|Hero(10) with his straw.|
|Dragon(6) painting a sunset.|
|Hero's final African Sunset.|
I always encourage my kids, when they're learning to do art, to take what they learn, and then to start to use those techniques to make their own vision take shape. In this way, we move away from just crafts (sometimes called "pea and stick work" in Charlotte Mason circles), and towards a more authentic artistic creation, balancing the acquisition of skill with individual creativity. These lessons work nicely with that philosophy, and Hero especially, once he finished the projects, was comfortable expanding away from the lesson and into his own creations.
One of the cool things about these lessons is that there is a great selection of mediums to play with. We started with the watercolors because I already love those, and I wanted to. But then I went and got some new toys for us to play with: soft pastels and charcoals. We did a soft pastel project as a family, which took the younger kids several sittings.
"I'm really enjoying the results of my first two pastel projects, and the second one was just improvised!"
The interface is simple and easy to use - there's an instructional video, with a supply list and some printed tips below that. Longer projects are broken up into several videos, which is nice if you end up doing the piece over a couple of sittings, as we often did. The breaks make it easier to come back to your place, but they autoplay as you go through them, so if you want to watch them all at once, it's very easy to do so.
The course description says that the classes are good for children of all ages, but I found that my younger kids were easily frustrated and confused by the lessons. Part of that is that we watched the video in by the computer, but then had to go to the kitchen table to do the art. Hero(10) did just fine with that. He did more projects than the rest of the kids, because he was able to do these lessons completely independently from start to finish: I just needed to log him in.
|Hero's first work in charcoal, done completely independently.|
However, it was really challenging for Dragon(6) and Peanut(4). Even when I did the projects with them, and we would watch a single step, pause the video and do it all of us at once, then go back and watch the next step. The younger kids found it really challenging, and frustrating when it didn't turn out like the model, particularly in the first couple projects. In the end, Dragon was persuaded to be happy with his picture -- which I think is adorable.
|Dragon's pastel landscape|
|Peanut's pastel landscape.|
It's still a work in progress, but here is our current project, it's going to be windmills, at the end of the first of three sections of instructions. Although we are not finished yet, I can see clear progress from all of my children, both in their command of the pastel medium, which we had never done before these lessons, and also in their ability to follow directions, to mix colors -this project was particularly challenging because our set of pastels does not have all the colors called for in the project, so we've been mixing to achieve the "rust" color that is needed. Each of the kids dealt with this challenge slightly differently - and successfully depicted the roundness of the tower. I love the lessons they are learning in this project.
|Top: Dragon(6), Hero(10)|
Mom and Peanut(4)
Overall, I feel like these lessons were a pretty good fit for us. The projects are great introductory projects to a variety of mediums, which is perfect, because I was too busy taking music classes in school, and didn't have time for much in the way of art, due to the limitations on the number of elective classes we were allowed. Creating a Masterpiece has been a very accessible way for us to explore beyond the limited set of mediums that I was already familiar with -- and we could continue to explore considerably farther: there is a great variety of projects, including acrylic and oil painting, wood burning, copper tooling, glass mosaic, and quite a few others. We chose three mediums that fit our budget, which is not huge right now, and within those categories there were quite a few projects for the kids to choose from. I think that you could easily do a whole year or maybe more of art classes with this curriculum, and have a great time trying out a whole bunch of new things.
If you'd like to see what the other Crew families did with Creating a Masterpiece, how it worked in other homes and the art projects that other families completed, please click the banner below: