The Angelicscalliwags School: Art, Artists, Music and Composers

For Part One: Introduction

For Part Two: Why History?

For Part Three: Era, Person, Dress Up, Geography, Explorer study

For Part Four: Reading and Literature Studies

For Part Five: Writing, Narrations and Re-enactments

Art and artist study has to be one of my favourite past times.  Whilst I can’t draw a bit, I am very arty and really enjoy the process of learning new methods of artistic expression.  And that is my emphasis – always process over product.  It matters little to me if what we make looks naff, just so long as we have enjoyed the journey to naffdom! (apparently that is not a word according to spell check!)

Art Study

It probably won’t surprise you to know that we do not use an art curriculum.  Art, for us, is learnt alongside the culture.  I believe authentic study of authentic art of the times teaches so much about the culture.   And this is usually where I begin to plan from.  During the ancient times the artists tended to work as teams of craftsmen, crafting in a particular style that was often peculiar to their own culture.  It is always interesting to see the art  on the materials available to them.  Man has expressed himself through art from the earliest times and we have attempted to at least expose ourselves to the art from each culture we have studied.  And always, always we try to replicate it.  At times more successfully than others.

In Ancient India we studied the cave paintings and attempted to do some of our own:

We often add bits to the lap book.  Here we learnt an inscription found from the Ajanta Caves.  We also did our own cave painting using chalk pastels and a brown paper bag

We tried our hand at frontalism on real papyrus when we studied ancient Egypt:

And the lovely results

Frescos on real plaster slabs when we did the Minoans:

Birdworld 014

Screen printing on silk during ancient China:

C10 proudly showing of her silk print
C10 proudly showing of her silk print

We did a full study on stained glass windows at the start of our study of the middle ages:

And paintedMost recently we did a study into illuminations, replicating a picture book we all love so much ‘Marguerite Makes a Book’:

L10, C10 and T11's illuminations

Click on any of the cultures in my side bar and you will always find some sort of art study relevant to that time.

Picture Study

Although we do elaborate picture study in our artist study (described below)  I occasionally find the need to do an arbitrary picture study to illustrate some other historical point.  We did a picture study on an Ancient Chinese painting and attempted to replicate it, to learn more about the Han society from primary source evidence:

Our final replication of the original tomb painting.  Not bad T11, L10 and C10!

This was a joint effort of all three children and our replica is on plaster , using Chinese brush and Chinese solid inks just as they would have used all those years ago.

Just a couple of weeks ago we did a brief study of Botticelli’s Circle of Hell.  Artistically speaking it wasn’t the most successful study, but my purpose in doing it was a literary one as opposed to an artistic one and for that it fit the bill perfectly:


Artist Study

Our largest and most successful studies are of the artists.  All throughout the ancient periods I was itching to get to a time when artists took credit for particular pieces of work.  I just knew we would have so much fun and we really have.

Our first study was of Cimabue, followed by his student Giotto.  This year we are studying the Limbourg brothers.  The first thing I do is look on Amazon to see if there are any child friendly books on the artist of choice, sometimes I’ve been blessed to find a book that fits the bill in a charity shop, as was the case for Giotto.  That is a massive advantage of planning a year in advance.

We always do some biographical, introductory work using these note pages, after I have chosen which pieces we are going to study.  I then get prints from Wikipedia of all the pictures we will be studying.  When I am choosing, I look for pieces done in different mediums which allow much wider learning to occur.  In the case of Cimabue we looked at a mosaic and then made our own:

A tempera on wood, which we then tried to replicate by making our own tempera using crushed chalk and egg white:

And finally one of his frescos which we also tried to replicate on home-made plaster in a butchers tray:

Giotto was our second artist study last year.  I chose Giotto as he was Cimabue’s student and yet was a forerunner of changing the way painting was done in the middle ages.  We found some seriously wonderful picture books about the story behind the pictures and his childhood:


We based our first activity on Giotto’s childhood, who spent a lot of his time drawing on rocks whilst watching his sheep.  I made rocks from air dry clay and the children drew on them using chalk pastels:


We studied his mosaics and this time actually made the mosaic tiles ourselves, colouring them prior to mixing the plaster:

Our mosaic tiles ready to fill the plaster sheets above

and them created our own mosaics:

 As Easter was coming up they chose a simple cross design

Next we studied the frescos that this book was based on:

And made our own paints again using posh, muted chalk pastels this time:

Something even A4 could join in

And then copied the angel onto plaster:

T11's fresco
T11’s fresco

And finally we did a comparison study of pictures of Cimabue and Giotto:

And they wrote a compare and contrast essay:

C10's essay

We are currently studying the Limbourg brothers and we are concentrating on tiny detail of some of their highly detailed paintings.

