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What are the Remaining Components of Art Grammar? (Part 3 of 3) – Podcast #26

Today we’re talking about the other five components of the grammar (basics) of art: Techniques / Media, Skills, Purposes of Art, Art History, and Art Appreciation.

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Art and the Classical Model

Here’s all the links to this full series on using the Classical Model of Eduction to teach art:

Things We Mention


Episode #26 Highlights / Outline

As a review, the seven components of the Grammar of Art are:

  1. The 7 Elements of Art
  2. The Principles of Design
  3. Techniques / Media
  4. Skills
  5. Purposes of Art
  6. Art History
  7. Art Appreciation

We’ve already covered the first two in great detail because they have so much to teach us about art. Today we’re going to go over the other five components fairly quickly.

Techniques / Media

  • Technique: the media you’re using. This word is easily confused with “skill,” so I usually just use “Media.”
    • Media is plural, Medium is singular
    • Technique/Medium Examples: Pencil/graphite, Charcoal, Ink, Watercolor, Acrylic, Oils, Pastels, Fiber, Clay, Collage, Mosaic.
  • There are pro and cons to each medium, so it’s good to experiment with different media.
  • Each medium requires unique skills. So, plan on taking time to learn each one. You can experiment, but a book, a class, or video will make the learning faster.
  • When teaching a variety of media, some art teachers like do a “Media Sampler,” using a new medium each week. There are pros and cons to this:
    • Pros: New media can be very exciting, different students will naturally take to different media, and a little exposure can help overcome the fear of a medium you’re never tried.
    • Cons: Students never have enough time to really learn any one medium, art teachers have to purchase more supplies, and some students will frustrated at never becoming proficient at any one medium.
  • So… Balance a variety with repetition in media

Tips for Trying a New Medium:

  • Do several projects with one medium. (Later you can try doing one project with several media. Limit the variables in your experiment!)
  • Look for a book, class, or video about THAT medium to speed up the learning curve.
  • Use tracing when starting a new medium so students can focus on the skill of that one medium. Otherwise, the student may be working on too many skills all at once.

Tips for Traveling with Art

  • Carefully pick which medium you want to take when traveling.
  • We reccomend picking only one medium per trip, just to simplify.
  • With kids, colored pencils are great for travel! (My favorite are the Prismacolor Premier, but they are soft and prone to breaking. My sons use Prismacolor Scholar at home. If you want to learn Colored Pencil skills, I recommend these. In our homeschool community I often use Crayola’s Erasable Colored pencils, but please know that they do not behave like a traditional colored pencil. They’re very waxy, so I never try to teach colored pencil specific skills with Erasable Colored Pencils.)
  • Deanna recommends traveling with a small set of higher quality watercolor cakes and an aqua brush.
  • Julie prefers to travel with watercolor pencils and an aqua brush (We both like Faber Castell’s Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils best!)


  • Some skills are general and can carry over from one medium to another: Seeing, how to create perspective…
  • Some skills are compound: Linear perspective, human proportions (ideal vs actual), complex shading with reflected light or soft light…
  • Some skills are medium specific: blending is different with each medium, creating layers with acrylics, carving wood…
  • Drills for Skills! Work on skills with specific drills! This is why I try to introduce a new skill with each art lesson I write.
  • The “Every piece is a Masterpiece” mindset can easily creep in. However, we need intentional practice, not Masterpiece making,  to improve on a skill.
    • Photography class experiment of quantity vs quality (Has anyone else heard of this? I can’t remember where I heard about it!)
    • 10,000 hour rule from Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers says we’ll need about that many hours of practice to get good at any one thing.
    • The Equal Odds rule says we won’t know when what we’re creating is going to be great! (James Clear’s short book, Mastering Creativity) So, keep creating in quantity!

The Purposes of Art

  • There are many different purposes of art, including:
    • Expression
    • Social/Cultural
    • Functional
    • Persuasive
    • Political
    • Historical
    • Educational
    • Scientific
    • Spiritual/Religious…
  • The first thing to teach students is just the fact that there ARE different purposes. Before you dismiss a work of art, consider what it’s purpose was. This expands our definition of “art” and helps us appreciate all types of art and all types of cultures.

Art History

  • There’s so much we can learn within the component of Art History.
  • First, just realize the fact that there are different periods of art history and each period has some defining characteristics.
  • Then start memorizing the defining characteristics of each period:
    • Ancient
    • Greek/Roman
    • Medieval
    • Renaissance
    • Baroque
    • Neo-Classical
    • Romantic
    • Realistic
    • Modern
    • Contemporary
  • In the grammar stage, you also want to introduce the concept that culture affects art AND art affects culture (even if students can’t provide examples as evidence).
  • We talked in depth about Art History in some past episodes:
  • We’ll be doing more podcast episodes soon about specific art periods and specific artists to correlate with our 2018 lesson plans, which cover the Ancient through Renaissance periods! Stay Tuned!
  • Why did we make Ancient art history lesson plans this year?
    • We never get to study ancient art in Classical Conversations’ “Great Artists” studies.
    • We’re studying ancient history this year in Classical Conversations.
    • Much of what we know about different ancient civilizations is from their art.

Art Appreciation

  • Art Appreciation is all about looking at, asking questions, and thinking about works of art. This is where we put together all the other components of Art Grammar.
  • Art Appreciation starts in the grammar stage but becomes robust in the dialectic / logic stage. While students are young, we just want to let them talk about what they see. There are no right or wrong answers. Students don’t have to defend their statements or draw specific conclusions, as they would in the Dialectic stage.
  • Here’s some example questions you can ask in the Grammar stage to help students notice the details in a work of art:
    • What’s the first thing you see?
    • What else do you see?
    • What details do you notice?
    • What story is this art telling?
    • What questions do you have looking at this art?
    • Where do you see the 7 Elements of Art or the Principles of Design in this art work?
    • Does this art remind you of anything else?
    • How is this art similar to other art we’ve looked at?
    • How is this art different from other art we’ve looked at?
    • When was this work of art created? What else was happening in the world?
    • What can we learn from this about the artist’s culture?
    • What do you feel looking at this piece of art?
    • What do you think the artist was feeling when he/she created this?
    • Do you like this work of art? Why or why not?

Next week: Dialectic and then Rhetoric

In our next episode, we’ll wrap up this Classical Education series as we talk about teaching art in the Dialectic and Rhetoric stages. Be sure to join us even if your students are still very young. Here are my top reasons for NOT waiting until your kids are 10 years old to learn about Dialectic and Rhetoric:

  • You’ll gain a better grasp on what the Grammar stage is, when you understand the other stages.
  • This knowledge will help you properly identify when your students are fully into the next stage.
  • You’ll gain confidence in the Classical Model when you understand it as all whole.
  • Knowing all three stages can help you in your own learning.

Personal Renaissance Segment

  • We’ve both been reading the fiction young adult Jackaby series by William Ritter (Recommended by the What Should I Read Next Podcast)
  • Julie’s been busy with Practicum (Classical Conversation’s summer parent seminar in the Classical Model of Education), and purchased a few new books there, including Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
  • Julie’s also been keeping her Sketch book open and handy and it’s been a great encouragement to keep sketching.
  • Deanna has been sick and doing large scale clean out, but hopefully she’ll be better set for creativity now!

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