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Book Review – Art Lab for Kids

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I review books. It keeps my librarian skills sharp, and I love talking about  – and analyzing – books. These reviews cover science and art education books, for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

a picture of the art lab for kids book

Art Lab for Kids by Susan Schwake.

Target Audience: Art teachers, parents, homeschoolers & kids, ages 7 and up
Schwake, Susan. Art lab for kids: 52 creative adventures in drawing, painting, printmaking, paper, and mixed media for budding artists of all ages. Quarry Books, 2012.

Art Lab for Kids

You could say I have a thing for books.

You could say my kids have a thing for books.

Needless to say, we bring home a lot of library books, every week. Often, I am enthralled with my latest non-fiction choice and Susan Schwake’s Art Lab for Kids is no exception. It is well-organized and easy to read.  The accompanying photographs (done by her husband, Rainer) contribute to a simple, but informative format.

But, that’s not the only reason I feel compelled to write about this book. Since we do check out a lot of “how-to” books from the library, many of these books…well, they just get read. We don’t bother with the projects — even if we enjoy the content. Sometimes, it is a time issue. We might be in the middle of a busy work season or everyone is deeply involved in other projects , but often the format looks too messy (for me), or complicated (for the kids). I’m happy to say that Schwake’s book is welcoming and inviting.

There’s something about Schwake’s book that made us jump in and create. In fact, rather than sitting and thumbing through the pages, we’ve chosen projects from her book to complete. Lots of projects.

landscape drawing project from the book, Art Lab for Kids

C (age 8) is sketching a landscape.

Art Labs

Each project is styled as a “lab.” Schwake has divided the book into six main units: making art, drawing, painting, printmaking, paper, and mixed media. Each two-page lab spread includes a picture of the project, detailed instructions and more pictures of some in-progress projects (all done by kids). Most of the labs have a call out which highlights an artist using a similar technique. The profiled people are current artists, and you can find more information about their work with a simple web search.

Art Techniques

I can’t figure out why this book has settled so firmly into our household. After all, we’ve brought home The School of Art, and a number of other kids’ drawing books. We’ve enjoyed reading through those books, but other than Ed Emberley’s drawing books, my kids are not going to sit down and draw from any book I bring home. I know because I’ve tried a lot. Maybe, it’s because this book shows a sample project? They don’t feel so overwhelmed? There’s enough flexibility to copy the project, but also add their own spin to it?

C’s in-progress landscape acrylic painting.

There’s a fine line between teaching, dictating, and facilitating. We need to have room to be creative, but also learn key techniques. I think if we want our children (or ourselves) to become deep learners, we need to ask them to replicate a certain technique correctly. Then, they can add their own creativity to the project. Sometimes, I let my kids do their own thing first, but in a later lesson I will ask them to do it “my way.” Occasionally, they grumble, but I have seen their hard work pay off in later projects – whether that’s in writing, math, or art.  I don’t want to stifle their creativity, but I do want to try something new. At our house, it helps to have an adaptable project to follow.

That being said, we are embarking on an Art Lab project series. It’s a good way to keep the kids’ interested while fostering my own desire to make some art.

a picture of an acrylic landscape painting project from the book, Art Lab for Kids

C’s completed landscape painting.