Art is an important aspect of human existence, yet in most schools today, it tends to exist—if at all—as a footnote and an aside to the math and language arts that appear on standardized tests.
It’s a great tragedy if our children grow up ignorant in this regard.
Of course, many of today’s parents are products of the same school system. You may remember art class as a weekly reprieve from other subjects, where you followed specific instructions to create the project chosen by your art teacher. If you were lucky, your teacher mentioned a few of history’s famous artists.
To be familiar with the artistic accomplishments of man is to understand man’s search for truth, meaning, excellence, and perfection throughout history. It is a window into different times and different cultures. It is to be inspired by the extraordinary feats of the great artists of the past and to expand and heighten one’s own comprehension of what’s possible.
Why don’t schools prioritize art? Why do they so dramatically limit the artists they’re willing to introduce to students? This is serious food for thought.
But the bottom line is that if you want your children to understand and have an appreciation of art, it needs to be provided outside of school. The good news is that this is a most enjoyable pursuit. If you were also robbed of an understanding of art in your childhood—you can delve into it and learn right alongside your children.
What’s more, it’s not at all difficult to do so. Despite what you may have heard, art is not something to be intimidated by. It’s not exclusive to the super intellectual or the museum curators of the world to understand. Art is a gift to humanity and a delight to explore.
Here are eight simple ways to teach your children about art.
Make a List
Art is, obviously, a very broad topic. It’s helpful to draw some boundary lines around what you and your children will begin with. Decide how often you’ll want to explore the works of a new artist and make a list of those artists for a certain period of time.
For example, if you’re going to learn about a new artist each month for a year, make a list of 12 artists you’d like to dive into. If you want to learn about a new one each week over the course of a 10-week summer, make a list of 10.
Once you have a manageable list, the task at hand becomes profoundly less overwhelming.
Whether you are well-versed in this field of study or starting completely fresh, an art encyclopedia is a great resource to provide a lay of the land. A summary of information presented within the chronology of history gives valuable context to the subject at hand.
Try a book such as “A History of Western Art—From Prehistory to the 20th Century” by Antony Mason. It concisely provides a sweeping overview of Western art, providing plenty of ammunition to get you started on this journey. As you become more involved in the topic, you’ll likely want to move onto more comprehensive guides from there (and ones that cover Eastern art as well).
Use the encyclopedia to create your checklist that will act as the backbone of your art exploration.
Art Posters and Postcards
Surround yourself and your children with artwork at home using posters and postcards. Simply including works of art within your environment can have a profound effect on your understanding and appreciation of art. Check out this collection of flashcards: “Louvre Art Deck: 100 Masterpieces from the World’s Most Popular Museum” among others.
Use the Internet
YouTube is an excellent resource for diving deeper into the history and significance of different works of art. Channels like SmartHistory make art history accessible to all, diving into one work at a time. A simple YouTube search for artists or specific pieces will generally deliver numerous results. Just be sure to carefully preview videos for your children.
Play With Art
Roll up your sleeves and enjoy all the different mediums and techniques you learn about along your artistic journey. Stock your home with art supplies and store them within reach of your children, for use at any time.
Yana Audas, a photographer and mom of three in the UK, used to paint with her three children. “We copied famous art and created our own original pieces. Small scale but with lots of excitement,” she said.
Chantal Sokorac, an artist from Austin, Texas, has made a priority of exposing her children to different artistic mediums and techniques. She did so “starting with age-appropriate paints and working my way up to artist grade materials such as alcohol ink and heavily pigmented acrylic paint, palette knives, and the like,” she said.
“My daughter and I both love to watch YouTube for crafting and painting tutorials, while I especially learn a lot from Instagram as well,” she added.
Art Field Trips
When you begin to become familiar with a few artists, head to the museum. It’s a thrill to see in real life an original sculpture or painting you’ve been hearing so much about.
If you can, travel and turn your artistic journey into an adventure. Learning about the greatest works of art and architecture will beckon you to visit them in person. Whether a trip to Rome or a city near your home, a travel excursion will take your art study to the next level.
Remove All Pressure
The benefits of bringing art into your life are numerous. “Art is a window into how others see the world. We don’t have to agree with it, but we can learn to appreciate a different point of view and a different perspective,” Audas said.
Take the pressure off your study. There won’t be a test and you will not be graded. This is simply an exercise of curiosity and delight. Enjoy your exploration of art with your children. Model for them your genuine appreciation for the process. You’ll likely find that it brings you all great joy.