Free Art & Design Lessons!

September 6th, 2008 by ClickSchooling Leave a reply »

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Age Range: 11-17+ (Middle School, High School, and Beyond)

New ClickSchool Reviewer Michael Hardt wrote today’s ClickSchooling Review. (Read Michael’s bio below.)

I can’t recall when I finally lost my shallow distaste for visual art. One day I was in college sneering at art classes, and next thing I knew I was rescheduling meetings on a business trip because I just had to slip out to the local Museum of Fine Arts. I hope my children will skip the sneering stage altogether, so we’re trying to do justice to the visual arts in our homeschooling.

That’s why I was so excited to find from John McTaggart, a Scottish art teacher. Artyfactory includes step-by-step, how-to art lessons. It also offers art appreciation tutorials on topics like “Still Life” or “Animals in Art” or broader “Art Movements.”

There’s so much here that it took a while to find my way around. When you get to the site, place your cursor over the images and icons on the homepage – and a description pops up on the “Notice Board” on the right side of the screen. You can use that to navigate the site, however, what worked best for me was the little icon of a “red sphere” in the middle of the main page. It takes you to the Site Map, a clearly organized list.

Little ones can’t interact with Artyfactory on their own. The content and writing are at an advanced level. (In fact, I suspect most of the content doubles as McTaggart’s college course material.) But there’s tremendous potential here for a creative homeschooler as follows:

  • Use it directly as reading or coursework for a high school student.
  • Adapt the lessons for younger pupils. The “Pencil Shading” exercises, for example, found under “Pencil Portraits,” would be a fun challenge. The “Drawing Animals” lessons might work with a talented middle school student, too, but these are no Ed Emberley thumbprints: they require a good eye and a controlled hand.
  • Fill in holes in your own knowledge. After spending some time on this site myself, I’ll be able to introduce my children to Expressionism or Vanitas paintings next time we visit a museum.

Most of the content here is for reading and viewing like a book, but I especially like the simple way the mouse brings some pictures to life. Mouse over the illustration at the top of the first lesson in “Perspective Drawing,” and the image toggles between a finished picture and a sketch showing lines of construction converging on a vanishing point. Mouse over the “Still Life” by Steenwyck in the “Art Appreciation” section to reveal the diagonal lines that underlie the composition of the painting. (And a hidden profile of an earlier face that shows through the finished painting!)

There’s a wealth of information here: color theory (both technical stuff like the color wheel and the emotional impact of colors in painting), a thorough overview of African masks and Egyptian hieroglyphs, shading techniques in pen and ink, etc. It’s enough to make me wish I started paying attention to art sooner!

Michael Hardt and
Diane Flynn Keith
for ClickSchooling
Copyright 2008, All Rights Reserved


Michael Hardt is a homeschool dad to two children ages 8 and 9. He says his wife, Camille, does at least 90% of the teaching, but he tries to get involved where he can. :) The Hardt family lives in rural New Hampshire so Internet resources mean a lot to them. Michael used to teach college literature. Now, he manages an engineering team for a software company that makes digital maps. He has also worked as a software engineer on video game graphics at Sony and Electronic Arts. Michael wrote, “I play piano badly, and I still spend too much time browsing the Internet.” That’s good news for ClickSchoolers! You can read Michael’s blog “Family School” (with the subtitle, “Teaching strategies and family humor from inexperienced-but-trying, homeschooling parents” here).


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