We have been using a fantastic art resource for the past few weeks — Smart Art: Learning to Classify and Critique Art. I bought it discounted from Prufrock Press since the topic sounded good and the price was right.
I’ve been so pleased with the content, and it came at a perfect time in our art studies. Basically Smart Art is a primer for analyzing art. The first section covers the purpose of a work of art. These are divided into three broad categories– imitationalism (realism), emotionalism, and formalism.
Then in a workbook format, these concepts are introduced:
- focal point
- dark and light
As you study each concept, you sketch your own examples. And then, my favorite part, you discuss the concept in relation to a work of fine art — real art, not contrived images. Unfortunately the art reproductions included in the book, although full page, are all black and white. For some exercises, such as proximity or balance, the black and white version was not a hindrance. But for others, we used the art books in our library to find a color version of the art. And for more obscure pieces we simply searched the Internet.
Besides the exercises in the book, we enjoyed shuffling through the pages of our art calendar to find good examples of each art or design element.
The last section of the book discusses the meaning of a work of art. And although a theme can be subjective, the book does a good job of helping you guess a theme based on the various elements of art and design.
The book is targeted for ages 8-14, and I found it perfect for 11 year old Sprite. We already do daily art narrations for our artist study, and some art terminology has found its way into our narrations. But we had never studied art formally as Smart Art lays it out. The ideas Sprite learned are helping her narrate art with more specific art vocabulary and with new attention to various art designs.
See sample pages from this book at Prufrock Press.
The last few pages of the book brings it all together in a Smart Art Worksheet. This three page document walks you through the purpose of the art, the art elements, the design elements, and the theme. When you are done, you have outlined a thorough analysis of a piece of art. I anticipate using this as the pre-writing stage for a future essay assignment. Sprite really enjoys looking at art in this systematic way and asked if we could use the Smart Art Worksheet often. I think we may add it to our art study work as a once a week activity.