Devotion based on Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower paintings

One of my children’s art classes once began a sunflower project based on Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. They looked at the flowers up-close, and saw that sunflowers have huge round centers and large petals. The children decided they should use curvy lines to draw the petals, and that some had rounded ends, while others came to a point.

Sunflowers, 1889, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, public domain

 

While the children drew large sunflowers, they chattered about the bright yellows and oranges they’d add next time.

 

But then we missed class for 2 weeks. And in those two weeks, all the sunflowers lining our roads and looming tall over gardens had mostly disappeared and those that were left looked like this painting of sunflowers done by Van Gogh.

Sunflowers, 1887, by Vincent van Gogh, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, public domain

Have you ever started an art project but for some reason, couldn’t finish it right away?

Do you sometimes wish summer and the colorful flowers God has created could last a little longer?

Isaiah may have wished that, too, but the changing seasons reminded Him of something that doesn’t change and will stand forever—God’s Word. He wrote, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8, NIV)

Even though we had to use photos to finish the pictures, they turned out beautiful. God has made flowers beautiful to look at. They satisfy our love of color, but a flower’s beauty does fade. The beauty of the Word of God never fades, though, because it teaches us about the Lord and leads us to the living Word, Jesus Christ, and His love and forgiveness.

Match the following verses to what they tell us about God’s Word:

Psalm 18:30                                    We must correctly handle God’s Word

2 Timothy 2:15                                Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Psalm 119:11                                  God’s Word is a light for our path

Psalm 119:105                                God’s word is flawless (perfect)

Matthew 4:4                                     We must hide God’s Word in our hearts

Discuss why we need God’s word even more than bread (food) and how:

  • To correctly handle God’s Word
  • To hide it in our hearts
  • It is a light to our path.

Activity: choose one of the verses to hide in your heart this week. To help you memorize it, write it out and decorate it with bright colors.

Prayer: We thank you, Lord for Your Word that lights our path and tells us of the hope we have in Jesus, the Living Word. In His name we pray, amen

Van Gogh’s father was a minister and not long after his death, Vincent painted this still life of his father’s Bible.  Vincent, himself had once ministered to poor coal mining families in the Netherlands.

Still Life with Bible, 1885, by Vincent Van Gogh, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, public domain

Before You Go

My fall newsletter is all about a time when beautiful copies of God’s Word were threatened, and a courageous man and woman rescued one book, the Codex Aureus. Over a thousand years later, we can still see the Codex Aureus! Sign up above for my newsletter, and I’ll see that you not only get the free guide to help make museum visits a fun masterpiece for the whole family, but also my fall newsletter.

You may also want to visit the kids’ corner page on my website to download a template for writing and decorating a Bible verse.

Molly and I hope you enjoyed this devotion based on Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. We hope you’ll come back next week for a fun art project also based on the paintings. Better yet, subscribe to our blog and never miss another post!

Van Gogh’s Sunflower Paintings

Vincent Van Gogh loved the color yellow. When he moved to Arles in southern France, he painted his house yellow and decorated it with his many sunflower paintings. He wanted the house to become a studio center for artists, but like many other things in this troubled artist’s life, it was a disappointment.

The Yellow House, 1888, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, public domain

Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime, but today his paintings sell for millions and brighten the walls of major museums all over the world. Amsterdam, in Van Gogh’s home country of the Netherlands, has a state museum dedicated to Van Gogh’s works, and his paintings are among the most recognized and loved everywhere.

The post includes:

  • A short bio of Vincent van Gogh
  • Information about the painting, Sunflowers
  • Activities to help you and your children enjoy and understand the painting, Sunflowers

The Artist

Born in the Netherlands in 1853, Vincent loved art and literature. At 16 he went to work for an uncle who was an art dealer. While in the London office he fell in love, but his proposal was rejected, and Vincent sank into a time of sorrow.

After a short time in the Paris office and a time working among poor coal miners, Vincent decided he could better serve people through art and returned to Paris in 1886. There he discovered the Impressionists and the works of Seurat, and his paintings changed from dark to bright colors. He moved to southern France for the rest of his short life.

