Monthly Archives: September 2020

Painting the Light, Making Connections to Other Subjects

Art works can spark stories to write, suggest books to read, historical events to explore, and science to discover!

So read on to see ways Jasper Cropsey’s painting, Autumn on the Hudson can help you and your children make connections with other subjects such as language arts, social studies, and science.

Connections to other subjects

Social Studies


  • Use maps and photos to look at this region’s sections of the Appalachian Mountain chain called the Catskills and Adirondacks and important rivers such as the Hudson and the Mohawk, which helped transport goods to bring prosperity in the 1800s. The Hudson Highlands figures prominently in the Revolutionary War.

History: this region is rich in history with so many topics to pursue, that I’ll just mention a few:

  • The Iroquois League or Five Nations (their culture and history before and after the coming of Europeans)
  • The Oneida, an Iroquois League tribe that trekked hundreds of miles to bring corn to Washington’s troops at Valley Forge.
  • The discovery and exploration of the Hudson River by Henry Hudson who was sailing for the Dutch and therefore why the Dutch claimed and were the first European settlers of the region. Reflected in many place names such as Catskills, Schenectady, Tappan Zee, etc.
  • The importance of this region of the Hudson during the Revolutionary War. What did the American troops do to keep the British from traveling up the river and cutting New England off from the other colonies?
  • The Erie Canal, completed in 1825, which connected Lake Erie with the Hudson River at Albany, enabling the easier transportation of goods and people between western New York and New York City.
  • Albert Bierstadt, 1830-1902, who traveled the American West with various expeditions. His paintings helped encourage people to go west to settle.

Language Arts

Writing: Story prompts:

For Younger Children:

  • Write a story about the children on the bridge. What are they doing there? Do they live in the cabin? Are they taking a break from their chores?  What are their chores? Do you think their parents allowed them to take a break or not? Is that their dog? What other sorts of things do they like to do?

For Older Children:

  • Pretend you’re traveling on the paddlewheel steamer. Are you going downriver to visit New York City? What will you see in the city? If you’re traveling upriver to Albany and then taking the Erie Canal west to your home, tell about your trip, describing things you’d see you’ll be traveling the Erie Canal, describe what it’s like to go through a lock. What gives power to boats on the canal?
  • If you like horses, you might imagine and write about where the rider has been and what the roads were like. Was the rider on a trip? If so, where would the rider have stayed, eaten? Was the rider a doctor, returning from treating a patient? Or a traveling preacher?

Books to read that are related to the region or times:

For Younger Readers 1st -3rd:

  • The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh, a true story of a young girl in 1700s, a Newbery Honor book
  • The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmunds, Dutch settlers in Hudson Valley,  a young boy’s courage, Newbery Medal

For Middle Grade Readers:

  • Farmer Boy by Laura Ingolls Wilder, story of Almonzo Wilder growing up on a western New York farm in the 1860s
  • Caddie Woodlawn by Carol R. Brink, growing up on Wisconsin frontier in mid 1800s
  • The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz, a family moves to the Pennsylvania frontier in late 1700s
  • Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry, true story of a frontier school teacher in Vermont and his amazing horse, late 1700s
  • Rip van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, legends of the Dutch settlers, set in the Catskills

Classics for Older Readers:

  • The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, classic adventure and romance
  • Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds, the struggle of pioneers in the Mohawk Valley during the Revolution
  • The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter, a young settler boy captured and raised by Native Americans must return to his true family as a teenager.


  • Sunbeams or Crepuscular (Latin for twilight) rays. Discover how sunbeams are created as they shine through gaps in clouds, mountains, or tall buildings.  Your research will also help you find out why the sky is blue for much of the day, but reddish at sunrise and sunset. You can go to this link to Britannica to begin  .
  • Look up why and how leaves turn colors in the fall. It has to do with the green chlorophyll not being replaced as days shorten and grow colder. But this link to the University of Vermont will tell you lots more!

Wow, can you believe what a lot of interesting paths this painting could lead you on? Molly and I hope you’ll choose a few to follow!

I’ve discovered that these interconnections, deserve their very own post, so these new series will now probably have 5 posts instead of 4!

 Come on back for a kid-friendly devotion next time on post 3 of this series!!






Painting the Light

Artists of the Hudson River School, America’s first home-grown art movement, flooded their panoramic landscapes with light.

