Laurie Bluedorn has created three short volumes for teaching art appreciation to children ages four through twelve that are titled What Do You See? A Child’s Introduction to Art. Each book features ten artworks with a series of questions for guided discussion of each painting.
What makes this series unique is that each volume emphasizes one key principle in art. The first volume teaches about the center of interest in each painting. The second volume teaches about the artist’s use of primary colors, and the source of light is the key principle in Volume 3.
While you will discuss other aspects of each artwork to help your child tune in to what is happening in each painting, questions always include one or more that teach the key principle. For example, in Volume 3, the second painting studied is “A Dinner Table at Night” by John Singer Sargent. Among the eight questions for this painting are these: “What is the source of light?”, Do you think the lamps are electric, gas , or candles?”, and “Do you think there is a lot of light in this room, or is it a dark room?” However, the final question for this painting is very open-ended as it asks, “Tell me a story about the two people in this painting.”
This technique helps children to really learn each principle instead of haphazardly teaching about many different art techniques. The ten paintings in each volume give children just enough practice working with each principle.
Many of the paintings feature children and some sort of action, so it is relatively easy for children to enter into discussion about these particular art works. Discussing the paintings should be lots of fun to do together as a family. Plenty of questions are open to personal interpretation which might make for some lively discussion. Suggested responses are provided for each painting, but only for questions where you are looking for a particular answer.
You might be concerned about the cost effectiveness of featuring only one art principle per volume. However, the three volumes are available only as ebooks, and their cost is very low. I’d love to see more volumes in this series covering other art principles.