ARTistic Pursuits: Stories of Artists & Their Art {Review}

My 1st and 3rd grader are studying World History this year, and Early Elementary K-3, Book 2: Stories of Artists and Their Art from ARTistic Pursuits ties in perfectly with what we are learning! I thought it would be fun to enhance our literature based curriculum with fine arts - something our current curriculum is lacking in.

Geared towards ages 5 and up, Stories of Artists and Their Art covers art starting at about the 13th century through the 18th century. The book has 36 lessons that are based on artists from the time period.

Techniques introduced:

  • pan watercolors

  • oil pastels

  • printmaking

  • stamping

  • mixed media

Price: $47.95


Some special art materials are required to use this book. Some of these include: a rubber roller, block printing ink, watercolor crayons, oil pastels, graphite pencils, foam printing plates, and hardboard panels.

An art supply list can be found in the front of the book, online at ARTistic Pursuits and at Blick Art Materials for easy ordering. I found a list that was created specifically for Book 2, and ordered directly from this list. I didn't know this when I ordered, but the book let me know that the best days to purchase from Blick Art Materials are M -Th as they often provide additional discounts on those days. I also picked up a few things, like spackling paste and a putty knife, from a hardware store.

Other common materials needed include: masking tape, paper towels, water containers, wax paper, Elmer's Glue-All, and a mirror.

Our Experience

ARTistic Pursuits is a comprehensive art program that involves students in the creative process while also developing their listening and observational skills. In this art curriculum, we look at artists and their artwork, read a short story about each artist, learn new techniques for making art, and engage in a project.

Project 1
Most fairy tales begin with the phrase, "Once upon a time. . . ," and end with the phrase, "And they lived happily ever after." What stories do you know that begin and end this way? These stories are full of knights, young maidens, and magnificent castle towers. Our story is about a real person who lived in just such a time. ~ Brenda Ellis, page 6

What a wonderful introduction to our first artist!

Artist: Cimabue - pronounced CHEEmah BOO eh, (1240~1302)

Project: Watercolor Painting

Technique: In this lesson, we learn how to set up our painting area, how to soften the dry colors for painting, how to mix colors, how to keep colors clean, and how to use the tip of the brush to paint. We developed good habits to make painting more enjoyable down the road.

In this lesson, we were encouraged to go for a walk and look at buildings in our neighborhood and paint a picture of where we live.

Project 2

Artist: Cimabue (cont.)

Project: Watercolor Painting and Gold Leaf

Technique: We learned how to cut gold paper into shapes, glue the shapes, and watercolor a picture. (We painted then glued.) Eliana followed the example in the book and cut out a castle and glued it to her painted scene. Malachi painted a Medieval cruck house and added a gold sun. We moved quickly through the picture study in this lesson, only pointing out the use of gold leaf in the painting and then moved on.

Castle Scene

Peasant Cruck House

Project 3
Giotto helped his father watch over the sheep. The sheep grazed in green fields all day so Giotto has lots of time as a young boy to think, dream, and to discover. Do you have a place to go where you can think or daydream with no particular purpose in mind? Young Giotto discovered that he had artistic talent in just such a place. ~ Ellis, page 11

Artist: Giotto (1267~1337)

Project: Scratch Art

Technique: In this lesson, we learned how to use oil pastels and make art by scratching into a soft surface just as Giotto did as a young boy. But, instead of rocks and stone, we used oil pastels. We made ours on cardboard, as suggested, but it was hard to fill in where the cardboard is corrugated. And while this was a messy project with the black oil pastel, and my daughter got tired of coloring, she enjoyed scratching a picture like Giotto did, but in oil pastel instead of rock.

Eliana's Scratch Artwork

Project 4

Artsist: Giotto (cont.)

Project: Fresco

Technique: We made a fresco using plaster, just like Giotto, and watercolored our fresco. We also explored emotion and expression in body language, and studied a painting by Giotto called Lamentation of Christ.

In this lesson, I let my children first draw with watercolor pencils, then paint.

Making sad and happy faces and moving her body to show emotion. . .