); out of copyright

In Arles, he found the landscapes and people he wanted to paint, and he often painted all day and night without stopping to eat. He stuck candles onto the brim of his hat so he could paint at night.

Vincent began alternating between depression and periods of hyperactivity, but he continued painting even during times in hospitals. In those last years he produced an amazing 800 paintings, sometimes, one a day, and as many drawings. In 1890 Vincent, feeling like a failure and a financial burden on his brother, took his own life.

The Paintings–first a little about Van Gogh’s painting style

Portraits: In many ways, Van Gogh’s work followed in the footsteps of an earlier great Dutch artist, Rembrandt. Like Rembrandt, Van Gogh painted many portraits of the ordinary people of Arles,

Portrait of the Postman, Joseph Roulin, 1888, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, public domain

Van Gogh painted 40 self-portraits, almost as many as Rembrandt. Also like Rembrandt, van Gogh wanted to show what was going on inside people and once said, “I prefer painting people’s eyes to cathedrals.”

Landscapes: Van Gogh painted landscapes that show his swirling brushstrokes, bright colors, lots of movement. Like Rembrandt, van Gogh used thick impasto paint that creates textures. Van Gogh wanted his landscapes to show the healing power of nature.

Wheat field with Cypresses, 1889, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, public domain

Now the Sunflowers!

Still Lifes: Van Gogh probably grew up seeing many still lifes, as these were a big part of Dutch art. He enjoyed painting flowers, in gardens and in vases. Even these still lifes vibrate with color and the textures of thick paint.

Still Life Vase with Twelve Sunflowers 1888, Vincent van Gogh, Neue Pinakothek , Munich, public domain

Sunflowers, 1889, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, public domain

Activities to Help You and Your Children further Explore this Beautiful Paintings

Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that. Enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary. Look for details, such as:

  • Does it look like a photo or is it fuzzy?
  • Could the subject be real or not?
  • How does it make you feel?

1.You might compare and contrast these 2 versions of van Gogh’s sunflowers.

 2.The Sunflower paintings (there are several versions)  are great for discussing color and texture with children:

Color: Van Gogh loved the bright sunshine and colors of southern France.  With your children look at a few portable colorful objects (such as apples, toys, flowers, fall leaves) inside, then take them outside to look at how the colors intensify in sunlight. Take them into the shade and see how the colors change again.

The Impressionists studied the effects of sunlight on color, and Monet, discovered that when he went to the south of France, the sun was so much brighter, he had to adjust his colors to reproduce what he saw. The American, Winslow Homer, who painted his northern seascapes in oils, had to switch to watercolors to show the bright tropical sunlight of the Caribbean.

Textures: Van Gogh used thick paint that shows the textures of how things might feel if we touch them. Send children on an indoor and outdoor scavenger hunt to find different textures and then use adjectives to describe the textures.

Before You Go

Here are some fall photos of Molly with sunflowers and among the yellows and reds of my fall garden.

Molly and I  want to share some good news with you , which also explains why this post was a little late. We apologize! But here’s the good news. In September, I was honored to sign with the Steve Laube Agency, a great Christian literary agency.

And I was a guest on Patti Shene’s Step into the Light podcast, sharing my testimony and and why I love teaching art! Here’s the link.  

It was so much fun!

 

 

 

 

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for you whole family!

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Molly and I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about Van Gogh and his art, and we hope to see you right back here soon for some devotional thoughts based on Van Gogh’s Sunflower paintings.

 

Interview with Annette Whipple, Children’s Author

When Winslow Homer painted The Country School in 1871, children had few books to learn from, but today things are much different.

Our guest today, Annette Whipple, loves to research and write books for children. Molly and I love her Truth About animals series.

The series now has 3 books, Whooo Knew, the Truth About Owls; Woof, the Truth About Dogs; and the newest book, Scurry, the Truth About Spiders. Lots of fascinating facts and colorful, up-close photos will delight children and adults.

Molly is excited to learn more about Annette and her beautiful books, so let’s get started!

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and how you began writing.

