The Importance of Teaching the Elements and Principles of Art

In the homeschool environment art is often taught in an unstructured way, teaching just technique, or just art history, or crafts. However, as in any discipline it is better to teach it with a strong foundation of the elements and principles of art. Learning the elements and principles of art step-by-step and showing master works of art as samples and introducing them in order, allows a student to become a master in a variety of techniques learning how to use different mediums with greater success. Students understand how to put things together visually in a powerful way, and understand how visual images are put together to achieve a certain effect.

For example, beginning with showing the importance and power of line, (the first element of art), such as the Nike symbol or the golden arches, emphasizes the influence art has in our culture. Diagonal lines show movement, and vertical and horizontal lines lend stability. Master artists Van Gogh and Dore are great examples of doing compositions in line. Use of line is very important in any composition.

The second element of art is shape. Line defines shape. Everything can be seen in basic shapes. When students understand creating shapes from line and identify how to see light [shading and shadow] falling on an object, you introduce the elements of texture and value.  Ask, where does the light fall when you introduce shape?

Recognizing how the masters used these concepts reinforce learning. Students are amazed at their success when taught in this step by step manner.

After you teach these beginning elements, you can introduce color and instruct on creating values in color.

The sense of space is created by introducing atmospheric perspective, overlapping, and linear perspective. Understanding and implementing Bierdstadt’s use of atmospheric perspective and allowing students to replicate his use in a picture reinforces understanding of how to create a sense of space which is an important element of art. It helps students see things from the master artist’s eye.

Introducing the various principles of art step by step after teaching the elements of art allows student to understand center of interest, harmony, unity, balance and other principles of art in a finished composition, and then how to create a balanced and interesting composition themselves. After the elements and principles are introduced, students then can work on experimenting with a variety of mediums and develop their own individual style with excellence.

Needing a place to start? For teaching tips and sample lessons that can give a feel for how to incorporate these elements as you teach, our website is a great resource, Sign up here for our free e-newsletter to receive updates and special offers.

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My Latest Interview: Murals – A Force For Change

I recently had the pleasure of completing an interview with Paul Bass. It was a pleasure to share about my own experience as a Christian, teacher and homeschooling mom and the impact of murals. One of my favorite things to do is teach young people how to do murals. Check out my interview here or click the image below to be taken to the audio recording and visual power point presentation. You will learn more about what murals are, how they are done and the impact they have on communities throughout history. Great to listen to with your students!

murals mp3 snip

Art Competitions

Check these out.  The first one has a deadline of May 1.
One of my students won this competition:

Scholarship: Frame My Future Scholarship

Company Providing Scholarship: Church Hill Classics

If you could take only one picture, draw a picture, make a collage or painting that would capture who you are and what you want to achieve, what would it be of?

Award Amount: $1,000

Number of Awards Available: 6

How to Apply: The theme is “this is how I frame my future”. Take a picture, make a collage, write a poem, create a drawing, make a scrap book page or any other creative idea that you have that best shows what you want to achieve in your professional life after college.

Where to Apply:

Eligibility: The scholarship contest is open to students attending

Doodle 4 Google

Scholarship: Doodle 4 Google Scholarship

Company Providing Scholarship: Google Inc.

Google is always looking for innovative ideas and encouraging youth to be creative.

Award Amount: $30,000

Number of Awards Available: 5

How to Apply: Applicants must submit a completed application form their own Google doodle based on the following theme: “If I could travel in time, I’d visit…”

Where to Apply:

Eligibility: Must be a K-12 student who is a U.S. citizen or a permanent U.S. legal resident, be enrolled in a U.S. based school and be living in the U.S and obtain parents or legal guardians prior permission to compete in the contest via a signed entry form.

Scholarship: Firefox Flicks Global Video Contest

Company Providing Scholarship: Mozilla

Computers are widely used by students of all ages and as we progress through school we will be using the internet more and more. It is said that once something is posted on the internet you can never really get rid of it.

Award Amount: $10,000

Number of Awards Available: 20

How to Apply: Create a video ad or story in one of four categories that helps people better understand the issues/dangers facing them online and show how Firefox helps them deal with these issues. Categories are privacy, choice, interoperability and opportunity.

Where to Apply:

Eligibility: Applicants must be 13 years of age or older, but if you are a minor you will need parental consent. Also, you can submit individually or as a team

Junior Duck Stamp

National Wildlife Photo Competition

Teaching Art in the Homeschool Environment

I recently had an article published in The Old Schoolhouse. I think you will really enjoy it! Included in the article are reasons why art is an important part of homeschooling, coloring, art as a catalyst, neatness, art and learning styles, art supplies, lesson goals, exploring master works of art and other ways to learn art. Click here to see the full article.

Take A Stroll Through My Paths and Trails Lesson

This is a great lesson for exploring literature through art. Art can be such a wonderful way to make learning about core subjects fun and engaging, especially for reluctant learners. I know you will enjoy this lesson! If you like this lesson, you will love our Teaching Literature Through Art Ebook.

The Teaching Literature Through Art Ebook has all the different genres of literature and illustrations from the original works and then instructions on doing related art. An example might learning about a novel, and then talking about Call of the Wild and looking at original illustrations and then drawing the lead dog.  Poetry, tall tales, fantasy, couplets, essays and more are included. It combines the fun of art with the study of literature.

Like all of our Art Through the Core Books, it is a delightful supplement for visual and kinesthetic learners.  Students learn about the many genres of literature including novels, science fiction, epics, tall tales, fairy tales, fables, all kinds of poetry, journals, handbooks, biographies, essays and much more.  Students learn about how to write different kinds of poetry, and are introduced to some of the great master works of literature and art throughout the ages.  “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle” stories by Washington Irving are illustrated by Quidor.  Students get to see original illustrations from early works of literature and try their hand at art techniques.

paths and trails 1p and t 2p and t 3p and t 4p and t 5p and t 6p and t 7p and t 8p and t 9

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Using sculpture and photography

Here is an interesting idea for combining sculpture and art.   Students sculpted dolphins and then chose interesting photography backdrops.  The finished work of art is the photograph. I would love to hear about your own ideas and projects and how they turned out!


[country backdrop]


[woods backdrop with natural forefront]


[another woodsy backdrop with natural forefront]


[sculpture with natural backdrop]

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