This first in a series of 4 posts will give you:

  1. Background information about the Hudson River School of art and Jasper Cropsey, a member of that group
  2. A lesson plan that includes
  •      Materials and vocabulary lists,
  •      One principle of art or design to learn about
  •      A fun activity and story to introduce Jasper Cropsey to your children
  •      A kid-friendly game to help your children explore one of Cropsey’s paintings

Now let’s get right to the first in the series of 4 posts based on art by Jasper Francis Cropsey.

Background for You.   

The Hudson River School artists were a group of artists whose lives and work stretched across most of the 1800s. They knew and learned from each other, sometimes painted together in the same areas, and often exhibited together.

It all began with a sketching trip Thomas Cole, who is considered the founder of the school, took up the Hudson River in 1825. The Hudson River flows south from the Adirondacks, through scenic landscapes, such as the Catskill Mountains, to empty into the Atlantic in New York City.

Following his lead, more and more artists took sketching and painting trips north on the Hudson. Many of them had grown up in New York or New England, while others were immigrants. A few were women, and one was an African American man.

These artists also explored rivers and mountains throughout the northeastern part of the United States, which was still largely rural. They encouraged each other to make careful observations of nature and detailed sketches of what they saw. (Here’s a link to see images from one of Jasper Cropsey’s sketch books at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library)

Eventually some traveled even farther. Frederick Church painted in the Middle East, South America, and the Arctic. Albert Bierstadt (who had immigrated with his family from Germany) traveled with exploratory expeditions to the American West. His paintings helped make the West better known back East.

Look at this painting called Autumn—On the Hudson River by Jasper Cropsey to see many of the features of Hudson River School paintings

Autumn on the Hudson, Jasper Cropsey, public domain


(here’s the link to this painting in the National Gallery in Washington D.C., which enables you to enlarge the painting and scroll around to see its details)

  • Wide, panoramic views of a river, distant mountains, and lots of light-filled sky, usually from an elevated position.
  • The river or a winding path invites you to “walk” into the painting
  • Lots of realistic details of plants, rocks, and trees, rural life
  • Light used to reveal the form of things, unlike the Impressionists, who used light to dissolve outlines
  • Often show a few people or animals, hiking, resting, or working in fields
  • Sometimes the artist shows him or herself painting in the foreground

Above all else you’ll see light and 1 point perspective used to draw you on into the mountains and beyond. (when we see look at a road or wall receding into the distance, we see an illusion of the parallel lines receding at an angle and coming together at “one point” on the horizon. Artists use this 1 point illusion or perspective to help create the illusion of distance in a painting).

In a Hudson River School painting all the lines converge at a point that is lost in light, so it seems as if we can see beyond nature to infinity—to God who created all that beautiful nature. And that’s just what these artists wanted.

Lesson Plan:  Engaging your children’s minds to explore and enjoy this painting!


  • link from above to this painting in the National Gallery so you can scroll around to see details
  • links in this post to maps of Hudson River and photos of the actual places painted
  • colored leaves gathered on walk or photos of these
  • Optional, but fun! Make a “magic” paintbrush pointer—add a little glue and glitter to the handle of a paintbrush—when you sprinkle a little “magic” artist glitter on children, it becomes fun to imagine walking into the painting or pointing out objects with the brush.

Vocabulary The words will be in bold green the first time they come up.

  • autumn
  • landscape painting
  • sketching
  • foreground, middleground, background (big words, but ones that will help you and your children talk more easily about different parts of a painting)

One principle of art or design to learn about:  Color can help create a mood by using warm and/or cool colors

Introduction: An activity and a story

Activity: If possible go on a walk and let children gather colorful fall leaves. If that’s not possible, look at a few photos of bright fall leaves. Ask questions such as: Which colors do they like best? Did they find any leaves that still showed some green? Are there any patterns formed by the changing colors? What do those veins do?

photo from a previous post’s leaf painting activity, showing the leaf veins

Isn’t it wonderful that God has given us such beauty before winter?

Story: There was once an American artist who loved colorful fall leaves so much that he took lots of sketching and painting trips along the Hudson River and in New England in the autumn to paint the bright red, orange, and yellow leaves. But when he showed some of his autumn landscape paintings in London, the British were amazed. Their fall leaves weren’t that colorful, and some thought he had exaggerated the colors in his paintings. So the artist, Jasper Cropsey, attached samples of leaves to his paintings to prove his colors were right on!