A: I wasn’t always a writer. I began writing as a blogger because I wanted to share my daughter’s speech journey as she overcame verbal apraxia with others. Eventually, I realized I could be an even better writer, so I took some writing courses. Later I had some magazine articles published in magazines for adult readers. In 2014, I had my first idea for a children’s book, so I studied the publishing industry, took lots of courses, read a ton, and attended my first conference a year later. Like most children’s writers, I was an overnight success when that book idea became a book in 2020—The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide. (That was a joke! Writing for children is much more difficult than most people realize. It’s also a long, rather slow process.)

Q: Writing is a long, slow process, but we’re so glad you’ve written such fun and informative books! When you need a break from writing, what do you like to do for fun?

A: For fun I enjoy going for hikes or baking treats for my family. I enjoy movies, too! Of course I love reading—lots of kids’ nonfiction. 😊

Molly would love to taste some of those treats you make!! And I bet you do some of your research on your hikes and in your reading, too!

Q: What was the inspiration for The Truth About series?

A: The Truth About series began with the idea for a book about owls. I knew so much incredible information, that I knew I could fill a middle grade book. But I quickly realized it wasn’t working. I set it aside for a couple of years (while I finished The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide). When I returned to it, I completely changed the structure and audience. Now it’s a fraction of the length as a picture book! I was thrilled when Reycraft Books wanted to turn it into a series!

Those owl eyes are mesmerizing! I’m an art teacher and one class does an art project about owls, so I plan to have your book, Whooo Knew there for children to enjoy as they work.

 

Q: Please tell our readers a little about Scurry, the latest book in the Truth About series.

A: Scurry! The Truth About Spiders is a question-and-answer picture book. It includes tons of beautiful photography as well as humorous art illustrations. It’s packed with facts about our 8-legged spider friends.

Molly and I enjoy the question and answer format of your books. And we love the little creatures in each book that add humor!

 Q: Some baby spiders launch into the world on passing breezes. When does Scurry, The Truth about Spiders, the 3rd book in your series, launch into the world?

A: September 30, 2021—but the publishing world is experiencing all sorts of problems with the supply chain. So it may not arrive in bookstores or library shelves until a bit later. (Please be patient!)

 

Q: We love the up close and colorful photos in Scurry and the other 2 books. Do you have any favorite photos?

A: In Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls, I love this photo because at first glance, it looks like it could be the owl’s tongue—but it’s not!

Yikes! It’s a mouse! We see its little feet!

 

This puppy is irresistible in Woof! The Truth About Dogs.

Molly totally agrees with you !

 

And in Scurry! The Truth About Spiders, I appreciate how we can see all the silk threads from the spinnerets in this spread.

That’s fascinating. I’ve never seen such an up-close photo of a spider making its silk!

 

Q:  Woof, The Truth about Dogs also launched recently–in July. What interesting thing did you learn about dogs that you didn’t know before?

A: So much! But I probably most appreciate how much dogs explore their world through their sense of smell. I knew it was important before, but now I understand the science behind it, too.

Molly loved learning more about her doggy cousins in Woof!

Q: What suggestions would you give parents, grandparents, and teachers to help children enjoy your books?

A: Have fun going deeper to learn about any of the topics I write about. Here’s a guide featuring owl STEM activities, crafts, and books! https://www.annettewhipple.com/2020/10/owl-stem-crafts-and-books.html

Q: What advice would you give young people who might like to become writers?

A: Readers make the best writers! So read! Also…keep writing. Take classes and value others’ opinions! Also, check out this blog post about how kids and teens can get published. https://www.annettewhipple.com/2019/07/how-can-kids-and-teens-get-published.html

That’s such good advice, Annette. Molly and I hope all our readers are listening!

 Q: What are some upcoming books in The Truth About series?

A: Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs comes out in spring 2022 followed by Meow! The Truth About Cats. We’re really excited for these titles!

Molly and I are excited, too, and we’ll be watching for these 2 new books in 2022!

Q:  Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

A: Readers can learn lots by following me on social media or visiting my website at www.AnnetteWhipple.com.

Q: Where can readers find your books?

A: My books can be requested at any bookstore or library! Of course, they’re also available online, but I prefer to support small businesses.

Thank’s so much, Annette for taking time to visit Molly and me here on our blog. We and our readers have enjoyed getting to know about you and your Truth About series. I know 1 or more of these great books will be on my Christmas list to give as gifts!

