A few weeks ago we read Magritte’s Marvelous Hat. Most of us loved it (more on who didn’t later). Something I’ve long been wanting to do more of in our home school is artist study. The boys do art each week with H. and love it but I’ve been wanting to include more of an art history component. The problem has been that I get paralyzed by where to start. Should we go chronologically? By type of art? By region? Coordinate with other studies? And then it just ends up not getting done. It’s a great example of the perfect killing the good. After reading the Magritte book I thought it would be a great time to jump in and go a little more in depth with a specific artist.
We started with two more books on Magritte. Now You See It, Now You Don’t in the Adventures in Art series is a fairly straight-forward look at Magitte’s work. It has many reproductions of his paintings with short explanations about each work and about surrealism in general. Dinner at Magritte’s is a fictional story about a young boy whose family lives in the country near Magritte. One day the boy goes to visit his neighbor. The illustrations are all homages to Magritte’s paintings. Salvador Dali also makes an appearance in this book as a guest at the dinner and there is a melting clock on one page. I think I would have liked this book more if I hadn’t first read Magritte’s Marvelous Hat, which has more charm.
After reading about Magritte, we turned to creating our own art. I used this project from Art Projects for Kids as a guide. First we used a plate to draw a circle on our paper and then sketched lines around it to turn it into an eye. Then I told the kids to paint anything they wanted inside the eye. The only thing they couldn’t do was to make it look like an actual eye.
I’m not sure David completely understood the assignment or got the concept of the eye. But he’s always happy when we’re doing art so it was a good day as far as he was concerned. He initially drew a very nice apple in the center and then a tree underneath. We then used liquid watercolors which are a little difficult to work with and might not have been the best medium for this project. I did like that he purposefully made his apple NOT red (he had earlier pointed out to me that people always assume apples are red when in fact they are often not red in real life). And I liked that the tree was NOT an apple tree but actually a Christmas tree with red decorations.
John definitely got the concept. His eye has a piece of ham on a plate. You can see part of the fork on the side. This might seem odd if you don’t know that Magritte did a painting of a piece of ham on a plate with an eye looking out of the middle of it. John thought he’d flip that idea around, which seemed very appropriately surreal. He also chose to outline his eye with a Sharpie marker after the paint had dried which makes it look more finished.
John was the child who didn’t like Magritte’s Marvelous Hat (or the other books all that much). He said he thought they were “creepy”. This was interesting to me as it fits his personality. He has a great imagination but he has always been bothered by things that aren’t as they seem. I think he understood the concept of surrealism, he just doesn’t enjoy it. And that’s ok. The goal for artist study isn’t to like everyone we study but familiarity with different artists and hopefully even to learn to appreciate that which you don’t like.
A good rule when doing art with kids is to do art with kids. I find my kids get much more into any project that I am also doing. They also worry less about “getting it right” and just have fun with it. At one point the black paint in the center of my eye ran down the middle when I picked up my paper. Both boys gave me advice on how to try and salvage the painting. I liked that and think that it helped them see that it’s ok if you make a mistake or accidents happen. You can fix it.
There is a Magritte painting The False Mirror that has an eye with a cloudy sky in the iris. I chose not to show the boys that painting first because I didn’t want to give them too much direction on what to put inside their eyes. Looking at the Magritte books gave them enough of an introduction to surrealism without limiting them to one idea of what their painting should look like.
And what about Ruth? Where was she while we were doing this project?