Now that I am in my eleventh year of homeschooling, I am fairly confident in how to present most subjects to my kids, or I am at least able to find resources suitable for our family to fill in the gaps of my own knowledge. Unfortunately, art instruction is an area where I still struggle. Though my drawing ability is definitely beyond stick figures, I have no idea how to actually teach the subject. When my children were younger, they took weekly lessons from an outside instructor. While they produced a wonderful picture each lesson, it was very costly - too costly to continue long-term. Unfortunately, I have not been happy with many programs for home use. They are often too crafty and project-based or demand expertise I do not possess. As a result, I have had difficulty keeping art a consistent subject to be studied in our household.
How Great Thou ART is a name I have heard before as the provider of Lamb’s Book of Art, an art curriculum primarily for students in grades 3 through 6. However, when I looked at the programs available for my teens, I quickly discovered how unfamiliar I was with all the other products available from How Great Thou ART Publications. Curriculum covering drawing, paint and color theory, and art history are offered for ages 3 and up. I selected How Great Thou ART I & II DVD Bundle for ages 13 and up. This review is for How Great Thou Art I, but please check out my other reviews for the rest of the bundle.
How Great Thou Art I focuses solely on the fundamentals drawing. The very first lesson starts with the most basic element, the line. From there, the lessons move on to ellipses, simple objects, shading, proportions, and foreshortening, eventually moving into portraits, nature studies, and even lettering and calligraphy.
The instructor, Barry Stebbing, does not focus on drawing projects with step-by-step instructions to duplicate a given picture. Instead, his emphasis is on three areas: drawing from life, exploring light’s effect, and understanding line. Mr. Stebbing encourages students that practice and determination will improve ability, no matter talent.
The text is a combination of instruction and sketch book. Each lesson is short, only a page or two, including areas to complete the assigned sketches. There are about twenty-five extra blank pages in the back of the book for additional sketching. Each lesson’s instruction is very focused on one singular element and the students are encouraged to practice and expand upon the lesson’s teaching, not race through the lessons.
There are a total of eighty-seven lessons, with the last approximately twenty lessons given as independent study directing the student to an exercise without additional instruction. About the first half of the lessons focus on the basic elements of drawing, using everyday objects in the exercises. Then, students apply those concepts in the later lessons on portraits, nature drawing, use of pen and ink, and lessons on graphic arts. Five pen & ink cards made of heavier card stock paper with additional exercises are also included. The text concludes with a one-page exam. A lesson sample can be viewed here.
I liked that the lessons were short and had a focus on drawing fundamentals, rather than completed pictures. It put the focus on practice, rather than perfection. While there is a Teacher’s Manual available for separate purchase, the text’s lessons are presented directly to the student and a TM is not absolutely necessary. Some of the lessons even have a check list for the students to be sure they have met the objectives of the lesson when doing the exercises. My son was able to work through this text own using the DVDs (see separate review).
Since the student completes exercises in the text, spiral binding would have been beneficial so the book could lay flat. Also, since students may want to do more practice on extra worksheets or there may be multiple students within the family, a spiral bound book would make copying easier. Some of the working space for the exercises seem to be on the small side, but it is also nice to have the exercises completed right next to the lesson in the text.
As the name suggests, this is a Christian curriculum. Among inspirational quotes from artists included on the texts’ pages are Scripture references appropriate to the lesson. However, almost all of the lessons have a focus on drawing with very few faith-based references, making this curriculum very useable by secular learners as well.
Overall, I found this to be a straight-forward, no frills but very thorough text covering the fundamentals of drawing for the beginning artists. At $12.95, it hardly approaches the cost of even one in-person lesson, making it a very economical option for home art instruction.
Editor's note: How Great Thou Art I is also available as an e-book through CurrClick.