Annette, Molly and I hope you’ll visit again when Ribbit and Meow come out! Molly said she might take a walk, though, while we talk about the Meow book!!

For Molly Fans: here are  ways you can enjoy great art from a Christian perspective, as well as get related devotions, art activities and interviews with children’s authors!

  • If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Just click the sign-up  button above on the right. You’ll receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family. Even if your family isn’t into museums, the quarterly issues have lots of fun stuff for kiddos!
  • Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages, and coloring pages. There’s also an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

 

Art Activity for Winslow Homer’s Painting The Country School

What better art activity to go with Winslow Homer’s painting, The Country School, than APPLES? Here’s a fun print project that can be made into a cute card to thank a special teacher or a poster for the fridge!

In this post you’ll find:

  • Supply list
  • Step-by-step directions
  • Helpful hints
  • Clean-up tips
  • Variations and/or adaptations for different ages
  • Ways this activity aids children’s mental, physical, and social development

Let’s get started!

Supplies:

  • Apples, 3 or 4 should be enough (no need to buy expensive ones; they won’t be edible afterwards)
  • Red, yellow, and green tempera paint
  • Wide, flat paint brushes and a few round ones, if you wish to fill in spaces (the toothbrush is in the photo in case I decided to spatter paint)
  • Paper plate or plastic container for paint puddles
  • Scrap paper to practice on
  • Sturdy paper to print on
  • Card stock in various colors for card or poster backing

Directions:

  1. Have an adult cut the apples in half
  2. Cut the paper for printing into various sizes, such as for a card (smaller sizes are easier to work with)
  3. Choose a color and paint it on an apple half with a flat brush
  4. Practice making prints on the scrap paper
  5. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different papers and techniques
  6. When apple prints are dry, add leaves and stems with crayon or marker
  7. Cut apart to make posters and cards

 

Helpful Hints:

  • you’ll get more complete prints if you place the apple half on the paper, then carefully pick up the apple with the paper stuck to it. Turn it over so you can first pat to be sure the paper is stuck, then smooth the paper against the apple. (Be prepared for smears as the paper may slip)
  • It often works best to have an apple half and a brush for each color
  • But you can wipe the paint off a used apple and change colors that way
  • If you want more complete prints, use a round brush dipped in the same color and pounce up and down in the places you want filled in. You want it to still look like a print.
  • If you plan to cut the prints apart for cards, etc, leave plenty of space between the prints

Clean up Hints:

  • Acrylic paints will work fine, but take more cleanup and don’t come off clothes as well)
  • Be sure to put a plastic table cloth or large paper under your work
  • Have lots of paper towels handy
  • Have a wastebasket close for paper plates, apples, and paper towels
  • A dish washing tub is great for washing brushes
  • Lay brushes flat on paper towels to dry so they keep their shape

Variations and/or adaptations for different ages:

  • Younger children will enjoy choosing and painting the apples, but may need help turning the apple and paper over and learning to pat the paper against the apple
  • Try painting red and green or red and yellow on the same apple half and see if you like the combinations
  • Try printing apples of various colors all over a larger paper
  • Cut leaf shapes from sponge or bring in some real leaves and print these with the apples (look up what shape leaves apple trees have and find or make an appropriate shape)
  • Add wiggly eyes to your printed apples

5 Ways this activity aids children’s mental, physical, and social development

  1. Using paint brushes and other art tools helps children develop fine motor skills.
  2. This art activity helps develop visual/spatial skills as children decide where to place their prints
  3. When children make choices with colors and the ways they want to finish and display their prints, it enhances problem-solving skills.
  4. Art gives children opportunities to explore their interests and talents.
  5. Making art enhances creativity and refreshes minds and eyes tired from screens.

Molly prefers to eat apples, but she hopes you enjoy printing apples for cards and posters! And we hope to see you back next week for another Kathy the Picture Lady post.

I’m trying to be good

Maybe I’ll just try a lick

Oh, okay, I’ll wait!

But Don’t You Wait!