We live fairly close to the National Art Gallery, London.  So whenever possible we pop up to see some originals from the artists in question.

Music and Composer Studies

I am possibly one of the most unmusical people I know, so this is a struggle for me to even include, let alone excel at.  I do my best.  Basically we listen to music from the time.  We are slowly going through some composers (very slowly) covering Guido Dā€™Arrezzo last year and currently working on Guillaume de Machaut.  Again I look for interesting books and I aced when I found this, a book all about D’Arrezzo:

If only I could find books like that for all the composers!  We listened to lots of his music and wrote notepages about how it made them feel and drew pictures to describe those feelings:

The children also wrote some biography notepages.  And really that is all.  Give me art to do any day.

Tomorrow is my last post of the series (all breathe a sigh of relief!) and it will be on field trips and presentations both of which wrap up each culture perfectly for us.


  1. I’m loving this series Claire, and am always amazed by your creativity and energy to get things done. I wonder if you could say a bit about how you do maths and science, just to complete the picture?

    1. Thank you Ginny for the lovely comment! I won’t be covering maths and science now but I have been asked about that a few times and about the little one’s school, so I will probably do a few posts over Christmas to finish the series off. Hope that helps!

  2. Your journeys to naffdom are absolutely fantastic! And though I agree the process is what truly matters, the end results do look great! It’s wonderful how many various ways your kids are getting a chance to experience art and creativity – and to boot making many of their own materials. Your kids will have such incredible experiences and personal resources to draw from when adults – it seems assured they will be creative forces to reckon with!

  3. This has been such a wonderful series. I loved ever word of it. Your art studies are perfection! I love it. We struggle with music studies around here too. I am not sure why. It is always one of the subjects that gets neglected.
    Blessings, Dawn

  4. I am enjoying this so much! I’ll be sorry for it to come to an end, and I second the other commenter. Please can you talk about what you do for science and maths?

  5. I am enjoying this series so much. I am amazed by how much you accomplish in art. It is an area of weakness for me, so this year I am making special effort to include it in our studies.
    I so appreciate the time you have put into this series. When I have friends who are just getting started, I will have a place to direct them so they can see what can be accomplished without textbooks. Well done. For me, you are just ahead of us, so you are making my planning much easier. Thanks:)
    Have a most wonderful Monday, Claire.

    1. Glad to have been of service!!
      That’s sweet of you to send people my way. I hope they will find something useful on their visits!
      Thanks for all your kind words, and I hope you also are having a lovely Monday. It’s 11pm here, but I assume you’re a few hours behind us?

      1. Claire, we are six hours behind you. We had a beautiful autumn day. Temp high was 78. Tomorrow’s high is predicted to be in the 40’s with a low of 28. In Texas, we just never know!

  6. I have to admit this is an area which I’m very lacking in. I’m going to try and bring it in more this time around, but so far I’ve not been too successful (but we’re still early in the time period, so we haven’t hit the major “art works”).

    I really laughed when you said Dante’s Inferno was only a “brief” study, from the posts it sure didn’t seem like it was.

    1. No person can be strong in all the subjects. Probably art is the best to be weak in because children will naturally create at any given opportunity and pretty much learn that way. You do a fab job Ticia!
      Re Dante, I was only referring to the Boticelli picture study. I haven’t really even begun the bulk of the actual literature study yet (she says slightly nervously!)

  7. You really do manage breadth and depth with your studies, it’s astounding! I loved this reminder of some of the cool projects you’ve done and a look at some I missed.

  8. I like how you’ve tied the music and art studies with everything else that you’re studying. I also agree that process matters more than the end product, but in fact your end products are very often very good too! The way you are conducting your music and art studies makes a lot of sense to me. šŸ™‚

  9. Love the silk screen print! I’ll have to dig around your posts for info on that when we get to Ancient China. Our music studies were quickly abandoned at the beginning of the year. I’m not proud of it, lol, but I’m hoping one day we’ll pick back up.

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