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Art Lessons for Children with Donna Hugh, Vol. 1-6 Review by Kate Kessler

Coyote Creek Productions
2419 E. Mission Road
Fallbrook, CA 92028

Art Lessons for Children with Donna Hugh is a six-volume DVD set overflowing with art lessons. I first learned about this company from a friend. She discovered these videos at the library and her children created, with their own ability, an enormous amount of beautiful art projects. I was so impressed I tried to find them in my own library but they were not there. I was thrilled to see them come in for review as now my own children are creating the same beautiful projects here.

Volume 1, Easy Watercolor Techniques, begins the series by introducing children to watercolor painting. You do not need to have expensive watercolors; any watercolor set will work. I happen to love watercolor painting so I have the individual watercolor paints found in small tubes. This is an inexpensive step-up from the paints in a tray that I personally like, but the artist in the video uses the normal tray type from the store to create her lovely work. The first lesson in this 50-minute DVD is Watercolor Flowers. Your children will work with a variety of colors as well as a permanent black marker. The end result is a charming freestyle painting. I loved beginning the series this way because it shows the children they can really do it. The second lesson is Watercolor Discovery; another freestyle lesson with paint and pen. The third lesson, Desert Scene, is a gorgous symbiotic watercolor painting that ends up looking like a beautiful sunset scene. You will use watercolors and permanent black pen here too. The final lesson in this video is called Opaque Watercolors. The children will create a fish with a black crayon and will use the watercolors to finish it off. This sounds simple, but there is so much room for creativity in each lesson. The back of the DVD lists the specific materials you will need for the lessons.

Volume 2, Easy Art Projects, offers three separate kinds of art lessons in 50 minutes. You begin with oil pastels. We loved this lesson! Using black paper as the base, your child will draw a simple woodland scene with mushrooms, moss-covered log, and fern. The oil pastels blend and are just lovely against the black paper. I was amazed at what my children, ages 7, 9, and 11 were able to create using these easy techniques. The second lesson is Foil Art. I have not seen this technique used in a long time and while it takes more than one day to do the full project, your children will not be disappointed with this lesson. You will end up creating a burnished foil piece easily framable for your home with glue, black shoe polish, cardboard and foil! The third and final lesson in this volume is Printmaking. What an exciting opportunity for the children to learn this valuable artform. There are so many different ways they can use this skill in later life - even designing and printing their own T-shirts would not be out of the question once they master this art. While there are things not necessarily lying around the home needed for this lesson, it would be worthwhile and not terribly expensive to buy them. A brayer (small hand-held print roller) and printing ink, chipboard or cardboard, white glue and cookie trays are some of the items needed in this lesson. I am pretty sure any quality craft store worth its name will carry these. Again, this DVD lists all needed items on the back cover so you will be prepared for your art class.

Volume 3, More Fun With Watercolors, has four different lessons over 53 minutes and uses the same materials found in Volume 1 with the addition of sponging techniques. Lesson 1, Field of Flowers, will instruct your child in brushing techniques and color depth on the page. You will end up with an Impressionist-like painting. It is quite pretty. Lesson 2, The Chinese Dragon, will be one your "likes to paint large" artists will enjoy. As Donna Hugh states, there will be "lots of excitement" on the page and a great deal of movement. Swirling strokes with the brush will give you a dragon shape and you will finish it off with black crayon. What a fun lesson! Lesson 3, Surprise Blossoms, will help you create a floral bouquet with a fine-tipped permanent black pen and finish it off with watercolor. She will show you how to apply the paint in a different way to create a blended look. The end result is a lovely airy painting with an Asian feel to it. If you have a boy and they are not interested in more flowers, you could easily substitute a field or forested area for this lesson. The video is your guide to open up your child's world to the vast possibilities found in art. Lesson 4, Underwater Scene, is where you will use your dried sponges. A variety of sponging techniques will be used in this lesson as well as drawn and free-painted fish. The whole underwater scene is really beautiful when completed.

Volume 4, Felt Pen Fun, takes us on a different art path. In this 58-minute DVD, your child will be using various felt pens; bulky and thick to thin and fine-tipped. Lessons 1-3 all teach as assortment of coloring techniques and perspective drawings using the pens. The Sailboat, The Dinosaur, and Hot Air Balloons are the subjects of really colorful happy artwork. The last lesson, Impressionist Scene, is entirely different. This is where your child will learn to make a short choppy stroke with the fine-tipped pens with many colors to create an entire scene. The finished product is so pretty and colorful! This would be a wonderful co-op project as almost every family has felt pens!

Volume 5, Animals of the Rain Forest, is a perfect addition to your studies when you cover this world habitat. The 58-minute DVD offers three lessons: The Toucan, The Iguana, and The Tamandua. She begins each lesson by introducing us to the animal itself with video of the animal or the animal itself in her studio. This is a wonderful addition to this volume and integral to knowing just exactly what you are going to be drawing! In The Toucan you will return to using your oil pastels on black paper. This is a highly colorful art project I can see us returning to again and again with a variety of subjects. The Iguana is a drawing with black pen/watercolor project with gorgeous results. She incorporates rainforest words in this art project in the background of the painting. The final project in this volume is about an animal most of us have never heard of, the tamandua. The furry creature is going to be fun for your children to draw. You will need watercolors and white tempera paint and will be learning valuable blending brush techniques.

Volume 6, Plants of the Rain Forest, with three lessons over 48 minutes is my least favorite of the set, but still a worthwhile volumne. Your child will draw and paint, with watercolor and white tempera paint, black pen and crayon, three separate rain forest plants: Tillandsias, Bromeliads, and Orchids. She shows the student what these look like in real life and then they are drawn on the page. The various paints are used to create the end results. I think I would have liked to see this one done with a little more variety, or perhaps utilized the rain forest in a broader manner, but as I said above, it is still a useful volume.

I really appreciate the many art mediums used in this curriculum. She equips students (and their parents) with the tools they need to know how to use them. We had oil pastels sitting around the house for over a year and I never knew how to properly use them. Watercolors can be tricky too and she makes them very easy to use by her instruction. Donna Hugh never talks down to the children and treats them as she would a fellow artist in her studio. I loved this aspect of the videos. There was no baby talk here, just professional instruction.

Individual volumes are $29.95 per DVD and $150 for the series with free shipping for the set. There is so much great art education here that will carry over to a wide array of uses in the homeschool. I think of the many nature study projects we can now do with this knowledge and the beautiful notebooks we can make! I highly recommend this series.

Product review by Kate Kessler, Product Reviews Manager, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August, 2010