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ArtAchieve Level 3 Review by Tracey Masters

John Hofland

Are you struggling with finding time to add Art into your homeschool schedule? My daughter would work on Art all day if she could get away with it. I was having a difficult time including Art into our daily agenda until I was introduced to ArtAchieve many years ago. I was recently blessed with the opportunity to review the Level III art lessons from ArtAchieve.

ArtAchieve is a company that offers leveled art and drawing lessons taught by John Hofland. He is the creator of this complete online program and spent many years traveling around the world. His travels greatly influenced his method of teaching art. The foundation of the lesson is inspired by a cultural object found around the world.

There are five leveled programs available on the website consisting of eight to fourteen lessons. We received a one-year online licensed subscription giving us access to the Entire Level III bundle consisting of fourteen culturally diverse lessons. The lessons were designed to inspire all students to draw, create, and paint. He believes that ANY child can learn to draw. The lessons aim for the child to be successful.   

Each well-developed lesson on the website consists of a lesson description, bulleted supply list, estimated times to complete a lesson, cross-curricular suggestions with related educational links, and some lessons include examples of final projects.

The lessons can be watched in two different formats. You can choose to view the art lessons in video format or as a PowerPoint slide presentation. Each video lesson lasted about 20-30 minutes. To my surprise, my daughter preferred to view the PowerPoint slideshow rather than watching the video presentation. She used to prefer the video lessons for the additional technique demonstrations, but her preferences have changed. She now prefers the PowerPoint version so that she can work at her own pace. She is a fast reader so she can work quickly through the content or stop on a slide if she needs more time to complete a particular portion of the lesson.  

The presentations include a list of standards, background about the culturally inspired object, project goals, drawing rules, relaxation exercises, music suggestions, and drawing and painting project steps. Each lesson also includes a specific list of art supplies needed at the beginning of the presentation so that you can gather any materials ahead of time.

Level III consists of the following fourteen multicultural art projects: The Hawaiian Frog, The African Crowned Crane, The Chinese Horse: Drawing the Horse’s Head, The Face from the Gambia, The Pacific Northwest Totem Pole, The Eastern European Firebird, The Wood Carving from Kenya, Kandinsky and Color Mixing, The Nine-Banded Armadillo, The Russian Matryoshka, The Canada Goose, Da Vinci’s Clock, Let’s Make a Movie, and The Thai Green Peafowl. The titles alone sparked my curiosity. The lessons cover various skills and techniques such as creating distance, contrasting colors, creating a symmetrical, asymmetrical, or radial balanced picture, use of contrasting organic lines and shapes with geometric ones, using light and dark colors to create shapes, shading objects, and more. Your child will be exposed to and use different art mediums such as oil pastels, chalk pastels, watercolors, acrylic paint, tempera paint, drawing pencils, and Sharpie markers.  

The lessons in Level III are suitable for students in fifth or sixth grade who have mastered the skills presented in levels one and two. However, the online art lessons can also be completed by adults or easily adapted for younger children in third through fourth grade. They can be completed by children of all ages with a supportive guide.

I used the lessons with my 10-year-old daughter who is currently at the end of her 4th grade year. She has prior experience with the program and has completed the first two levels of ArtAchieve. The new art lessons were uploaded to our account and were accessible with my password. The curriculum can be used with the entire family or by a single individual. We used ArtAchieve as my daughter’s core Art curriculum.

The lessons can be done in any order. My daughter selected and completed the lessons independently. She chose projects based on her current Geographical studies, interests, or the art supplies we had on hand.

The lessons in the third level are longer and more complicated than those in the previous levels. The lessons are organized in a format allowing natural breaks or stopping points which enables the educator to spread the lessons across several days. She completed at least one project each week. The lessons were broken up into 2-3 more manageable sessions lasting about 20-60 minutes throughout the week. Lessons took approximately 1 ½-2 total hours to complete.

The rules were reviewed in the presentation. We limited the amount of talking during artwork time and emphasized that there are no mistakes. She knew that there was no right or wrong way to draw since Hofland consistently repeated the rules. She was also not allowed to erase anything or completely start over.

Relaxation exercises were encouraged before beginning the project. My daughter rubbed her hands together and placed the palms of her warm hands over her eyes. She also practiced deep breathing exercises.

The warm-up is in grid format. The student copies different types of lines, curves, and dots into the empty grid boxes. The warm-up grid exercise consists of types of lines that will be utilized in the chosen art project.

