I have to confess I am a little bit addicted to books; I love nothing more than walking into a book store with the smell of the freshly printed pages all around me and with the wonder of a small child wandering around aimlessly taking in the new titles and brightly printed front covers. I could (and often do) spend hours flicking through book after book until something truly captures my interest. In fact, it has become bit of a long running joke when I am out with friends that I literally cannot walk past a book store without having a sneaky peak. It is true.
I like all sorts, from fact to fiction but shamefully (for some, not me!) it’s often the children’s section I find myself in time and time again, a mixture of old and new, nostalgia sets in and nothing beats seeing a book you once loved yourself as a child still in print, waiting to be bought and loved to death by your own children. I have to say I probably end up buying a lot of the books the children own for me rather than them but thats the best part of being a parent, eh?
When I recently received a copy of Wide Eyed Editions The School of Art through the door, it may be true that I squealed a little bit! I am huge fan of some of their other books which are all quirky non-fiction guides, Natures Day & One Thousand Things being firm favourites so it’s no surprise that The School of Art by Teal Triggs & Daniel Frost is no exception.
A beautifully presented, square hard back book, The School of Art is written in a way that draws the reader (or Student as we are now called) in from the very beginning. Set out in a series of 40 lessons spanning over 3 ‘terms’ we are first introduced to a set of 5 professors, each with their own area of expertise:
♥ Professor of Ideas – Encouraging and inspiring students to explore their ideas.
♥ Professor of Form – Helping students ideas come to life, turning them into visible, tangible things.
♥ Professor of Senses – Teaching students that art is not just about what they see, but about activating other senses too.
♥ Professor of Making – Giving students activities to enable us to make things & enabling us to put ideas into reality.
♥ Professor of the Planet – The school’s ‘Moral Compass’ helping students think about the world around them in everything they do.
Throughout the book we are taught a series of lessons in which the Professors teach us different topics. They work together to complement each others ideas perfectly and help the student get to grips with every aspect of the subject being explored. What I found extremely comforting from this idea, is that it very quickly becomes apparent that no idea is ‘wrong’ there is no right or wrong within art and it can be made using anything as a material or a guide. It also shows it is good to challenge our own and others ideas and enables us to do so in an informed way.
Term 1 is made up of teaching us about what basic elements we need to help us make art.
Starting from the basics of line-drawings and making shapes and then moving on to transforming these into 3D shapes and how adding texture, tone and patterns can transform them. Lessons 10-17 in Term 1 are all involving the use of colour and learning how it works. What is a colour wheel? How do different colours work together? How does colour make us feel? We all found this section extremely interesting – particularly the activity on creating your own illusion!
Term 2 steps it up a notch and teaches us about the design principles needed to help us make impressive art. It talks about composition, perspective, symmetry, repetition and proportions (a topic my daughter found extremely helpful and enjoyable).
The book also contains some fun facts along the way – Who knew your arm span is the same as your height? Not us! (Try it!)
Term 3 is all about putting all of our ideas and new-found knowledge into practise and teaching us how we can reach out to people with art. It encourages us to think visually, tell a story using pictures and really engage with an audience by making sure our work is aesthetically pleasing using all of the skills we have learnt throughout the book.
On each page of this beautifully illustrated book there is an activity cloud with different ideas and examples of artwork to try. This is the part where the children get to put all they have learnt into practise from the lesson and get as creative (and messy!) as they like. The children loved this part, although were sometimes to eager to jump straight to this part before taking it what the lesson was teaching them first.
Nothing beats a book that engages children from the start, is extremely fun and has them keen to learn at the same time. The house looked like a scene from art-attack every time this book came out and for a rainy afternoon I can think of nothing more perfect. It doesn’t feel like it is aimed at children in the sense they don’t feel patronised, yet it uses simple enough language for them to understand and relate to at every level.
The use of the 5 professors throughout keeps the book constant, and the children said they felt like they were part of a classroom not readers of a book. I think that makes it a winner!
I would say this book is better suited to ages 8+ due to some of the technical language and activities throughout. My 4 year old thoroughly enjoyed taking part in some of the activities but I feel he wasn’t old enough to understand any of it on any level except having fun. I have previously had no interest in art – purely because I am not great at it – but have to admit to trying out a few of the techniques myself & really enjoying them, leading me to say that this would also be suited to a young adult who wanted to understand art at a basic level too.
The children’s bedroom walls are now covered in beautiful drawings and they have a refreshing confidence in their abilities to produce something more than a sunshine in the corner of a page looking over a house with a picket fence! The book has inspired them to think outside of the box and has without a doubt improved their abilities as mini-artists.
I would definitely recommend this fun & educational book as a superb birthday gift or (dare I say it in August) stocking-filler.
Disclosure: I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network and received this book for the purposes of review. All opinions however, are my own.