Friday, 30 September 2011

Get into the picture!

"There has never been a boy painter, nor can there be.  The art requires a long apprenticeship, being mechanical, as well as intellectual."  -- John Constable

As it turns out, my original plan on how we would do art appreciation/artist study completed took on a life of its own once we got into it... 

Picture Study
I printed out four of Constable's paintings and laminated them.  These four were chosen because they are held at the galleries in England, so we would have a chance to see the actual pieces.  The print outs have been on display in our lounge/school room since the beginning of the month, so Tiger would have many instances to look at them and be familiar with them before we discussed about Constable's style and a few interesting points of his life and his paintings.

Our focus painting was The Hay Wain, which is probably the most well known pciture in this country.  Tiger narrated the picture to me, afterwhich he made some observations about the similarities and differences among the four paintings.  We also spoke briefly about how skillful Constable has been to depict the ever-changing clouds.

We also used the following books in our discussion:

Then, to 'test' how well he remembered The Hay Wain, I had Tiger put together a home-made puzzle of the painting, which he completed in a few minutes.  Admittedly, there are only about 20 pieces to the puzzle.  Next time I'll have more pieces in the puzzle.

Hands-on Activities

I had never really paid attention to Constable's work (I am more interested in figures than landscapes) until now, and have been inspired to learn alongside Tiger.  For my own learning, I borrowed the following book from the library to learn about Constable, his way of seeing things and his inspirations:

Alwyn Crawshaw gives an intimate and personal look into the Suffolk surroundings where Constable grew up and where he was inspired most to paint.  The book also gives examples of Crawshaw's interpretations of similar scenes, which encouraged me to take Tiger out to our nearby country lanes to look for similar scenes to sketch, draw and paint.  However, the week we went out was not an outdoors sketching week for it was very cold and wet so we had to satisfy ourselves with sketching indoors.  We ended up sketching from sculptures in an art gallery:

The original sculpture by artist John Mills
Tiger's sketch
Tiger then decided to improvise from his previous sketch of the horse, and drew a cat in similar style.
I try to learn alongside Tiger as well, so I had a go at sketching in the gallery as well.  The sketch is rubbish, but my excuse is that I only had 5 minutes to do it.  Nonetheless, it shows why I have to take lessons!

The follwoing is my take on a Romantic Landscape, oil on canvas.  I followed the instructions from this book.  It's not quite Constable, but that will do for now.  When I have more time (I don't know when), I will attempt another Romantic Landscape, with more of an English countryside feel.

After sketching and observing the clouds for a while (on a day when it did not rain), Tiger painted his own version of a Constable-inspired, Romantic landscape/cloudscape in watercolour:

Field Trips
(1) Constable Country
Since The Hay Wain is so well known here, we decided to take a day out and travel to Flatford to see where Constable actually painted.  It was a glorious day, and we followed the 'Constable painting trail' and saw all the places where he painted, which I thought was exceptional because the landscape and scenery there have not changed very much at all.

We started at a small museum which held an exhibition about the surrouding areas where Constable had painted, as well as his original palette!

Here comes the real deal: the painting trail.

Flatford Mill
Willy Lott's cottage

Still photos don't do justice to the beauty of the Suffolk countryside that inspired Constable so much, so here is a short clip that will give you a better feel.

While I was thrilled to be able to see all of this, Tiger was far happier with rowing the boat up and down the river for 3 hours and having his picnic by the river:

We then ventured to East Bergholt village where Constable had spent his childhood.

East Bergholt church where his parents were buried.
The house and garden now belong to a private owner.

(2) The National Gallery
Where possible, I believe in seeing the actual artwork to get a feel for its actual size, and to see how the artist applies his paints and brush strokes.  Many details cannot be seen clearly on screen or on print outs.  Therefore, we headed over to Room 34 in the National Gallery and we spent an hour in front of the Constable paintings admiring and analysing how he painted his master pieces -- we both admired the paintings, but I spared Tiger from the techical analysis.  That part was for me.

This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can visit to see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.


  1. Your post reminded me that I had intended to do artist studies this year, but had forgotten all about it! Sounds like some great learning!

  2. What a wonderful way to teach art! You've given me several ideas for when my boys are older. Thank you.

  3. Constable's landscapes are among my favorites of all time. I'm so glad to see someone else pay as much attention to his work as I have. Usually no one I speak to has even heard of him and kiddo, lover of abstract art, does not share my Constable passion. :) Lovely post.

  4. Thanks for a wonderful description of your art study. I'm trying to get motivated to get started with picture study. I love the idea of picking something we can go see in person after our study.


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