van Gogh, Vincent. Chestnut Leaf with Pod.
1890, Black Chalk
On Paper
The Art of Nature Study
with Tricia Hodges
Welcome to The Art of Nature Study! Each issue features an article by Tricia Hodges about either art or nature study. These two subjects really do go hand-in-hand. Learning doesn’t fit into neat little boxes, so combining them is a wonderful way to show your children how connected everything really is!

With both art and nature study, children develop observational skills and eyes to see the beauty around them. Drawing, painting, and chalk pastels give kids a creative way to fill their nature journals with flowers, trees, birds, and more.

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mother holding onto daughters hand while looking at art on walls
van Gogh, Vincent. Farmhouse in Provence.<br />
van Gogh, Vincent. Farmhouse in Provence.
1888, Oil, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
van Gogh, Vincent. Farmhouse in Provence.<br />
Picture Study Pointers
In the Spring Issue, we talked about how to build a habit of nature study. In it I shared a simple way to get started with nature study. The purpose? “You’re building a lifelong habit of enjoying nature, so make that your priority during your time together. If we make learning the priority, sometimes the enjoyment is missed. Learning will happen along the way when you let nature be the teacher.”

You can approach art in much the same way. Simply.

Begin with picture study. Nature study is about observing the beauty and wonder of nature… a masterpiece by our Creator. Art is an expression of our deeply creative God as His image bearers, so incorporating the study of beautiful artwork is a natural companion to the study of nature in your homeschool.

Picture study is just what it sounds like. You and your children look closely at a painting, observing and just enjoying it. It’s family-style learning at its best since all ages can do it together!

There are only three simple steps to picture study:

  1. Choose a painting to observe. Or use the van Gogh painting provided above.
  2. Ask your children to sit quietly and look at the painting.
  3. After doing that for a time, take it away. Ask your children to tell you about (narrate) what they remember about it.

It’s that easy. For older students you can have them try to sketch the painting from memory if you would like, but you don’t have to! You could also discuss the techniques used by the artist to create the different moods and effects in paintings if you want. There are some wonderful series to help like the How Artists See series featured in our Great Books column.

Sometimes children need prompts to help them do picture study narrations—describing paintings from memory. Use these questions to help them! You can even brainstorm vocabulary words together to go with each question and let them choose from the words until they become more comfortable with the process.

  • What did you see in the picture? People, mountains, animals, etc.
  • What kinds of lines did you see in the picture?
  • What different textures did you see?
  • What shapes did you see in the painting?
  • What were the colors? (Go deeper than just saying blue, red, etc. Were they vibrant? Dull? Moody?)
  • How did the painting make you feel?
Available for first through twelfth grade, the Charlotte Mason inspired You ARE an ARTiST Homeschool Fine Arts lesson plans organize art and music appreciation resources into a classical four-year cycle of history and seasons for the entire family!
Picture study is simple, enjoyable, and will add immense beauty to your homeschool day.
Give it a try!
Tricia Hodges headshot

ricia Hodges and her mom are passionate about growing a love of art at You ARE an ARTiST! Tricia is Nana’s daughter and a mama of five children. Nana shared the fun of her first chalk pastel art lessons with her grandchildren around Tricia’s kitchen table. Homeschooling since 2000, Tricia has seen the fruits of home education with three homeschool grads so far! She shares the art and heart of homeschooling at Your Best Homeschool and is author of the book, Help! I’m Homeschooling! She and her husband, Steve, are also owners of sister sites Homeschool Nature Study and The Curriculum Choice.