Thursday, May 1, 2014

Review: ARTistic Pursuits

I have very limited artistic abilities and natural creativity. Most of my really good artsy ideas come from things I see, like, and then copy. (Although many of the final outcomes could be classified as "Pinterest fails").  My children enjoy art and creating things, though, and I was longing to give them a good "art" experience, despite my shortcomings in that area. When the opportunity came along to review Sculpture Technique: Model  from ARTistic Pursuits I found myself really excited that it just might be the start of a very enjoyable experience for our family!

The more I travel homeschool circles, the more familiar I have become with ARTistic Pursuits. Although this was our first time to see and use their art curriculum in our own home, I have consistently heard positive feedback from other families, so I was looking forward to putting it to the test here.

About Sculpture Technique: Model: This is a bound, 83 page book written by Brenda Ellis. It is set up to be used as a complete art curriculum in either a homeschool or classroom setting, and includes an optional schedule to break down the lessons into a 36 week format. If the entire curriculum plus evaluations is completed and hours are tracked, there is definitely enough course material here to award 1 high school art credit.

What is taught: This particular course focuses on three-dimensional construction using the mediums of putty, clay, and fiber. Each medium is used to teach a different sculpting concept. Unit 1 teaches "Creating Mass with Putty". Unit 2 teaches "Creating Scale with Clay". Unit 3 teaches "Creating Surface with Fiber".

What ages can use this? The suggested age for this course is 11-18. It can be a self-taught course. There are step by step instructions for the student to read and follow. There is a self evaluation at the end of each unit, which helps the student review the concepts that were taught and evaluate their accomplishments. There also is some reflections on art 'theory', which seeks to help the student expand their creativity and artistic thinking.

What else is included? There are instructions for using the book, a thorough supplies list for each unit that tells you exactly what materials to purchase (very helpful if the tools and supplies are unfamiliar!), art appreciation page for each unit that vividly describe an example of the medium being taught, templates for some of the projects, and an evaluation sheet for each unit.

How did we use this? I initially intended to use this review with Melissa, age 12. Kelly, age 9, joined in when she saw how much fun it was. I allowed Melissa to choose which unit we would start with, and then ordered the materials. Melissa wished to work with clay, so we started in on unit 2. (Side note - you do not have to do the units in the order they are written - each can stand alone).

After receiving our big package of supplies, we started in on reading unit 2 and began with the first lesson, which was making pinch pots out of clay. The clay unit teaches the concept of scale, and it was interesting to see how this applied to the things we were making. Melissa really understood the instructions and concepts, and was able to work quite independently using the step by step instructions in the book. In fact, she was able to help Kelly quite a bit as well, who was copying the steps that Melissa was taking with her work.

Another concept  taught in the clay unit is the slab method, which has the sculptor rolling the clay out into a flat slab then creating several projects from it. Melissa used this to create a grass slab for her clay bunny to sit on. The slab method is also used to create a clay 'self-sculpture', laying the flat slab of clay over a paper armature base. This is a pretty tricky project, and one that we are going to try tackling again when we have a little more experience! Another concept that is familiar to any child who has ever touched clay is the coil method, which uses long clay 'snakes' or coils to form various sculptures. Melissa used the coil method to create a baby bunny.

Instructions and helpful hints are also included showing how to paint the clay projects using acrylic paints. Since we have quite a stash of acrylic paints here at home, we were able to paint finishing touches onto the projects.

In between the project pages, there are pages that teach sculpting techniques such as making slip, joining clay pieces correctly so that they won't fall apart, burnishing, and etching. There are quite a few tips included on using the tools correctly, and safety is addressed as well. That surprised me, because I never thought of clay as being hazardous, but the chapter discusses clay dust and cleaning up your project area carefully so that you don't create any unsafe conditions.

Using a wire cutter to cut a slab of clay
The start of a pinch pot
Following along with the step by step instructions
Finished pottery from pinch pots and slabs
Painting dried pottery
Using tools to smooth out a coil project
Wish List: Melissa is a very visual learner, so the best case scenario for this course would have been an experienced artist working with her and showing her what to do. While Melissa did find the step by step instructions and pictures helpful, she really longed for more instruction, and sometimes got frustrated when her work was not turning out like the pictures. Her suggestion was that she wished ARTistic Pursuits would make some videos to go along with the projects, that actually showed an instructor completing the project step by step. For her, she would have enjoyed watching the technique before trying it herself.

How much does it cost? This course currently sells for $47.95. Supplies are extra, and the website has suggestions on which items to purchase, as well as where they can be purchased from. If you cannot spend much on supplies, one neat thing that the instructions include is suggestions of regular household items that can be substituted for the recommended tools.

My final thoughts: I recommend this very thorough art instruction course. It is much more than a "kids craft book". It includes instruction, art appreciation, and completely explores 3-D modeling in a variety of mediums. As a home school mom with a limited art background,  I appreciate giving my children the opportunity to have such a satisfying artistic experience that is not dependent upon my instruction.

Finished projects: (from a first time sculptor, using the methods and techniques taught in this book)

baby bunny

Showing off texture from the different clay tools
Hollow body inside, thanks to the coil method
teacup and saucer
intricate details made by using needle tools
various pottery pieces

What else is available? ARTistic Pursuits has an entire lineup of preschool and elementary art curriculums. The two sculpture technique books are new this year. Besides the book we reviewed, the other sculpture technique book is called Sculpture Technique: Construct and it covers sculpture techniques using paper, cardboard, papier-mache, and wire.

You can find ARTistic Pursuits on Facebook.

Many members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew have reviewed all of the ARTistic Pursuits materials over these past few weeks. Click the banner below to read their reviews, and find out about all the different courses that are available.

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  1. Mom! I like that rabbit, can I do that too? (and for the next two hours he made various rabbits out of silly putty). Thanks for the inspiration! :) Good review as well.

    1. Aw that's great! Thanks for sharing! My daughter was excited that her project inspired someone else. :-)


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