  • If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family!
  • Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. http://www.kathy-oneill.com/

Devotion based on Winslow Homer’s The Country School

No colorful posters cover the walls of Winslow Homer’s painting, The Country School.  No bright backpacks lean against the benches. Two of the boys are barefoot, and most of the children probably walked to and from school.

There are many ways this school room is different from yours. But in the big ways that matter, these children are no different from you.

Their books may have few pictures, but they’re interested in what they’re reading. They may play crack the whip at recess instead of four square, but as soon as the bell rings, they’ll rush out the door to run and jump and yell.

Sometimes they may have had trouble sleeping and be tired, just like you. They have best friends who share their interests, and little brothers and sisters who try their patience. One of them may have gotten in trouble that morning for not doing his or her chores.

And they’re just like you in another super important way. They’re in school to learn and prepare for their futures.

  • What are some things these children may have wanted to do when they grew up?
  • What do you dream about becoming when you grow up?

God has given you a unique combination of skills and interests to use for good in His world. He may call you to be a teacher to help people learn or a health care worker to help people heal. Perhaps He’ll use your interest in the ocean to do research about coral reefs, or an interest in insects to restore habitats for bumblebees.

Most important of all, these children also had someone who read the Bible to them, so they knew that, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1, NIV).

They also learned from the scriptures that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7, NIV).

Even if you’re not in a situation where the Bible is read, you can read it yourself or go to church and Sunday school, to hear and learn more about the Lord, who “will guide you always” (Isaiah 58:11 NIV).

Whatever gifts and talents God has given you, school is a great place to discover your interests and develop skills for doing good now and in the future for God and His world and all those who live in it.

Even Jesus, God’s very own Son, went to school to learn, just like you. When Jesus was twelve, He and His family went to Jerusalem for the Passover, as they were accustomed to do. While there, Jesus went to the Temple where He sat with the teachers, listening and asking questions (Luke 2:41-52). That was like going to school. And like other Hebrew boys, Jesus would also have learned in a synagogue school in his village of Nazareth.

We know Jesus worked hard and learned all He could about God, His Word, and His world, because Jesus used that knowledge about birds, rocks, and trees, and all kinds of things from God’s creation to later teach people important lessons about God’s love and care for us.

At the end of Luke’s account of Jesus as a child we learn that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” Luke 2:52, NIV).

Prayer: Thank You, Lord for giving me skills and interests. Help me work with all my heart to learn how to use Your gifts for Your glory in the world.

Some things you can do this week to work with all your heart :

  • learn this verse:  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men ” (Colossians 3:23 NIV)
  • Think of 2 things that will help you become a better listener
  • Reorganize your assignment book so you can keep better track of and finish your homework on time
  • Help another student or a younger brother or sister in a subject you know and enjoy

Molly also has lessons to learn. She has learned to sit and lie down and even to stay on her mat in the kitchen when we make dinner (unless there’s cheese involved). She also loves recess when she can chase her ball.

I pray that whether you are in school in person, or online, or homeschooling, you get off to a wonderful new school year where you’ll learn about lots of exciting things and enjoy friendships and good snacks. (Molly made me put in the bit about snacks!!)

If you’d like to enjoy making  an art project related to The Country School, be sure to join Molly and me for next week’s art project! You can subscribe above and never miss the fun!

And Before You Go, here are some other ways you can enjoy great art from a Christian perspective, as well as get related devotions and art activities.

  • If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Just click the sign-up  button above on the right. You’ll receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family. Even if your family isn’t into museums, the quarterly issues have lots of fun stuff for kiddos!
  • Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages, and coloring pages. There’s also an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Winslow Homer, Versatile Illustrator, Wartime Artist-Correspondent, and Seascape Painter

Long before he became known for his seascapes, Winslow Homer was a magazine illustrator. He also spent the 4 long years of the Civil War as a wartime artist and correspondent.

After the war, like most Americans, Homer wanted to put the tragedies of war behind him, get back to normal life, and look ahead to the future. What better way than to show children involved in everyday activities such as school?

In 1871 Winslow Homer painted The Country School, showing a moment in the day of a teacher and her students at a rural one-room school.

