Learning History Through Art: braving clay & other art adventures

learning history through art | bas relief | ancient history art | Tapestry of Grace | ARTistic Pursuits

I remember in the past making a lot of excuses when it came to big art projects in our Tapestry of Grace curriculum. But on an impulse this year, I bought some air-dry clay. Maybe it was the creative rush of a brand new Hobby Lobby just opening in our area, maybe I was feeling excessively optimistic about our year—whatever the mind-set, I ended up with a big box of clay and no excuses. So I’m trying something new this year and braving the clay as we learn our history through art of different cultures.

First up on our tour, has been bas-relief. It seemed simple enough, as we read the instructions and looked at examples in our ARTistic Pursuits book. Carve out an image, smoosh the clay away from what you carved, add details, paint.

And honestly, it was that simple. All the kids enjoyed it. And I do love it when all my kids get to learn something together, from preschool to fifth grade. We learned Assyrian and Babylonian history through art and clay. We’ve been reading about the Assyrians bas-relief battle campaigns and, of course, the famous Ishtar gate of Babylon. Even my preschooler knows where the Ishtar Gate is on his talking globe. The boys chose to carve a dragon and a minion, while my daughter was inspired by the idea of Nebuchadnezzar’s Hanging Gardens.

ancien history | bas relief | history through art

ancien history | bas relief | history through art | preschool

This was a two week project, and part of my campaign to overhaul Mondays. If you follow my weekly updates via my email list, you know the struggle we’ve had with Mondays and my attempts to salvage something from these days. We do only math on Mondays, meet together about the upcoming assignments for the week, and do read-alouds and projects for the rest of the day. For this project, they shaped the clay one Monday and painted it the next.

ancien history | bas relief | history through art

None of the many fiascos I envisioned actually occurred, and I’m thinking I may even be brave enough to tackle Greek clay vases in another week or two. Homeschooling stretches us, doesn’t it? But I’m (usually) always glad I’ve taken the risk and been brave enough to try something new. Learning history through art and hands-on activities and fun read-alouds is exactly why I homeschool, at least one of my million or so reasons.

Sprouting Artists

In the past, our art studies have been more art appreciation, studying the great artists. This summer, I chose to make our music and art studies a little more practical. We’re not neglecting the greats, but we are doing a lot more of the creating for ourselves, rather than copying from others.

I snagged a discounted copy of Artistic Pursuits on ebay, and we’ve been working through a couple of the lessons each week. It combines picture study and some artist information while providing plenty of practical creating. We’ve been experimenting with different art media for the first time: watercolor, oil pastel, etc.

We’ve also supplemented with some youtube videos to help us with a few tips on how to use the medium we are working with.

My budding artists have loved the process.

oil pastel landscapes
oil pastel landscapes
Oldest's corn stalk
Oldest’s corn stalk
Middlest's flower
Middlest’s flower

With the oil pastels, we learned about smearing the wax from the pastels to blend the colors and scratching into the colors with a toothpick to add more texture. And as far as supplies, we’ve kept it cheap—a set of oil pastels for $4.99 at Walmart that we all share and a stack of newsprint paper from Hobby Lobby.

I love having them take art outside. Not only does it keep the mess to a minimum for me, but it gives them more fresh sunshine and the thrill of outdoor art.

In a way, I miss the intimate way we’ve gotten to know our artists in the past, but it has been fun to be a little less formal and a lot more creative.