If you haven't already, check out cloudscome at a wrung sponge. She is a school librarian who's compiled a vast list of great books for kids. She is also an adoptive mom with 2 AA children. Many of the books feature characters of African descent. This week she highlights a few books in honor of Chinese New Year. There are folktales, arts and cooking books, and stories about kids in China.
One of the reasons why I'm mentioning her, besides that I think she is a great resource, is that she has inspired me to feature visual art/artists here and talk about ways to look at art with your kids. It's my love, so I figure, why not? I'll try to include simple projects when I think of them, too. Looking at art with kids is a wonderful way to spend time together, to get talking about not only what the picture/sculpture looks like, but how it might sound, how the people/animals in the image might be feeling, how that apple might taste, if it's warm or cold. Three years old is a great time to start looking at art with kids, to discuss colors, shapes, numbers of things, emotions, you name it. As the child matures, your conversations about the art will, too.
I've also found that it helps to sit a child(ren) in front of a piece of art, and then not say anything for at least 30 seconds. Just look. Encourage them to look up and down, left and right, or walk around it, if it's a sculpture. When the wait time is up, if you feel moved, start asking questions. The simplest question "what do you see?" is a great way to begin. It will move naturally into a discussion directed by your child, facilitated by you. And you probably won't be surprised that they will notice things that you don't, which always makes me, the teacher, so very happy. If you're able to go to an art museum, great! If not, looking at books or other forms of reproduction is good, too.
Today, in honor of Black History Month, and the fact that it's almost his birthday, I'm going to start with Horace Pippin. Pippin was born February 22, 1888. He was a self-taught African-American artist who fought in WWI, where he was injured and received a French Croix de Guerre. His right arm was severely crippled from the injury (he was right-handed), but he would prop up and guide his arm in order to oil paint and to do burnt wood panels. Pippin painted about war and social injustice, as well as doing some wonderful interiors, history scenes and biblical works. In the late 30's he was represented by a gallery in PA, and became more widely known. Pippin died in 1946. I found this saying of his about fighting in WWI: "I did not care what or where I went at. I asked God to help me, and he did so. And that is the way I came through that terrible and Hellish place. For the whole entire battlfield was hell, so it was no place for any human being to be."- Horace Pippin.
Top: Horace Pippin, Self portrait, 1944, Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA)
Lower left: John Brown Going to his Hanging, 1942, PA Academy of the Fine Arts, Phil.
Right: Holy Mountain III, 1945, The Hirshorn Museum
Bottom: Victorian Interior, 1940's, MMA
Depending on how old your child is, a simple drawing of your own living room interior would be a fun project, or a self-portrait. If your child hasn't acquired the fine motor skills yet with which to draw specific objects, you can cut objects out of a catalog for your child (lamps, tables, flowers) and she can glue them onto paper in her own composition.
Another idea is to look at Holy Mountain III and notice that animals are existing side by side that are not usually seen together -- the lion and the lamb, e.g. It might be fun to think of two other animals that might not be seen together peacefully -- maybe a cat and a mouse? This could be a drawing, collage, or just a list you make up together.
Obviously, if you come up with your own project idea, run with it!