March 8, 2010

Mountain Man Unit--Art

If you are studying mountain men, I highly recommend you include Audubon somehow. We read several books about him. I blogged about our favorite of those books here.

After reading about him we looked through several birdwatching books and tried to identify the birds that frequent our backyard.

Then we tried to paint like him.

Miriam was fairly successful. The rest of us . . . had a harder time.

Along with Audubon, we also studied Albert Bierstadt. Since painting and painters became such a huge part of our unit, I set up a field trip to an art studio of a local artist. It was not hard to do as I attend church with this particular artist every week--but I bet it wouldn't be hard to find someone through a community art center or a university art department.

Rebecca graciously showed my children how her easel works, how she mixes paints (she left oil paints out with my children in the room--so brave!!) what kind of brushes she uses, and the stages a picture goes through before it is done. It was so interesting! My kids, especially artsy Miriam, were fascinated. I thought it was a lucky happenstance that Rebecca was working on a painting of a horse when we arrived because that thrilled Cowboy Cowen to his toes. This is definitely one of my favorite field trips so far.

Toward the end of the unit, as one of our culminating activities, Julie (my homeschooling buddy) and I had the children do a melted crayon art activity. The idea was that the children would draw a mountain scene on waxed paper, fill it in with shaved crayon, then iron over the crayon to melt the wax to have a finished product similar to a stained glass window.

This is a fantastic project, but we did do a few things wrong. First, crayon art should be abstract. At least, that's my feelings on the matter. It is hard to be precise with melting crayon. Second, we shaved way too many crayons leading the children to believe that they needed piles of crayon shavings. With this project, less is definitely more. I would limit crayon shavings to an amount that allows you to see lots of the wax paper through the crayon. That would be more reasonable and allow more light through your finished product.

Overall, though, it was a fun project that everyone enjoyed. Other art ideas include making a paper mache mountain scene in a box and then adding little figures to it--like Kit Carson, or a buffalo. Whatever comes to hand or makes you happy. Julie did this and her children loved it. There are numerous western artists that we didn't study but would have been an interesting addition to the unit. If you have older children you can talk briefly about the western mystique and visit an art store or gallery and see how much of the art features a western theme. So many fun things can be done with mountain men and art!

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