Michael C. Carlos Museum

We love to take the boys on day trips to interesting places around this region, and this summer, we’ve been on several. I’m going to try to write about all the places we’ve been, and I’m starting with the Michael C. Carlos Museum, which is located on the campus of Emory University.

The Carlos Museum is an art museum that collects and preserves art and artifacts. At the top of this post you can see one of their Egyptian mummies. According to their website, they have about 17,000 ancient artifacts from Egypt, the Near East, Greece, Rome, the Americas, Asia and Africa. They also have works on paper from the Renaissance to the present day. (Not everything is on display.)

We will have to return to this museum again and again as we continue with our history lessons. The museum is not huge, but it was bigger than we thought it would be. This past year and a half, we have studied Ancient India, China, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece, so it complemented our studies perfectly.

If you live in the area, I highly recommend that you check out this museum, and even if you don’t, be sure to look at their website. They have some interactive sites for kids as well as a podcast.

Have you been to this museum? Please tell me about your experience.

Mobile Museum of Art

When we spent a week in Biloxi, Mississippi, we drove one day to Mobile, Alabama, which was only an hour’s drive away. We had two places we wanted to visit in Mobile, and one of them was the Mobile Museum of Art (MMofA). If you’re in the area and you enjoy art, I recommend that you visit this museum.

MMofA has a collection of 10,000 pieces of art, but they are not all on display at the same time. You can see on their website what they are showcasing at any given time. We were lucky to view some of their Native American art (always a favorite with me), and Asian art, which was a treat since the boys and I studied Ancient China this year. We also loved their large collection of Alabama artists, and they had several temporary exhibits that we enjoyed too.

My favorite exhibit was The Mobile Delta: Glass & Light by Rene Culler who is an Assistant Professor and the Glass Program Coordinator at the University of South Alabama.

I have fallen in love with the marsh areas along the southern coasts. I love the colors, plants, light, birds, frogs, aquatic animals and everything about this habitat. It’s enchanting. So when I stepped into the area where Culler’s glass representation of the Mobile Delta is installed next to some windows with the natural light, I was blown away (pardon the pun). I’ve always been fascinated with glass artists (second only to pottery), so I felt this was the perfect medium to capture the beauty and constant changes of the delta.

I didn’t take any photographs inside the museum, but MMofA did a short WebTALK with Rene Culler, which you can view on their website, but I will also embed that here. You can see some of this beautiful exhibit in the video.

 

Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art

George Ohr. By Robert Brooks/Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

George Ohr in his workshop. By Detroit Publishing Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I have been a long-time collector of pottery, and for awhile, my eldest son’s interest was making pottery, so when we visited the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, MS, we were in for a treat.

George Ohr, a.k.a. “The Mad Potter of Biloxi,” was quite a character. He lived from 1857-1918 and first became interested in ceramics in 1879 when he served as an apprentice to Joseph Fortune Meyer. He went on to create an astonishing amount of pottery during his lifetime.

George Ohr. By Robert Brooks/Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
At first he created functional pottery, and this is how he supported his family, but later he began to experiment with different forms and glazes. Every piece he made was unique, and having seen the collection at the museum, I can attest that they are amazing. Most of them are paper thin, and I was told they are light as a feather! (Click here to see a short video about George Ohr and view some of his amazing pots.)

George suffered many losses in his life. Five out of ten children did not reach adulthood. In addition, a fire in 1894 destroyed his workshop and all the pots in it. He salvaged some of them and called them his “burned babies.” A few of these are on display at the museum.

Although George received critical acclaim for his work during his lifetime, he was disappointed that the public would not pay the prices he wanted for his work. He considered himself the greatest potter in the world, and he believed that someday the world would see his work as unequaled by any other. Having seen his work, I believe he may have been right.

He quit making pottery about ten years before he died in 1918, and he wrapped up much of his work and stored it in the attic of his shop. After he died, his sons opened a used car parts shop where his studio used to be. But the story doesn’t end there, of course.