Happy Dancers

The Winning Goal: Happiness and Defeat

Project 5: Color Mixing

This project was independent from the theme of the book, as it did not relate to an artist or the time period of the book.

We learned to mix colors in a tray and dilute the pigment to make tints. We made a color wheel in this lesson, but I know I will referring back to this lesson to remind the children to make their own colors when painting. Even my 3 year old joined us for this project and mixed his own colors!

Some other artists we will meet:

  • Limbourg

  • Van Eyck

  • Leonardo da Vinci

  • Michelangelo

  • Raphael

  • Anguissola

  • Durer

  • Bruegel

  • Parmigianino

  • Rembrandt

  • Vermeer

  • Fragonard

  • Turner

  • Millet

More techniques we will learn/projects we will do:

  • Sketch to Watercolor

  • Calendar Page

  • Watercolor Wash & Watercolor Edges

  • Pastel Blends

  • Watercolor resist

  • Textured Watercolor Painting

  • Collage

  • Fresco

  • Cool Colors & Warm Colors

  • Resist Technique

  • Watercolor over Oil pastels

  • Dark Ground Drawing

  • Printmaking Basics & Monoprint

  • Tissue Paper Relief

  • Oil Pastels on Colored Paper

  • Watercolor Lift & Block Out

  • Two Color Relief Print and Relief Print Card

  • Collagraph Print

  • Watercolor Contrast Painting

  • Drawing People and Drawing Profile

  • Rubbings

  • Mixed Media (Tissue Paper and Oil Pastels)

  • Watercolor Resist Painting

  • Stand-up Dry-Brush Painting

My Thoughts

ARTistic Pursuits has given me a passion for art in our homeschool. The lessons and projects came together easily and were a positive experience. I feel especially comfortable with watercoloring after my experience, and all three of my young children are using the watercolors with responsibility, rinsing their brush before getting another color of paint, using the brush properly to prevent damaging the bristles, and keeping a neat work space. Even my three year old is remembering to rinse his brush!

It also lessened my intimidation to do art. It is wonderful to have an art curriculum that is easy to use, is interesting, and ties into our study of Medieval Times.

What I like:

  • open and go

  • Charlotte Mason approach incorporating nature study and picture observation

  • historical lessons from a specific time period

  • interesting stories that put us in the time and mind of the artist

  • illustrated lessons and student examples, including photographs, scanned artwork, and sketched illustrations

  • materials are easily identified and divided into groups: Painting/Pastels, Printmaking, and Mixed Media

  • the pages are printed on quality bright white paper which makes the colors more vivid

What's not to like?

The book is comb bound. While it is nice to lay the book flat, the pages are only printed on one side, so I would have much preferred a spiral bound book so I can fold the blank page under to take up less space on the table. It doesn't fold under as easily as a spiral bound book would and the pages have more of a tendency to fall out if you fold it.

I also noticed a few typos and/or inconsistent formatting in the book, but it did not distract me from the lesson at hand.

Overall, I think Early Elementary K-3, Book 2: Stories of Artists and Their Art is a wonderful art curriculum for homeschoolers. It is a perfect accompaniment to our study of Medieval times, or as the book calls it, the Gothic Period. It fulfills much of my desire to do hands on projects centered around our studies.

Other levels include: The Way They See It (Preschool)Early Elementary K-3, Book 1: Introduction to the Visual ArtsEarly Elementary K-3, Book 3: Modern Painting and SculptureElementary 4-5, Book 1: The Elements of Art and Composition, and Elementary 4-5, Book 2: Color and Composition.

Two brand new books are also available: Sculpture Technique: Model and Sculpture Technique: Construct. These are both geared towards ages 11-18.

Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer


  1. I love how you shared an actual lesson in your review- it's nice to see how they are presented in the book! I think I may need to grab this one to use with the kids, I love how you describe this book's set up, and may need to try this one too, and shelf the 4-5 book we reviewed until Bug's drawing skills are stronger.

    Loved your review :)

  2. Love this Michelle! That color wheel is very cool and I love Bo's face.