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ARTtistic Pursuits, Books 1, 2, 3 (Grades K-3) Review by Marisa Corless

By Brenda Ellis
ARTtistic Pursuits
2626 East 109th Avenue,
Northglenn, Colorado 80233

ARTistic Pursuits is a series of art education books that are intended for kindergarten through high school. I was lucky enough to get to review Books 1, 2, and 3 in the K-3 level. Each book has 32 lessons. Book 1 is subtitled An Introduction to the Visual Arts and includes some examples of ancient art, Book 2, subtitled Stories of Artists and Their Art includes works from Gothic, Renaissance, and the 18th century, and Book 3 is subtitled Modern Painting and Sculpture and includes examples of modern art from the masters.

I was not able to do every single lesson in each book because each book is designed to be a year-long art study, but I did sample them and can't wait to finish them all with my children, who are in kindergarten and fifth grade this year. One positive attribute of this program is that even though it is labeled as K through 3, the material covered is still appropriate for older elementary children. The website says, "Many parents with children in the K-3 grades and others in the 4-6 grades choose to use K-3 Book 1 as an introduction to the arts. Older students learn a lot about art history, are not talked down to, and really enjoy the projects." It goes on to mention that you can teach K-3 as a group and then give the 4-6 grade students the upper-level book to work on independently. My fifth grader is eagerly participating, and so is my kindergartener, each at his or her own level. Each lesson begins with a picture of a piece of art and a short lesson and discussion about it. Then on the next page, the art assignment is given and includes a picture that a child completed. According to the ARTistic Pursuits website, this is so children feel confidence in their accomplishments rather than comparing themselves to what an adult can accomplish.

Prior to utilizing this program, you'll need to purchase a variety of art materials. There is a shopping list found at the beginning of each book. All the materials are divided into several categories (drawing, sculpture, etc.) along with the list of lessons using those materials. Being less artistic myself, I was very grateful for the list and brief explanation in the book; however, a more thorough explanation of what materials to buy and what quality to look for is covered on the website. I wish that information had been printed in the book, because when I went to the store to purchase my materials, with book in hand, I found that some of the do buys and don't buys got mixed up in my head. And I couldn't remember which product the website said was good and which one by the same manufacturer was inferior. I should have printed the information and taken it with me!

I appreciate many of the careful considerations the author put into her work. One example is that there is no nudity in the K-3 level. On the website, ARTistic Pursuits mentions their philosophy that parents should be the ones to determine what is appropriate for their children; they also point out that it is distracting for a child to work on a project and learn a technique when there is nudity in the lesson. I appreciate not having to censor pictures for my very young children. I love that each book covers a specific period of time and is a great fit for families that study history chronologically. Even if a family does not study history chronologically, the lessons are still valuable because art throughout the ages has attributes and techniques to learn. The author also tells the children to compose art about subjects they are interested in. Nowhere does the author say pile up some fruit and draw what you see. Nor does she recommend that they spend time drawing endless lines and circles. She believes children will learn the shapes through drawing what they are interested in and that their art will improve with practice.

ARTistic Pursuits is every bit the quality program that I thought it was when I first saw it mentioned on a website. I am thoroughly enjoying using this program with my children for art this year, and they are loving the assignments and experiences. ARTistic Pursuits can be used by any family interested in art, no matter what ability the parents have. After testing this program on my kids and reading through the books, I can say I highly recommend it. ARTistic Pursuits is an excellent option for painless art lessons that will help your children not only learn from the masters but also experience art in a positive way.

Product review by Marisa Corless, MH, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October 2011