Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Not the Madonna You're Expecting.

Here is our current Picture Study---Madonna and Child by Giotto. The kids are all amazed that the background is made of REAL GOLD! (Gold leafing, actually.) I like Mary's almond eyes and long, long nose.

A "cold" front is coming to Texas tonite. Praise God!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Copying Contin./Story of the Week

Anyone who's interested, please note the comment made on "the question of copying" entry by Stephen (under 'Anonymous'). In addition to being my best friend's husband, Stephen has a degree in sculpture and is at MIT studying design. I value his opinion--thanks Steve for your comment. Also, my friend Kate had so much to say that it didn't fit in the comments box, so she emailed her response to me. Kate has degrees in art history and arts administration, as well as many years in an art education setting. She now teaches part time at a purely classical school. Here are some quotes from her email regarding copying:

"I thought I had my opinion made up that I didn't like the idea until it was reintroduced to me as 'imitatio.' This is what the process of copying the works of a master is called among classical educators who consider it a highly valuable process. Many artists we know and love participated in this, and since classical schools place such a value on art history and the great masters, we should too! We've been studying Renoir, and part of his education was painting porcelian in Limoges, then copying great masters in the Louvre, before receiving formal training where he met Monet. (I think he got bored with copying and realized he needed something more, and that's why he went back to school!) I think people who aren't in art education backgrounds tend to inherently value the product more than they would like to admit and can measure improvement/accomplishment by this method. Some of them might be happy if just about every project they encountered was copying a famous painting like the teacher you wrote about has his students do. . . . [Kate tells a story of how, in her watercolor class at Baylor, the first thing they did was copy a watercolor painting, then 'moved past' this and started making original paintings.] I think imitatio or copying other people's work has to be used as a learning process to help children appreciate and learn from the artists who inspire them. The teacher must not over praise their results because it could cause them to get hooked on copying and not be able to grow in their creative ability. Creative teaching and the development of each child's own work has to be the focus. Copying is a means to an end, which is personal artistic development, but if all a child does is copy, that end will never be met. I'm happy we agree on this and it's good to have your philosophy challenged and strengthened through these kinds of thought provoking discussions."

Thanks Stephen and Kate for your thoughts!

And now for the art class story of the week.....this happened yesterday.

"The Minimalist"

In third grade we are working on painted paper collages of a biblical character or saint. This is in reference to Giotto, our current artist, who made religious paintings. One student who shall remain unnamed, except to say that he's our headmaster's son, was in a minimalist mood yesterday. It seemed every step he took with his background had to be pulled out of him by me. Finally, he started on the Biblical portrait part. At first he cut out a large head and glued it to the middle of his paper. (He's doing Noah.) He asked me if "that looks good." He says this very much as if he's wanting to be finished. I said, "looks great so far, but I think Noah needs a body. Right now he's a head floating in space!" Sweet boy smiles and we talk about how he can cut out a body shape, which paper he might use, etc. I am doing my best not to dictate his picture, but to push him "just enough." So he industriously starts on the body. A short time later he brings his picture to me. "Can I be finished?" "Well, E., this body you made is great, but where are his arms?" E. sighs, and a look of slight irritation crosses his face. "Well, you didn't tell me I had to make arms!"

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Last California pic, I promise.

I remember when I first met Roxana. She was eighteen years old and was wearing blue doc marten boots. I thought she was so cool. And Liz was in my very first figure drawing class....yes, I did know the "unmarried" Liz for a very short time! I couldn't believe that anyone I knew was going to get MARRIED, since I was soooooo far from that then.

There is something especially grace-filled about old friends. Those who've seen you through various stages of maturity, good choices and poor choices, college days, crises of faith, engagement, marriage, children, death of a close loved one, miscarriage....and still they hang on! What comfort and "comfortableness" is found in dear old friends!

I love this shot Rox took as we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge.

California III

Love the picture of statuesque Roxana in her bell-shaped hat. ( I guess I took that one!)

California II

Old friends, good times. Liz and I at the BEAUTIFUL B&B where we stayed....

California Pictures

I keep forgetting to post some of the pictures Roxana took on our August trip to CA to visit Liz.
Today in Texas the high is 100 degrees, so I look with longing at the fleece and scarf I'm wearing in these pictures. All images copyrighted to Roxana Perdue, 2005.

--Contemplative Me at Point Reyes

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Picture Studies with Grownups!!

yikes. i'm giving a talk in faculty meeting today about our art program. i'm excited to do this, and hope i don't go on and on and bore them to death. we'll also do a picture study at the end of my talk!! which is very fun to do with adults.

oh, and i've got more thoughts on the art ed. philosophy thing. i've been reading up in my victor d'amico book. more on this later!! thanks for all of you that have contributed to the conversation. please continue to add comments if you have them! i love it!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The question of copying.

sorry to get all cutsy on you with that last photo post. i just really enjoy that picture.

in the process of planting the gardens....yesterday two of my classes planted, and after school we had huge rainstorm...i think the newly planted herbs were probably very happy.

update on private lessons with S.: she finished her painting. now we're working on crayon batik.

as some students i know have been taking lessons from a man who leads them in copying actual paintings by established artists, i've been thinking a lot of my philosophy of art education. (there are also several classical schools i know of who have their students copy great works for art class--and this seems to be the majority of what they do. i have, exactly once, had my students copy a winslow homer watercolor.) what, exactly, IS the value of having young children copy works of art in oils and essentially present them as their own? certainly there is much that can be learned of color mixing/matching, and surely replicating something in this way is in some ways akin to drawing anything---realistic sketching is, after all, essentially doing copywork from reality. (taking from reality, though, is a key difference, in my opinion.) and copying great works, has, in the past, been a means for students to learn technique.

