Charlotte Mason on Picture Study
Picture Study is one of those things that you can include in your day that really does not take up a lot of time, but has a huge impact.
It takes us all of 8 minutes once a week, yet years later my children are able to recognize works of art and remember who they were painted by if we come across them. You will be surprised at the places that you do come across great art pieces, sometimes just bits of a painting is used (say for a postcard) and yet still I have found my children being able to recognize that one detail and they are able to tell me from which painting it is from.
No matter which curriculum you use and no matter how intense and absorbing it is, this technique of ‘hanging paintings on the gallery of the mind’ is doable for everyone. 8 minutes is really not a lot of time to dedicate.
Once we have completed our week’s picture study we then hang the print on the refrigerator door so that we get maximum exposure to it – that’s our ‘gallery’ you might choose to hang or display your painting elsewhere.
I like to introduce a new painting every fortnight, so on the alternative week, I schedule a bit of reading about the artist’s life. If you remember from my first post on our Morning Basket, art is scheduled weekly so I have that 10 minutes every week to make sure that not only are we introduced to the artist’s work, but also learn about his life.
A few other things I like to do – not CM-related but rather supportive of our picture studies – is to keep my eyes out for any good art-related documentaries on television. If I see something that I think will enrich my children’s education I will record it and slot it into an afternoon. This is not a weekly thing, more like an every-so-often thing.
Visiting an art gallery at least twice a year is something I am purposeful in planning. I know that we are planning a trip to London in July, so it’s the perfect opportunity to visit the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. Towards the end of the year, I’ll make a plan to take them to a more local art gallery in Plymouth or perhaps Exeter. When we visit a gallery I like for us all to bring along a sketchbook so that we can sit for a little while and try to capture one painting of our choice, it encourages us to look deeply at a work of art.
I also like to throw in a bit of practical art a few times a term related to our artist in focus. Perhaps we will try to copy one of the pieces we have been looking at, or we will paint our own piece in the artist’s style. This kind of work I would more than likely implement on an afternoon where we have no other commitments to be anywhere, I find it’s important to leave ‘breathing room’ in your week instead of committing every day to external activity.
Some of the most fascinating and interesting people that I have met have been people with a well-rounded education – I’m not speaking of private education, I’m speaking of an education that exposed the student to many different things other than bookwork. Art, museums, theatre, literature, architecture, all these things are best experienced first hand. They cause the child to forge relationships with them, their own opinions, and they encourage the child to think!
In our home, I plan for us to go to the theatre at least once a year, to visit a museum or National Trust property once a month. Architecture is noticed and pointed out in whatever city we visit, we are fortunate to live in England which has an abundance of architecture to enjoy. Iconic buildings, towering Cathedrals, monuments, all add to the atmosphere of a place and should be appreciated, admired, and enjoyed. We marvel at the old Cathedrals, to think they were built hundreds of years ago without the aid of our modern-day machines and methods!
You would be surprised how often art comes up in our conversations at home. Not huge in-depth dissections of an artist’s work but rather references to an artist’s work. Just last week as we were driving up to Manchester for the weekend, one of my girls commented on how wonderful the sky was and that it reminded her of a John Constable sky. This lead to a family discussion (mostly led by the girls) about his life and how sad it was that he was largely overlooked as an artist in his day.
It then linked into discussing John Constables contemporary of the day J.W.M Turner, and how he was an acclaimed artist in his day. The general consensuses was that we felt John Constable had been ‘done in’ as we all preferred his work over Turner’s work – If we had not been doing our 8 minutes a week Picture Study this lively conversation would not have happened as we hurtled along the motorway, nor would they have likened the sky to an artist. I feel therefore that they are richer for having had Picture Study included in their weekly lessons over the past 10 years.
So again, no matter what curriculum you are using, this is something that you can include in your weekly lesson plan. At only 8 minutes a week – it’s completely doable.