In the 1960s, an antique dealer from New York traveled through Biloxi looking for old Cadillac parts. He found some old Cadillacs parked at the shop, but George’s sons didn’t want to sell the car parts. Instead, they convinced the antique dealer that he should buy all their dad’s old pottery. He paid them around $50,000 for all of it.

Once the pottery was shipped to New York, the antique dealer began selling the pottery at auction. Each piece was selling for about $50,000, and now George Ohr’s pottery is recognized as extraordinary — just as he predicted it would be.

If you’re ever in Biloxi, I highly recommend going to the museum. The architecture of the building is very interesting, and there is also a working pottery studio on the campus. You can walk inside and speak to the artists who are working there. They also have a good mix of temporary exhibits, and the Pleasant Reed Interpretive Center is an exhibit of African American culture and history in Biloxi, which we enjoyed very much too.

If you’re as fascinated with George Ohr as I am, you may enjoy this more detailed article too.

Greenville County Museum of Art

On one spontaneous morning, we decided to drive to Greenville, South Carolina and visit their Children’s Museum. We didn’t know much about Greenville at the time or how much we’d love it. (We’re definitely going back!) Right next to the Children’s Museum was the county’s art museum, and it was open one hour later than the children’s museum. It was also free admission. How could we not go in?!

We all enjoyed the Children’s Museum, but the Greenville Country Museum of Art was the most memorable part of the trip for my husband and me. It was a beautiful, small museum, and it happened to have the biggest collection of artwork by Andrew Wyeth in the country. I fell in love with his work, and I’m planning to read some books about him. (He was homeschooled!) He is one of the most well-known artists of our time, so you have probably seen some of his work even if you are not familiar with his name.

This museum also let me take photographs of their permanent collection, but I’m not going to post many because I’m not sure they’d like that. My boys really enjoyed this sculpture of the hawks killing a snake, though. Most of the other artwork was paintings on the wall. I will share these little quotes they posted on the wall next to some work by Jasper Johns because I had to agree with him.

This happens to me all the time!

 

Art field trip to GMOA again

Before looking at the artwork inside, my boys burned off some energy in the art museum’s courtyard. (We would never allow them to run inside!)

Early in the summer, I surprised the boys one Friday morning by saying that for Art Friday, we were going to our local art museum, the Georgia Museum of Art, which is located on the University of Georgia’s campus. I already wrote a detailed column about this museum, so check that, if you want to know more about it.

What I love about this museum is that it’s free admission (although you have to pay a little for parking), and they let you take photographs of their permanent collection. (Be sure to check rules about photography in any museum you visit.)

My husband I really loved Jay Robinson’s work here.

Except for this one photo, I’m not going to post any of the other photos because I’m not sure they’d want me to post them on Internet. What I do when we’re at a museum is tell my boys that I’ll take a photograph of their favorite pieces. And my plan is to look at them again when we’re at home and learn more about that artist, but we haven’t done that yet (ahem!).

I did take a photo of a piece of artwork by Georgia O’Keefe at this museum, however, and one day at home we read a book I have about her, and we looked at more of her artwork online. But that was my choice.

Both my boys can get tired in an art museum much faster than my husband and me. But I consider it lucky that they remain interested for any amount of time, and I know that by starting young, they will learn how to behave and will learn more about art too. My eight-year-old remains interested much longer than his younger brother. In fact, I think he likes looking at everything. He just wants to go at a faster pace and than my husband and me. He’s good about being patient, though.

As for my five-year-old, he might say he doesn’t like the art, but he’ll pick a dozen paintings that he does like and ask me to take pictures of them. He also loves the benches.

Art Lessons + Math

If you read Our Summer Homeschooling Plans, you’ll know I wanted to concentrate on math this summer. I also wanted to keep up with art, and I’m happy to say we did this, and we even got to visit some art museums, which I’ll post about later.

Because of my plan to work on math, I was so happy that my go-to art resource had an issue about art and math. If you haven’t checked out Amy Hood’s e-zine, Art Together, I urge you to look at them. They aren’t expensive, but Amy worked hard at filling them with easy ways to include art into your life. Of course, you have to set time aside and be intentional about this, which is why almost every Friday is art day in my house.