Before we look at the painting, let me explain that I usually do 4-part series about an artist and his or her work–one series per month. Starting this month you’ll receive one weekly post. Most will follow this format:

  • Post 1: a short bio of an artist and 1 or 2 fun ways to enjoy the artwork with your children
  • Post 2: a kid-friendly devotion related to the painting
  • Post 3: an art activity related to the painting
  • Post 4: an interview with a children’s author or reviews of books for children and other activities. These may or may not be related to the artwork.

For those who have been reading my blog for a while, the content hasn’t really changed. It’s just spread out over 4 weekly posts. (December and the summer months are usually exceptions to this format).

So here in Post 1 you’ll find:

  • A short bio of Winslow Homer
  • Activities to help you and your children enjoy and understand The Country School  (You don’t have to do them all. Pick the ones that fit you and your children)

The Artist, Winslow Homer

Homer was born in Massachusetts in 1836, and grew up in a rural area near Boston. He preferred outdoor activities to school but did have an interest in art. He first learned art skills from his mother, who was an accomplished watercolor artist. After high school Homer apprenticed to a printer, then began free-lance illustrating for magazines. He specialized in scenes of everyday life and people.

When the Civil War began Harper’s Weekly sent Homer to the front as an artist- correspondent. Homer’s sketches of battles and camp life helped people at home understand the life of a soldier. After the war, Homer turned some of his sketches into oil paintings which won awards and took him to Paris for a year.

Back home Homer continued painting ordinary people at the seashore,

Long Branch, New Jersey by Winslow Homer, 1869,Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, public domain

in the mountains, and on farms, as well as school scenes and the life of former slaves. He decided to return to Europe and spent 2 years living and painting in a small fishing village in England.

When Homer returned to America, he moved to the coast of Maine, where he lived and painted for the rest of his life. His studio still sits above rocky cliffs on a point that juts out into the Atlantic.

That’s the point as seen from across a tidal river. This is the gentler side of the point. The rocky cliffs are on the other side.

In Maine Homer painted his famous scenes of sea rescues and storm-tossed waves.

Sunlight on the Coast by Winslow Homer, 1890, Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, public domain

During Maine’s cold winters, Homer often traveled south, painting marine watercolors that glow with light and color.

Homer took a few art lessons, but was mostly self-taught. He closely observed his subjects, whether people or landscapes. One time he walked backwards all the way home from a store so he could study a sunset. For his marine paintings, Homer carefully studied how the waves rolled in and broke on the rocks below his studio. He once said he didn’t like painting the ocean when it was too calm, likening it to a duck pond.

The Painting, The Country School

The Country School by Winslow Homer, 1871, St. Louis Museum of Art, public domain

In art a genre scene captures a moment in the life of ordinary people. The people in these scenes don’t pose, but go about their activities as if the artist isn’t there. A genre painting might show a young woman gathering eggs, or a farmer reaping grain.

Gathering Eggs by Winslow Homer, 1874, National Gallery of Art, Wash. D.C., public domain

The Reaper by Winslow Homer, 1878, public domain

 

Homer’s genre scenes of everyday life and people are warm and realistic. And although his career spanned the era of Impressionism, and he, too, filled his scenes with light, Homer didn’t dissolve the edges of people or objects, as the Impressionists did.

 

 

 

 

Activities to help you and your children enjoy and understand The Country School

Here’s a link to the St. Louis Art Museum where The Country School painting lives. Here you can enlarge the painting and move around it with your mouse.

Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that. Enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary. Here are a few things to help the discussion.

In The Country School, it’s as if we’re standing in the school’s doorway, looking in at a moment in the day of a teacher and her students. So, let’s do that. At first glance we see light streaming in the windows of a one-room school house onto the desks of girls on one side and boys on the other, with a teacher in the center.

Take your time. The blackboard naturally draws our eyes. Because it frames the teacher, we notice this calm and serious young woman right away. Even though her dress is also black, her white apron and bright face make her stand out against the black. She’s what is called the focal point or most important part of the painting.

The teacher’s gaze takes us to the boys, who are reading aloud. Did the little girl’s red sweater catch your eye? Homer used red on purpose so your eyes don’t get “stuck” with the boys. He wants you to look around and notice other details. Artists often use bright colors in this way, so let’s go on a scavenger hunt to find and talk about some of those details.