ALL THAT BEING SAID--i asked one of my students what taking lessons from this teacher was like, and she said he drew her horizon line and said 'okay, paint aquamarine above this line.' i have to say, her story really has been bugging me....then i've been thinking about why it bugs me, which leads me to this art education philosophy rant. ;)

with this particular art teacher, we aren't talking about making one copy, but a child going to an art class and making multiple copies of paintings by different artists on large canvases. now, i don't know this teacher and perhaps he sometimes does creative projects with his students. but it doesn't seem like it, based on what i've seen on walls in homes.

so, while i accept that copying someone elses' paintings has some value in learning technique, i have to say that i doubt it's developmentally sound for children....the child isn't painting his own imagined image, or story, or idea, ....there is no process of learning how to translate an idea into one's own visual reality.....i think it may encourage artwork that is purely product-oriented, which i believe stunts creativity. to me, it seems performance-driven. the paintings are, after all, very impressive looking.

the truth is, if a child is guided through a true creative idea process, a sketch process, then a painting process, wherein the child makes creative choices, the PRODUCT will not look as good as copywork. (after all, if you copy cezanne, you get the composition, color palette, and subject matter of a master) but in my opinion, the PROCESS is a hundred times more valuable, especially with children. i guess this is a more Victor D'Amico understanding of art education (Kate?)--that is, really respecting a child's ability to create and giving him the encouragement and skills and direction so he can express something of his own. this emphasis on "creativity" and the ideas of a child might sound flaky, but i've read D'Amico's writing and it really seems sound. He writes of helping children find their own creative subject matter--home, school, city street, imagination--and then training them to handle different media in order to create.

"Children are born persons." --Charlotte Mason

i would love to hear from Liz and Roxana and Steve and Kate about this, and anyone else with an art or child development background. or anyone else who has thoughts!!!! thinking about such things is my love.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Daily Life of J. and M.

Fall Gardens.

In the next few weeks the fifth and sixth grades will plant our fall gardens. Here's what we're planting:

From seed:

alyssum (to decorate the borders of our raised bed)


decorative cabbage (for the borders)
various herbs

It's awfully easy for me to idealize the planting process....all the children enraptured by nature, kneeling and planting this adorable garden. In reality, planting day tends to create a mob mentality, with kids asking if they can go play on the swings. (sigh) Actually, it's not that bad, just not the cozy Charlotte Mason picture I have in my head. Last week I had all the kids design a garden diagram in their nature books. This year's group really took to the idea and did some really beautiful designs! I was proud of them. So we'll see how it goes once we venture outside.

Monday, September 12, 2005

obviously still obssessing...

about the color scheme of my blog.

my co-teacher Laura is going to help train (re-train, remind) the faculty about nature study tomorrow....nature study being one of the components in a Charlotte Mason education. i'm excited to be reminded of the purpose of nature study (to observe, learn about, and take joy in the outdoors) and the methods (drybrush watercolors of natural objects gathered outside, quiet nature walks to "see what we see," working in our garden.)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

obssessing over colors

okay, we are back to chocolate type. i think it's hard to read against this peach color, don't you? i'm going to look for a darker brown/lighter peach combo.

hey dad, if you're reading this, hi!! rox's blog is

if anyone ELSE is interested, my best friend is a wedding photographer in boston, and the blog site above is where she puts fun, won't-make-the-album shots from various weddings she shoots. my favorite pictures are of the barfing baby, and of course, the shot of yours truly getting "bustled" at my own wedding! (it's in july archives, entitled "Untitled Bustling." you'll notice roxana has a serious "bustling theme" going on on her site. and again, let me plug her amazing photography site:

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Our First Picture Study.

--Flight into Egypt by Giotto. Giotto was a late medieval artist who's considered to be the artistic link between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Here are the comments I hear from students in every class: "It looks like sheets are draped over the mountains." And, "It looks like part of the sky fell onto Mary's dress."

Beginner's Luck

It seemed so easy last nite--just type in the right color numbers in the code and your blog colors change. Tonite funky things are happening and I'm realizing that I really have no idea what I'm doing. For instance, I NEVER told the type on my blog to be black. I was trying for a dark slate blue color. And I still don't know why some of the post titles are purple....they look awful.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Copying Leah.

Okay, Leah, I was so inspired by the yummy colors on your blog that I figured out how to change mine, too! Still a work in progress.

Great Charlotte Mason Link.

I found this site today online. It's intended for homeschoolers, and has some good articles about various aspects of a Charlotte Mason education. Here's the address:

(Ambleside is the name of the original Charlotte Mason school in Ambleside, England.)

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Student quote of the day (between two second graders busy painting):

"Gosh, I feel just like Macauley Culkin!"

"Why do you feel like him?"

"I don't know, I just feel like him. . . I feel like Macauley Culkin."

(the conversation ends.)

Teaching Inspiration.

"The question is not---how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education---but how much does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? And therefore, how full is the life he has before him?"

--Charlotte Mason

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