So here’s a little of what we did on various Fridays, using Amy’s Issue 6: Math + Art.

distorted shapes

the five-year-old did this one

Then he took the triangle I made and did something different, which is always okay.

I was the only one that did the paper weaving, although the five-year-old decided to do his own version of it. I don’t require either of my boys to do the art lessons because I think art should be voluntary and fun. If they see the possibilities through what I do, I know they have still learned something.

The best lesson was on the Fibonacci sequence. The eight-year-old loved this, and we watched videos about the Fibonacci sequence to supplement the learning.

Then my son came up with the idea to measure popsicle sticks with Fibonacci numbers and make a little sculpture with it.

Exploring mandalas. This also made a nice lesson on different cultures as mandalas are used in various religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and American Native American cultures too. Google “mandala” and you’ll find many beautiful images and designs.

See how fun math can be?!

Project-based Homeschooling: Sketching at the Botanical Garden

When my eight-year-old went to pottery class, I drove my five-year-old ten minutes down the road from the studio to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, which is probably my favorite place on this earth (and I’ve been a lot of places). I used to go there 2-3 times a week when I first moved to Georgia. I didn’t know many people, and for me, walking on the beautiful, wooded trails or sitting by a stream was like visiting with a friend.

Now that I have children, I don’t get to go there as much as I would like to, but I am happy that we have taken my boys hiking there several times, and my eight-year-old has even taken summer camps there. Sometimes my five-year-old and I took advantage of these times by walking on the trails while waiting for older brother.

I consider Fridays “art days,” and we usually don’t do our other lessons on these days. Luckily, pottery class happened to be on Fridays last fall, so while older brother took that class, I took my five-year-old to the botanical garden for our “art.” I didn’t do formal art lessons though. I decided to just take our sketchbooks and see what would happen.

I am not an artist and until now, I have never put any effort into drawing or painting because it hasn’t been a huge interest of mine. The main reason I’m giving it a go now is because my five-year-old LOVES to draw. He is always coloring or drawing a picture, and I have stacks and stacks of his work. I hang some of it up on the wall above my desk, and other artwork is filling our stairway. As another way of trying to support his work, I got all of us a sketchbook, and occasionally I try to use it. I’m not very good except, maybe, at drawing plants. So that’s what I usually draw. I find it’s a very relaxing exercise too, which is beneficial to me. My goal is to try to make it a weekly practice, although I don’t always get to it that often. (You can read more about how and why I started a sketchbook habit in this post.)

My five-year-old is not very confident at trying to draw new things by himself. He likes to draw “storms” or trees, and loves to use stencils. Usually he colors pictures from a coloring book or he has me draw something for him that he can color. But he has also created some really interesting artwork. Some of it is highly detailed too. Maybe you could call it “doodle art” or abstract art. You can see a slideshow of that on this post. I let him create art however he wants to do it, but I hope as we continue to explore art and drawing together, he will try new things.

Sometimes my five-year-old wasn’t into drawing at the botanical garden, but he almost always wanted to get a snack at the small cafe, and that was okay. (I didn’t mind getting a coffee.) After that, I would pull out our sketchbooks or whatever I brought. He rarely wanted to walk around the botanical gardens at this time, which was okay since it was cold outside, and I had never really sat and lingered in their visitor’s center before. This was definitely a huge treat for myself as well, and I already miss going! (Yes, I know we could go any day just for fun, but that is easier said than done.)

One day was particularly special. It was the day that he wanted to bring his camera, so on that day, we not only enjoyed a leisurely snack and drawing in our sketchbooks, he used his camera to document our workspace and everything around us. He even took his very first video, which turned out to be hilarious (imagine a five-year-old swinging the camera around and talking to his mother at the same time).  It is a video that I will always treasure, and I think he’ll enjoy watching it when he grows up.

Many of his photographs were blurry, but a few were great, I thought, especially since we were sitting in some wonderful light. Below are his photographs. I asked him if he wanted to walk around to take photos, but he didn’t want to do that. He took all of these from his chair. Above are a few snapshots I got with my phone so that you can see how serious he was about his drawing and picture-taking. He didn’t want me to take photos of him, so I had to be quite sly about it! That was necessary because I never want to forget this day. I wish every homeschooling day could be like this one.