How many of these things can you find?

  • A straw hat; whose is it?
  • A girl in a red sweater
  • The boy with a hole in the knee of his pants
  • All the girls with striped socks
  • 2 metal cans or pails on a desk, do you think these might be lunch pails?
  • slates; these look a little like modern tablets, but are like small blackboards
  • the slate on a bench with its attached writing tool hanging off the bench
  • A bunch of flowers in a glass vase
  • Another big bunch of flowers; who probably picked these?
  • The flower that’s fallen on the floor
  • sunshine making patterns on a curtain; what’s creating the pattern?
  • 2 ink bottles; imagine having to write without a computer or ballpoint pens!
  • A Bible; even public school teachers could read from the Bible in class at that time!
  • A bell; what’s it used for?
  • All the high black boots
  • 2 barefoot boys
  • A little boy who’s crying
  • 2 girls sharing a book

This is also a great painting to spark discussion and stories. Here are some questions to get everyone talking:

  • Why do you think the girls and boys are on opposite sides of the classroom?
  • Everyone is reading together. Follow the teacher’s gaze to see who is reading aloud.
  • Do the children look interested and attentive?
  • Why do you think the little boy is crying?  This could be a good story-starter.
  • Describe the clothing and hairstyles of the girls and boys. Do these children look wealthy?

Digging Deeper

Here are more ideas for discussion and/or written assignments:

The Country School by Winslow Homer, 1871, St. Louis Museum of Art, public domain

  • What are some ways this classroom is like and unlike today’s?  Do you see any posters on the walls? What are the desks and chairs like? This would be a good way to spark interest in researching schools of the 1800s and writing a list or short essay comparing and contrasting schools then and now.
  • Children could also research clothing styles and foods of the time.
  • What are some of the sounds you would hear in this classroom?  (don’t forget the bell!!) Is it mostly quiet or loud?
  • Write an acrostic poem using the letters from Country School to describe the sights and sound and smells of this classroom. Then write one about your present-day classroom.
  • Choose one of these boys and imagine the chores he may have to do when he gets home from school. Then tell what he likes to do for fun.
  • Choose one of the girls and write about her days as if she’s writing in her diary.

Winslow Homer has used careful observation to show us many things about The Country School and its teacher and students. Molly and I hope you’ll enjoy looking carefully to find all the details about the life of school children in the late 1800s.

Here’s Molly, the artsy corgi, enjoying the painting! Maybe in that second photo she can smell the lunches !!

If you write a poem or have any comments about The Country School, be sure to share them in the comment section.

We hope you’ll come back next week for a short devotion based on the painting.

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Just click the sign-up  button above on the right. You’ll receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family. Even if your family isn’t into museums, the quarterly issues have lots of fun stuff for kiddos!

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages, and coloring pages. There’s also an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

 

 

Not Your Usual Vacation Photos

Molly loves to travel and she has her own suitcase! But before you head off on your vacation:

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Just click the sign-up  button above on the right. You’ll receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family. Even if your family isn’t into museums, the quarterly issues have lots of fun stuff for kiddos!

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages, and coloring pages. There’s also an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Favorite Paintings about Summertime

I hope you’ll enjoy some of my favorite paintings of summertime! The ocean, the beach, colorful sunsets, and flowers. Horses and fields, forests, and mountains!

West Point by Winslow Homer, public domain

Partners by Charles Russell, public domain

Children on a Beach by Mary Cassatt, public domain

The Catskills, Asher Durand, public domain

Monet Painting in his Garden at Argenteuil by Pierre Auguste Renoir, public domain

Clouds over Olana, Frederick Edwin Church, public domain

Grainstacks-Late Summer, Giverny by Claude Monet

The Hay Wain by John Constable, public domain

Gathering Eggs by Winslow Homer, public domain

Horse Fair by Rosa Bonheur, public domain

The Oxbow, Thomas Cole, public domain

Yosemite Valley, Albert Bierstadt, public domain

A Girl with a Watering Can, by Auguste Renoir, public domain

 

View of Naarden by Jacob van Ruisdael, public domain

Molly and I suggest you get out to enjoy a summertime picnic, but before you go:

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Just click the sign-up  button above on the right. You’ll receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family. Even if your family isn’t into museums, the quarterly issues have lots of fun stuff for kiddos!

