How to Talk to Your Kids About Western Art

How much is your son or daughter learning about art? Art is such a big subject that it’s hard to know where to start. Or maybe you’re a teacher and don’t know how to teach art. That’s why I started How to Talk to Your Kids About Western Art: a blog about getting your kids into western art. My name is Sarah and I’m an artist, an art teacher and a mom who wants her kids to love art as much as she does.

What will they learn? There are lots of things, but the main ones are:

Art history – this is the background knowledge that helps you understand what’s going on in a piece of art. It’s like when you read a book – knowing what came before helps you understand what’s going on.

Art theory – this is the ideas that artists, museums and galleries use to think about their work. You can’t really understand a painting or sculpture without thinking about its ideas; in fact, you can’t really see it at all!

Art techniques – there are lots of ways to make art, from painting with oils or acrylics, drawing, cutting and pasting paper or making videos. Artists use these techniques when they make their work so you can learn different ways to make yours

Hi! I’m a high school art teacher. I’m writing a blog about how to get your kids into western art. This is the first blog post in the series, “How to Talk to Your Kids About Western Art.”

This is a blog about getting your kids into western art. Western art is the rich tradition of painting and sculpture that came out of Europe, and later America. It includes everything from cave paintings to Andy Warhol.

This blog is not a guide to what your kids should like. That’s up to them.

So why this blog? Because in the last few years I’ve noticed that a lot of people, including me, were doing a terrible job introducing their kids to western art. We were showing them one or two famous works, then changing the subject when they tried to ask about anything else. We weren’t giving them a good way to understand what was going on in any of it.

Why do we do this? Mostly because it’s hard to explain. When you get past “Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel,” it’s hard to know what else you’re supposed to say, and besides, if you admit that you don’t know much more than that, you’ll sound dumb.

That’s because most introductory explanations of western art are dumb. They try to tell you too much at once, or they give you an account of “art history” that makes no sense as an explanation for what’s hanging in your local museum or gallery.

The influence of the West on the rest of the world is so pervasive that it’s easy to take it for granted. But the cultural imprint left by Europe and America is enormous, and understanding how and why it developed is a fascinating story.

The West has produced some of the most enduring works of art in history, from Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater House.

Telling your kids about them can help them appreciate the creative genius that flows through Western civilization. Here’s how to do it:

One: Ask them what they already know about Western art.

Two: Use the visual arts as a conversation starter.

Three: Build on what they already know.

Four: Use art books as an educational tool.

Five: Go see a gallery or museum exhibit together.

Six: Support your local arts scene.

Seven: Get an art appreciation book for your kids when they are young, like Art for Kids (which is written especially for children) or the classic The Story of Painting by Hans Hofmann, which helps explain big ideas like line and balance to little kids.

It will help your children

My kids are in an art magnet school. They don’t take art classes, but they do have a lot of exposure to art. In this post I’ll talk about what I’ve learned from working with them and other students as they begin to develop their own tastes in art. This is just my experience, and it might not work for everyone. But these are the things that have worked for me.

What to look for in art

The first thing to understand is that there is a big difference between paintings you like and paintings that are good. Good art will always be hard to swallow at first. It’s not easy to understand why people ever thought that painting was a good idea, or why they would want to put two colors next to each other on a canvas (or whatever). And if you can’t understand how someone could have made something, then you can’t really appreciate it – you’re just looking at shapes on a canvas (or whatever). Understanding what artists were trying to do is important because it gives you insight into why they made the choices they made, which lets you see the painting differently. If there was no reason for something, then it’s not interesting . . . sometimes there isn’t any reason for something, but sometimes there is and finding out

Sometimes I’ll see a picture of a war or something, and really want to show it to my kids. It could be a picture of the aftermath of Hiroshima, or a picture of a bunch of soldiers on the beach during D-Day. The trouble is that these images can be scary for little kids.

These days I’m more careful about what I show my kids. Some things are just too intense for them to handle. The older they get, though, the more they’ll be able to handle. So here’s a guide as to when you can show your kid various pictures from history.

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