Project-based Homeschooling: Pottery Class Update

I’ve written extensively about my eight-year-old’s interest in working with clay and his pottery classes. I thought I would update you with some of his latest work from his pottery class this past fall. It was an eight-week class that was extended for an additional three weeks. He had a different instructor this time, which I think was a positive experience because he learned new and different techniques. He learned hand-building and wheel techniques.

I don’t have photographs of everything he made. Here are just a few items, including my favorite sculpture: his two-headed chameleon. What impressed me about this work is that he didn’t copy what the teacher was making — he came up with his own idea. (He told me he changed his mind a few times before he settled on a chameleon.) And then he sculpted it from memory! At home he will usually look up a photo of an animal to draw or sculpt, but in the class, he didn’t have access to the Internet, so he did this from his own knowledge of what chameleons look like. I am not sure I could have done that!

He told me that he sculpted one head, but then at the last minute, he thought, “Maybe I’ll do two heads.” Okay, then! What an imagination! I think it turned out fantastic.

By the way, these photographs were taken with my phone. In my next post, I’ll tell you what my five-year-old and I did while the eight-year-old was in class. 🙂

 

I love the final product.

Here you can see a few pieces that were made on a potter’s wheel. The tall one on the left was made by a method of stacking more than one pot thrown on the wheel. He also learned about raku firing, which is a Japanese way of firing pottery.  I learned that raku firing does not make a pot safe to eat out of! The two-headed chameleon and the small bowl in the back right of this photo were raku fired. The raku firing can give a pot a metallic look, which can be beautiful.

I especially like that they make him clean up!

He opted to take a break from pottery this spring, but he says he wants to take a summer camp at the pottery studio. Since this is his project and interest, we’ll support whatever he wants to do (as long as we can afford it). I hope he sticks to it, but only the future will tell!

Project-based Homeschooling: Mama’s Sketchbook Habit

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. ~ Pablo Picasso

Over a year ago, I bought a little sketchbook while I was browsing an art store with my boys. I knew that I wanted to use it myself, but I justified the purchase by allowing it to be another homeschooling tool that I was just going to keep on hand for when the moment was right.

A couple of weeks ago, I was proofreading the Art Start column for the summer issue of home / school / life magazine. (Did I mention I recruited Amy Hood because she’s awesome at explaining this art stuff in a completely stress-less way?) Her column is about starting a sketchbook habit, and it came to me at just the right time.

My little sketchbook that I bought a year earlier was still empty. So were the big, beautiful sketchbooks that were given to my boys for gifts a year or more ago. As soon as I read her column, I knew it was time to change that.

The most important reason besides me wanting a new hobby is that my four-year-old loves to draw. He draws and draws and draws. And paints. (I wrote about that in Project-based Homeschooling Preschool: My four-year-old’s projects.) I’ve got several stacks of paper with his artwork on it, and I don’t know what to do with it all, but I’m not throwing it away. I’m encouraging him to do more. And if I am going to help him draw, then I need to learn about it too. (Remember in project-based homeschooling, parents should model the actions they want their children to take.) While my seven-year-old prefers other mediums, I knew a sketchbook habit might be fun for him too.

But I knew that I couldn’t expect my boys to just start a sketchbook habit. They don’t do things simply because I tell them to. That never works! I knew that I had to get past my insecurities about drawing and just do it for myself. Then, maybe then, they would follow. But if they didn’t, that would be okay too.

I am not an artist, and frankly, I don’t want to be. I can draw well enough to enjoy drawing, but I want to do this so that I have something just for myself. Just for fun. With no pressure.

My passions are writing and photography, but after working at those for so long, they aren’t as fun anymore. I want to remember how to be creative and simply have fun. When I do that, then I start to have more fun with my passions. Does that make sense? I need something that gets me away from my computer too.

