Recently some readers of these musings have gone out of their way to write and tell me how much they enjoy reading them. Since it's now been over a year, I think I'm do for a little respite to stop and look back over the 400 or so days I've been thinking out loud so to speak for the edification of others (sounds good to me). With all due modesty, I've noticed as I read back over some of them, how I've become a better writer over the past year (or at least a better editor), how much LONGER they have become, and how much more difficult they are becoming to produce. But since I've now retired, I have a little more time to invest in them (and some days it's a good thing or I'd not get anything else done). Someone has even suggested I make them a newspaper column. I've considered the idea but I've never pursued it. (I guess I'd rather BE pursued.) What made the Arty-facts easy in the beginning is that most of them were based upon art history and appreciation material gleaned from 26 years in the classroom. I've found that kids HATE to read, especially history. Only a select few gain much from such efforts. The best way for kids to get "into" art appreciation is for them to DO art based upon the work of great artists of the past. They love to put marks on paper and canvas. It's only when they "experience" an artist from this "gut" level that significant learning about art and artists really takes place.
As part of my graduate studies in art while working on my masters degree, I wrote a high school course of study I called "The Apprenticeship Program." Basically it was a four-phase study of a particular artist from his life and times through to a self-evalation on the part of the student of his or her "relationship" with that artists over the course of four or five weeks. The effort started with the student "studying" (as opposed to reading) a book from the old Time-Life "World of..." series. Artist ranged from Michelangelo to Picasso. The series is long out of print but is one of the BEST art history/appreciation series I've ever seen. At any rate, once they felt familiar enough with their chosen artist, they would take a 20-question, fill-in-the-blank, generic test over that artist and his work to gain entrance into his "workshop" so to speak. If they passed it, they would then propose a piece of art work based upon that artists work, style, subject matter, medium, etc. Like the test, they would receive a grade for this rough draft which was the second phase. The third phase involved their actually completing their proposal with me standing in for their "master." When completed, they would write a few hundred words outlining the experience, successes, failures, difficulties, and what they learned. That too would be graded.
I used this course of study for about 20 years to the point the books were about to fall apart. Every year or two they had to be reinforced and erased by the library staff. You can imagine what teenagers would do to nudes by Titian for instance. They had a nickname for him--Tittyan. (Picasso was called Pic-ASS-o.) One of the things I've always kind of had in the back of my mind as I've written is that these "blurbs" might be used by students as they are--online. And I don't consider them strictly art history. I would rather think of them as a whole, more on the order of telling what it's like to be a painter, now and in the past. The fact that they are "short and sweet" I hope makes them "digestible," kind of like one slice of pie at a time rather than the whole thing smack in the face.