After completing relaxation and warm-up exercises, my daughter worked through the guided drawing lesson beginning with the subject and concluding with the background. John Hofland instructs the class using clear, step-by-step instructions while offering helpful art tips. He begins his lesson with an introduction which reveals a cultural object or inspiration from around the world based on a specific location. As the child creates their drawing, he encourages them to experiment with different techniques. Soft classical music was played while she painted the drawings to promote visual thinking and focus. Instrumental music was highly recommended. The lesson concluded with a “Time for Reflection” session where students can evaluate their own work with thought-provoking questions and observations.        

Her favorite projects so far were the Hawaiian Frog and the Canada Goose, because you have more creative composition with regards to layout and opportunities to play with color. The Hawaiian Frog was the first project my daughter selected, because she loves animals. First, we printed out the downloadable warm-up exercise and the project printouts in PDF format for her to utilize during the lesson. This art project was inspired by a water fountain found at a cemetery near the Buddhist Temple in Oahu, Hawaii. The project was painted with a charcoal white pencil and oil pastels. She was introduced to light and dark colors which helped create the frog’s round shape. She also explored color selections and creative compositions after viewing real frog images. The guided drawing for this project took 20 minutes in addition to another 50 minutes to add color. Each step of the guided drawing included a drawing image and each time a line was added to the drawing it was drawn in red making it easier to draw the frog. Planning dots were also utilized as placement aids. The cross-curricular connections provided links teaching the History of Hawaii and the science behind frogs including their lifecycle and habitats. She even had the opportunity to read frog-themed literature and folktales.

She learned about the Rule of Thirds when drawing and arranging a flock of Canadian Geese in her composition. My daughter learned that placement can create a sense of distance. This art project combined the use of oil pastels and watercolors. She also learned how to create contrasting sharp lines with the markers and how to paint loosely with watercolors. There was a link to a watercolor technique video for her to view. The cross-curricular connections taught her facts about geese and their habitats. She read an assortment of books centered around geese. My daughter had a blast using a mixed media approach for this project. It took 30 minutes for her to draw the birds and 30 minutes for her to color it. 

I absolutely loved her colorful masterpiece of the Russian Matryoshka Doll! She learned a lot about comma strokes, the history of Russia, matryoshka dolls, and Russian folk artists. There were well-known literature books listed to read as well. This project took approximately 80-100 minutes to complete.  

I really appreciate the assortment of educational website links and resources that the author provides related to each art project. This enables the learner to further research information related to the art project which is an excellent way to extend and enrich learning about a specific topic. A wide variety of subjects are integrated into these cross-curricular connections such as Art, Music, Geography, History, Language Arts, Science, and Math.

I highly recommend ArtAchieve for homeschool families and homeschool co-ops offering Art as an elective especially if you do not have any artistic abilities or background knowledge with regards to teaching Art. I am always impressed with the quality of the videos and PowerPoint lessons. If your child loves Art class, then this curriculum may also be worth trying as an afterschool enrichment program.

We will definitely continue using this program throughout the year. My daughter gained more confidence with this method. She’s more focused and adds more details to her artwork. The program will appeal to computer-based, visual, auditory, and hands-on learners. Homeschool families that implement a delight-directed, eclectic, unit study, or thematic approach may enjoy the art lessons and find the program appealing. If your child loves drawing and painting, I highly suggest you consider John Hofland’sArtAchieve curriculum. He will inspire your children to create amazing masterpieces. Be sure to submit work to be featured in his online Art Gallery. 

Overall, we had a positive experience with and thoroughly enjoyed the online art lessons available through ArtAchieve. The lessons encouraged my daughter to be more creative and explore different art mediums. We really appreciated the step-by-step directions, having lesson presentation options, integration of other subjects, schedule flexibility, and the variety of lessons offered from around the world. I don’t have any background experience with teaching art so the simplified lesson directions were helpful in fostering independence. Knowing that we have a full year to utilize the lessons gave me peace of mind. I didn’t feel rushed to complete them all in a short amount of time. We didn’t have any issues using this complete Art program. There’s no planning and minimal prep time is required of the educator. 

The entire level with all fourteen of these projects can be purchased as a bundle for the affordable price of $60. If you only want to try a handful of the lessons, then you can purchase four and get one free for $24. Each individual project can also be purchased separately for $6 each.

There are also free art lessons for kids which are suitable for children in first grade through adulthood. The free lessons give you the ability to try before you buy and can be found on their website by clicking on “Shop by Level.” A dropdown list will appear and you’ll click on the second title. I suggest starting with The Czech Cat and The Simple Lines art lesson which is a project my daughter truly enjoyed. The Simple Lines foundational lesson teaches your learner about the different types of lines which is essential when drawing all masterpieces. There’s a fun scavenger hunt and body movement line exercises included in this particular lesson.  

-Product review by Tracey Masters, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June, 2018