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages, and coloring pages. There’s also an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Butterfly Creations, A Fun and Easy Art Activity for Creative Kids

Butterflies are colorful creations, that we like to draw or paint in our own pictures. But it’s hard to make their wings exactly the same on each side of their body. In this project you’ll have fun making a butterfly that’s colorful and also exactly the same on each side!

In this post you’ll find:

  • A supply list
  • Directions to make the butterflies
  • Clean up hints
  • Variations and extensions
  • How this activity helps children develop mentally, physically, and socially
  • A related and kid-friendly devotion

Supplies

  • Sturdy paper
  • Paint in different colors
  • Markers or crayons

Directions

  1. Fold the paper in half and then reopen it.
  2. On one side of the paper only, squeeze out drops of paint where an upper wing and a lower wing would be. You may use more than one color, but don’t mix them yet.
  3. Refold your paper to cover the drops of paint.
  4. Use your fingers on top of the paper to move the paint around, swirling colors together and creating an upper and lower wing. You may need to help children move the paint outward to make wings.
  5. Open up your paper to see your colorful butterfly with identical wings on each side.
  6. Notice that this process creates veins like on a real butterfly’s wings.
  7. When dry, use crayons or markers to draw the butterfly’s body.

Variations and Extensions

  • Make smaller butterflies and use them as cards for friends and family
  • Make smaller butterflies all over large sheets of paper and use as book covers or wrapping paper
  • Cut out some smaller butterflies and use as gift tags

How this activity helps children develop mentally, physically, and socially

  • Mixing colors is fun and relaxing and teaches children to be better observers
  • Choosing colors aids problem solving skills
  • Making cards or other things to send to friends and family fosters kindness and thoughtfulness for others

Clean up hints

Use a large sheet of wax paper under your painting, because the paint often squishes out as you move it around.

Devotion

Bible Verse:  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).

Butterfly caterpillars aren’t very pretty. They crawl along plants chomping leaves, and they can’t see well at all. But when it’s time, they form a chrysalis, and God creates a beautiful new creature. He gives them new eyes to see all around, new straw-like mouths to sip nectar from flowers, and beautiful wings to soar through the sky!

Sometimes we do things we shouldn’t. We may say unkind things to friends or disobey our parents. The Bible call those things sins, and they aren’t very pretty. But God loves us so much He gave us His Son Jesus, who died so we can be forgiven for our sins. When we believe that Jesus died for us, and that God loves and watches over us, we don’t get new eyes or wings, we get something much better. God gives us a new heart that loves and wants to please Him.

If you would like to become God’s child, you just have to ask Jesus to come into your heart and forgive your sins. When you do that, you receive a new heart to follow Jesus. Like a butterfly you become a new creation, and God helps you soar to be all He has planned for you.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us Your Son to die for our sins, so we can become part of Your family. How wonderful that You make us a new creation to love You and live with You forever. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Just click the sign-up  button above on the right. You’ll receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family. Even if your family isn’t into museums, the quarterly issues have lots of fun stuff for kiddos!

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages, and coloring pages. There’s also an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Molly and I hope you enjoy making colorful butterflies! Our August posts will be favorite summer paintings and funny vacation photos.

 

Fight Summer Boredom with Fun Art Activities from Nature for Children

Have you heard the dreaded words, “I’m bored!” yet this summer?  These two links will take you to more of my summer activities to fight summer boredom!

Guest Post

I guest posted on a great parenting blog this week called In the Quiver. Click here to read Turn Treasures from God’s Creation into Art Masterpieces for art projects made from all those things like rocks and shells and sticks, that children love to collect.

My Newsletter

And If you haven’t yet signed up for my newsletter, I hope you will, because not only will you receive a fun guide to visiting museums with children (and living through it!!)  but each newsletter has loads of free fun ideas to enjoy art, history, and nature with your children. And I’ll make sure you get the most recent newsletter about making a nature pyramid for weaving. Don’t wait, sign up here.

Molly says, “Come visit us next week for another fun and easy art activity for creative kids,