’t have the money to spend on his book, he encouraged us to look at his website – a lot of stuff in the book is available there. Birds, animals, landscapes, insects, flowers, plants, trees, etc. are located within the archives. It’s a great way to add practical drawing lessons to our lessons.





Waterlilies and Bridges: A Monet Picture Study

For the first term of our 2014-2015 school year, we studied the art of Claude Monet. He was incredibly talented – not only did he paint, he designed his own garden which has been immortalized in his paintings and can still be visited today. I guess, though, being a painter fascinated with light and water and all the movement to be found therein, having your own garden would be both convenient and satisfying.

monet's water lilies

For our pictures to study, we used the Monet Picture Study Portfolio from Simply Charlotte Mason.  These come with an appropriate biography and 8 nice prints to view and enjoy. We typically put it in an 8 1/2″ x 11″ frame and set it on an easel in the school room to see daily as we are working in there.

Before we start the study, I sit down at the computer and find the pictures from the portfolio so that I can make small prints for each student to put in his own book. Charlotte Mason recommended that each child be given their own small print of each picture studied so as to make it easier for them to see and remember them. It helps to keep something beautiful in their minds and to feel it in their souls. We just use a photo book from Walmart and I print the pictures to fit the book. You can only legally do this if your artist’s works are in the public domain.

I added a couple of books to our study as they helped to bring the stories and paintings alive in the girls’ minds. This is not really necessary if you are using the portfolio biography, but I already had the books, so I read them.

The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt (LOVE this series!)

Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Cristina Bjork and Lena Anderson

Claude Monet: Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists by Mike Venezia

Claude’s Impressions by The Metropolitan Museum of Art (I like their books a lot!)

I have an Impressionist coloring book, so I let the girls color some of his paintings as we read the biography.

My favorite thing we did for this study was re-create his Waterlilies and Bridge painting with our chalk pastels…there was a tutorial in our HodgePodge All Through the Seasons book.

Monet's Lilies

We have seen some of his water lily paintings in person at the St. Louis Art museum. They are huge and the effect is felt so much more in person than in a small print.

African Masks Art Project

2013 African Masks

We have enjoyed many projects from the Usborne Art Treasury, so I was a little surprised that this one was a bit harder for us to get into. I think it was the lack of ideas for the design. If you do this one, have the kids sketch out a few designs on paper before starting the cardboard.

Here are our supplies:

2013 African Masks 2

Everyone busy at work:

2013 African Masks 3

The completed projects:

2013 African Masks 6 Completed Projects

That’s a REAL mummy!??!

We really enjoy the St. Louis Art Museum – it has lots of different things, including exhibits of the ancient civilizations that we have/are/will study..

That's a REAL mummy!?

The girls are fun when we go because they will see something they recognize and all of a sudden connections are being made and *gasp!* mummies are REAL!  🙂 And if mummies are real then the other things we learned about like pharaohs and pyramids must be real too, and their mummified toes are gross. That is the unanimous opinion of the kids who noticed the toes sticking out of the wrappings.

Canopic Jars

 This can also lead to interesting religious conversations, which is also good. It’s a great way to clear up misunderstandings and reinforce gospel concepts. (On a side note, JitterBug started to read some of the hieroglyphics on the jars to the museum guide, who was driving us crazy that day (she obviously was following a script and wouldn’t/couldn’t answer our questions). It got her attention, at any rate! 😉 )

Beautiful necklace!

 Since this is made of beads, it must have been some painstaking work! No matter the time period or era, women love a beautiful necklace!

While we were visiting the museum during this visit, we realized for the first time that there is also an Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman room. I am excited to explore this room in more depth! 

A Simple Start in Chalk Pastels

Starting Chalk Pastels

 Last school year (2013-2014), HorseyBug wanted to learn more about different art mediums – she loves to draw. So we started looking around and decided that A Simple Start in Chalk Pastels from Southern Hodgepodge would be a great place for her to start (thank you, Tristan,for your review 😉 ). She loved it and created lots of things…in fact, she enjoyed it enough that we are now doing them as a family art experience for the 2014-2015 year. Here are some of her earliest projects:

Mountains and meadows


Night Time

Fall Color Water Reflection

The Castle


Art That Moves

In the 1930’s, an American artist named Alexander Calder wanted to create sculptures that moved without machinery. The result of the first mobile designed to hang in mid-air and catch the breeze. Mobiles are so common place today that it weird to think of them being a new invention…I love my chimes hanging by my porch! 🙂

Mr. Calder is featured in the National Gallery of Art. Here is a photo of the Calder Room:


photo: Wikipedia 

Our Creative Art Challenge this week was to create a mobile ourselves.

Hanging Mobiles Collage

Supplies Needed:

  • Foam Shapes or Construction Paper
  • Stapler or Craft Glue
  • Scissors
  • Wire Pipe Cleaners
  • Wire Cutters


  1. Cut pipe cleaners into 6 uneven lengths.
  2. Start with the 2 longest pipe cleaners. Wrap the end of the longest one time around the middle about 1/3 of the length of the second one.
  3. Repeat this step, starting with the longest and ending with the smallest.
  4. Hang on the back of a chair.
  5. Select your shapes (or cut them out of paper). You will need two of each shape.
  6. Create your mobile by stapling or gluing the shapes to the available ends of each wire. Let dry, if applicable.
  7. Hang and enjoy!

Hanging Mobile Step 8

Magical Creatures Art Challenge

Our Creative Art Challenge #5 is based on this picture named The Golden Fish by Paul Klee.

Mr. Klee was born in Switzerland in 1879. He was a gifted violinist who could have been professional, but he chose art instead.  He lived and worked in Germany until the 1930’s when the Nazi’s came to power.  In the Nazi’s mindset, modern art was “degenerate” or corrupt and Mr. Klee was forced to return to Switzerland. There he fell ill with a rare disease and died in 1940.

Mr. Klee thought art should be about ideas, beliefs, and feelings. His paintings are filled with strange symbols and fragments designed to suggest other magical worlds.

If you look closely The Golden Fish reflects those symbols.

The Golden Fish by Paul Klee

This painting was created by using both oil paints and watercolors.  The watercolors are see through, which make the oils that much more vivid.

Our Challenge: Create our own Magical Creatures using oil pastels and watercolor paints.

What we used:

Creative Art Challenge #5 Supplies

Supplies Needed:

Watercolor paper

Watercolor paint and brushes


Pencil (if desired)

Oil Pastels

What We Did:

1. Lightly drew pictures and designs with our pencils.


2. Thickly color the pictures and designs with the oil pastels.


3. Mix watercolor paint with water and paint in on the oil pastel picture.

4. Wait for it to dry.

Results are fun and will vary according to your oil pastel and watercolor thickness.

Here is BittyBug and JuneBug showing off their pictures:

Magical Creatures Paintings

Here are JitterBug’s and HorseyBug’s:

Magical Creatures Paintings #2