Art Treasury

So we've been working on a few projects in this Usborne Art Treasury book, which is a fun project book if your kiddos are studying art history. It gives background information on various artists, then provides a project/painting idea to try yourself which relates to that artist's particular style. Most of the artists covered in the book are from the Impressionists up to Modern, with a few random others thrown in. Since we're still studying Renaissance painters we weren't able to make much use of it right now, but we still managed to find a few projects that relate to our current timeline. And will definitely pick it back up when we move into Impressionist history!

We did find a really neat project, however, that related to our history studies about the spread of Islam during the Middle Ages. We had discussed the use of decorative tiles for their mosques and temples and found in the Art Treasury book a project idea on tile tessellation.

So we did it.

First thing we did was create our two basic tile templates, which we cut out of 3 square pieces of scrap cardboard (see top picture). One is the shape of an X and the other is the shape of a 8-pointed star. When put together, these two templates fit like puzzle pieces, creating the tessellation. So, the girls traced these patterns onto their papers in rows and then proceeded to draw patterns and imagery into each 'tile'.  

I told them the more ornate or complicated the better. Somehow that translated as peace signs and mermaids.

Then they decorated the tiles filling in each one with bright colors (we used oil pastels so they could use their fingers to blend). Then they were supposed to wash over the completed piece with a glaze (a mix of glitter and water) but I didn't think our paper was thick enough (we had used basic drawing paper) so we skipped that step. The idea is to mimic the glaze that is put over tiles to seal in the artwork.

Either way, this was a way cool project we had lots of fun working on!

The next project we did from this Art Treasury book related to our discussions about boats/ships during our studies of the Vikings. We made miniature longboats and talked about navigation by stars and what it must have been like traveling by sea. Which led to discussions about fog and storms at sea. I wanted to somehow tie in our art project to these discussions, so I found this watercolor project idea involving a ship battling huge waves in a stormy sea. Since we hadn't done much watercolor this year I thought it might be a good introductory project.

The girls started off drawing in the basic shape of a ship in black crayon (on watercolor paper) (and they made their ships bigger to match the examples in the book, rather than like Viking ships).

The rest of the painting involved mixing different gradients of blue and black watercolors to make the swirling sea and the stormy sky look like they were tossing the boat around. Afterwards we used old toothbrushes to fleck on water spray, and sprinkled salt in the waves to soak up some of the paint (which left white 'seafoam' flecks after the salt was brushed off), adding more texture. Neat-o!

The last project we did recently actually came from a different book. It came from the Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas, and it involves perspective. We'd been talking about perspective and how it changed the way Renaissance painters experienced art, so I thought maybe we would spend a few weeks learning different ways to show perspective in a painting/drawing (more of this in a separate blogpost). This particular project was another watercolor (the girls were anxious to do more watercolors).

I didn't think to snap pictures before we started so this above picture shows older gal's picture nearly completed. Basically, they started off painting the orange curtain on the left side, and the window seat at the bottom. Then they drew in pencil how they wanted their mountains to look in the background, and filled them in with watercolors (we used gradients of red and blue). They did lighter hues in the background, getting darker in the foreground (to show depth).

We then traced silhouettes of cats sitting in the window looking out and filled them in with black watercolor.

The last step was to use black to paint in the window frame, and use crayons to fill in the details on the curtains.

The girls were so excited about these paintings we mounted them on poster board and hung them up in their 'galleries' (ie their rooms). We'll definitely be doing more projects from this book! Fun fun!

And coming up: We moved on to castles and knights recently so be looking for a new blogpost on the castle we built out of tiny bricks, as well as more perspective paintings and triptychs! Wheeeee!


  1. I read about three paragraphs of this post and then went to buy the book. It sounds amazing! Great review.

  2. Hi, I've had this book a while but haven't used it yet - you've inspired me to get it out this week! Thanks for your blog, it's refreshingly different!

  3. Yes, the Usborne books are great! We've had lots of fun with the art projects. Thanks for your sweet comments!