Teaching and Sharing: Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900) was part of a group of American artists who lived not long after the American Revolution when America was still a small country with few cities. They loved to hike along the Hudson River in New York State and in other northeast states, sketching nature and painting landscapes. (The link to the map of the Hudson River is helpful here)

Let’s look at one of Jasper Cropsey’s autumn paintings together.

Ask children what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that.    (Giving children time to look at and talk about the overall painting before using a game to get more specific improves cognitive and social skills)

A fun game to explore the painting and enhance children’s observational skills:  Tap a child lightly on the shoulder with the “magic” paintbrush and invite him or her to pretend they are walking through the painting. Encourage their imaginations even more by first asking if it’ll be cold or hot, rainy, or sunny, etc. and therefore, what clothes they should wear and what they might take with them on their walk. Will they need a snack or water?

Ask them to tell what they see, hear, smell, and touch as they travel from the foreground, through the middle ground, to the background. Encourage them to find the men and dogs sitting on the hill, the man on horseback, the town along the river, the children playing on a bridge, trees with red leaves, blown over trees, a paddlewheel boat on the river, and to see colors and patterns.

With landscapes, it can be fun to compare the artist’s work to actual photographs. Here are links to 2 photos taken of that mountain seen in the distance across the Hudson River in Cropsey’s painting. Called Butter Mountain by early Dutch settlers because they thought it looked like a lump of butter, today it’s called Storm King Mountain. It helps form the northern entrance to the Hudson Highlands, a narrow section of the Hudson River. West Point Military Academy is on a bluff just south of this section of the river.

One principle of art or design to learn about:  Color can help create a mood.

  • Ask children which colors Cropsey has used. They’ll see he has used both—warm colors for the foliage and cool colors in the sky and river.
  • Explain that while Cropsey has painted his landscape with realistic colors, he’s also creating a mood with his color choices. Often warm colors, (reds, oranges, and yellows) can make a painting exciting. Cool colors (blues, greens, and violets) can give a feeling of peace.
  • Ask children how the painting makes them feel.
  • Help them notice that Cropsey’s reds and oranges  and his blues and greens, too, are a little muted by distance.
  • And one color seems to warm up every part of this landscape.  Which one is it? (that golden sunlight gives an overall mood to this painting of a warm welcome to a peaceful country scene)

Whichever of the above activities you choose, enhance children’s verbal skills by rephrasing words and helping them use the new vocabulary. Encourage their observation skills by pointing out nuances of color such as the different blues and greens of various parts of the sky, water, and land.



Molly and I hope you and your children will enjoy learning about the Hudson River School artists and exploring Jasper Cropsey’s painting, Autumn–On the Hudson River!


I’ll post Connections to Other Subjects very soon! As I was listing them, I realized this post would be too long if I included them now. But sign up to receive these posts by email so you don’t miss them! There are many great connections to social studies, science, and language arts from this painting!










Changes Coming To Help You with Homeschooling or Online Teaching

Are you looking for ways to enjoy art with your children as you homeschool or teach online? If so, this is the blog for you!

Since so many are homeschooling or teaching online at this time, I’m making some changes to better help you engage your children’s minds, hearts, and hands in learning about art and make connections from it to other subjects.

Each post will typically be part of a series of 4, all relating to one artist or art movement.

This is what you can expect from each series:

Post 1 will engage your children’s minds in art appreciation activities. This post will include background information with pictures and links for you.  Then I’ll give you some kid-friendly activities to introduce the artist’s work to your children. I’ll also include ideas to help you make connections to other subjects you are studying or how to use the art as an attention-grabber to introduce new topics in other areas of your curriculum.

Post 2 will engage your children’s hearts in a kid-friendly devotion based on the artwork

Post 3 will engage younger children’s hands in an art activity based on the artwork

Post 4 will engage older children’s hands in an art activity based on the artwork

Whether you’re homeschooling or teaching online, I hope this new format will help you with games, lessons, and activities to engage your children’s minds, hearts, and hands in learning about and enjoying art.

The first series will begin this Friday, September 18th with Artists Who Painted Light, and feature Jasper Cropsey.

Autumn on the Hudson, Jasper Cropsey, public domain

So be sure to sign up to receive these posts in your inbox and share with others who are looking for ways to enjoy art with their children.



Molly and I are looking forward to  helping you and your children enjoy great art and your own creativity this fall!