I was very happy to see that when I pulled out my sketchbook, my seven-year-old was interested in what I was doing. I told him about that beautiful sketchbook I had been saving for him. I gave it to him, and he’s been using it. (Unfortunately, it has caused some stressful breakdowns on his part when perfectionism rears its ugly head. Sigh. But I think over time the sketchbook may help him deal with that. At least I hope.) It’s supposed to be fun and just for practice!

lagoon outside our vacation condo by seven-year-old

I decided not to give the four-year-old his nice sketchbook yet. This is because he flies through the paper, and I have my limits. First, I gave him the little sketchbook that came with the pencil set I bought. After that, I bought him another inexpensive sketchbook. I will give him the nicer one when he gets a little older.

apple tree in the rain by four-year-old

I do not exaggerate when I say that I think this new sketchbook habit saved my sanity while we were on vacation. My four-year-old was sick that week, and I was stuck in the condo quite a bit, which was disappointing. But it didn’t seem so bad at all when I pulled out my sketchbook, sat on the back deck and drew the gnarly, big oak dripping with Spanish moss. Or when I took a chair down by the lagoon and tried to draw the snowy egrets and their nest.

If you are looking for a creative outlet, I recommend starting a sketchbook habit, especially if you make it stress-free by not caring if your drawings are good or not. It’s the act of sitting quietly, concentrating on an object, and really seeing it that is relaxing. For me, it’s an act of mindfulness and a respite from my busy life.

 My four-year-old asked me to draw the cecropia moth so that he could paint it, which he did.  He said he also tried to paint a luna moth, but he didn’t like it.

seven-year-old drew our cat

Homeschool Art Lesson: Exploring Line

So far I have had the most fun doing the suggested activities from Amy Hood’s fantastic e-zine, Art Together. Her second issue discusses line.

As I wrote in my main post about art, 1st Grade Art Explorations, I have wanted to introduce some artists and their techniques to my son. We do a lot of art and building around here, and my son is developing his creativity tremendously from the way we homeschool. I hope these occasional formal lessons will give him more to think about as he continues on with his own creative work.

I’m not usually very good about planning lessons more than five minutes before we’re going to sit down to do them, but when I read Amy’s e-zine focusing on line, it inspired a trip to the craft store. There are lots of activities, information about art materials, and an artist “spotlight” (in this case, Piet Mondrian), but for my young boys, I picked two activities that I thought they would enjoy: 1) drawing with tape, and 2) wire as line. I also knew I wanted to read the short introduction, “Types of Line,” to my seven-year-old so that he would understand why we were doing these activities.

I didn’t tell my children what we were going to do before we went to the craft store. They just enjoyed piling up the new art supplies in the cart, including two fancy rolls of tape that I let them pick out, and some wire that I got in the jewelry making section. (I always keep clay on hand, so we already had that.)

Of course, my seven-year-old wanted to know what we were going to do with all this stuff, so on the way home in the car, I started to explain to him that we were going to explore “line.” And this is where not having time to blog very much doesn’t serve me well because I can’t remember our conversation. But I do remember that it was terrific. We were looking out the windows on the way home and noticing all the lines – the lines of the buildings, store signs, painted lines on the streets, and the light poles. My son was making so many discoveries and connections all on his own – I wish I had a recording of his awesome observations. We discovered that the whole world is made up of lines!!

After that he also enjoyed listening to the introduction in Amy’s magazine, and both boys loved these activities. Below are our creations. To learn more details about these activities, be sure to check out Amy’s e-zine.

Exploring line with tape! My seven-year-old made a leopard with this leopard-print tape.

I think my four-year-old was inspired by his brother. I helped him put on the ears, nose, mouth and feet. Notice he drew spots on it too!

Exploring line with clay and wire was so much fun! I love this butterfly that my seven-year-old did! It was all his idea!

These are my abstract creations. Exploring line with wire and clay.

My four-year-old asked me to shape the clay, and he wanted to do the same thing I did. These are his wire creations. I love them!

Well, that concludes this long series about formal art lessons in our homeschool with the bonus column about our field trip to the art museum, at least until we do our next art project! If you missed any of the earlier ones, they are all listed with links in my introduction: 1st Grade Art Explorations.