ArtAchieve is a web-based art curriculum that believes anyone can draw. To author John Hofland, drawing is a skill - not necessarily an innate talent - that anyone can hone and strengthen. If you're new to drawing, it's recommended that you start at Level I, regardless of your age. Celia has been taking art classes for several years now, so we decided to begin our review with the Level II classes. Though lessons can be purchased individually, we received a package containing a year's subscription the Entire Level II offerings (if you purchase as a full package, the final cost is discounted).
If you're a homeschooler and need these to fulfill a specific art requirement, these will work. Each lesson compares the tasks for each lesson against National Arts standards. Because Level II is for slightly experienced artists, it generally meets standards for grades 3 and up, though some do meet standards for younger students.
The overarching artistic theme, at least that we have found, for Level II is line (especially curved ones) and shape, pattern, and proportion. In addition to the art projects themselves, ArtAchieve offers suggestions to make this a cross-curricular study. Literature, history, geography, science, and other art sources are shared to help turn this from just art to a full academic unit study.
I appreciated all of these extra resources, but Celia wanted to just get to the "art part." We have been using this as a summer course (her "school year" art teacher does offer summer classes, but they haven't fit in our schedule). ArtAchieve has been a great way for Celia to continue her studies. The video- and powerpoint-based lessons are focused enough for her to continue to grow in her skills, but aren't so overly-structured that it loses its "this isn't for a grade" feeling.
The first thing Celia noted was that all of the lesson models are fom different cultures and styles of art. There are Korean ducks and African elephants, Ukrainian roosters and Mexican Dia de los Muertos skulls. The variety of these fourteen examples has kept her interested in the next lesson; her initial excitement stemmed from the individuality of each piece, and it wasn't the same drawing over and over again. As she worked with each lesson, she began to enjoy it for its individual tasks, both cultural and artistic.
The first lesson was a Swedish Dala Horse. When you look at the sample pictures, it looks very intimidating. However, one of the first exercises is to break down the lines into its elemental forms -- an upward curve, a downward curve, etc. These warm-ups help break the literal "big picture" into smaller, manageable parts. Rather than trying to start with the head and draw out to the rump, the horse sectioned into his major parts.
After a few tries, Celia was ready to begin drawing.
I appreciated that every lesson has a clear supply list, so you can gather up your materials before you begin, and aren't midway through and realizing, "Oh, I should have grabbed..." (ArtAchieve also provides a master Materials List so if you are doing an entire series, you can make ONE trip to the art supply store.) There are several media used in this series, mainly marker and acrylic paint on paper. Celia's favorite medium is acrylic paint on student canvas, so she preferred to use this, or she made more than one version of the project.
The Swedish Dala horse calls for acrylic on paper. She had some new stretched canvas that she has been waiting to work with, so the horse became her first project with it.
The lessons are offered in both a downloadable video and PowerPoint presentation. Celia decided she preferred the latter, because it allowed her to go at her own speed, and scroll through each slide instead of having to stop/start/rewind/restart the video if she wanted to look more carefully at something. The step-by-step instructions helped her not just put pencil to paper and draw, but to also learn to plan out her drawings.
For the second project, a painting of South Korean wedding ducks, she did her first versions "as directed" - acrylic on watercolor paper.
These were more of a practice, copying the ducks in the lesson.
This is her "good" duck, with both the duck and a completed background. She decided she didn't really like the combination of acrylic on watercolor paper. She felt it was harder to control the edges paints and they wanted to bleed and run.
For her Japanese fish, she did the first round with markers on regular office paper, as directed, and then went back to acrylic on canvas. As much as she liked the finish of the canvas she used for the Dala horse, she went back to a flat canvas because it's easier to store in her portfolio.
Marker on paper.
Acrylic on canvas.
The suggested time for each lesson, as taught, is about an hour, making this a course that can fit into a once-a-week instruction. Celia found that each project took anywhere from two to five hours (often spread over a few days), between doing several warm-ups to become comfortable with the model, and then with creating the finished pieces. I can see this lasting only the first hour-ish with the boys, who are less interested in art.
During the school year, Celia has a school-issued netbook, which we had thought she'd be able to use with this review. Unfortunately for our scheduling, she had to turn it in before summer break. However, we were happy to discover that ArtAchieve will also work with an iPad and/or iPhone. The screen is smaller, of course, so it was a little more difficult, but with some patience and zooming, Celia was able to work without an actual computer.
Celia has really enjoyed this program. She's looking forward to continuing with the rest of the Level II lessons, and has already asked if we could sign up for the Level III ones when she finishes the course we have. With a total of five student levels, ArtAchieve is a program that will provide a strong art education for any student!
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