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Category: Art

A post on my favorite homeschooling forum prompted me to chat a bit about the various colored pencils that have worked best for Satori ages 4 through 9. I can be a bit of a perfectionist, so when we first started homeschooling 4-5 years ago, I purchased several sets of different brands of colored pencils. I was most excited about the Prismacolors, but to my dismay, their leads kept breaking and so they never rarely used. Plus, one of our cats took to chewing on only this brand. You can see this in one of my photos below. This post is to recap some of our favorite colored pencils for various ages and situations. Although we love to draw, we’re not serious artists, this is just for fun.

For the Younger Satori – Lyras

Then I found the short, fat Lyra Ferbys! I actually did a short blog post on these back in 2009 I see. Anyway, we got the same vibrant, rich color, but with absolutely no breakage! This little snake filled with her 12 Ferbys followed us everywhere Satori wanted to draw.


For the Older Artist – Prismacolors

Over time, I eventually purchased a new set of Prismacolor pencils and these did not break quite so easily. However, a few might be lemons, sadly just this morning I had a red pencil break off a hefty chunk of lead. But I am seeing Satori prefer her Prismacolors over all the others now. She says they write the easiest. (I could write another whole blog post about her verses my writing pen preferences.) We have the widest color assortment of Prismas. Here they are on the right compared to various Lyra pencils.

Prismacolor vs Lyra

Prisma vs Lyras. Note the violet Prisma gnawed on by our cat, lol!


Lyras still rock, but they are harder to find. I haven’t been able to get more than 18 colors in a set, although I think if you try hard, you can get up to 36. Most of ours are the fat kind, which is hard to keep a sharp point, but those points never break! They also have a buttery smooth blend yet don’t wear down so fast you can to keep sharpening them.

I think both Prismacolor and Lyra colored pencils rock equally, but since we can more easily find a wider color assortment of Prismacolors, we’ll be sticking with these going forward. If I find an equal set of Lyras, we might switc

Yes, we’ve tried quite a lot of colored pencils. The solid woodless fuchsia one below is a Koh-I-Noor Progresso, which are fun and a delight to sharpen. The leads never break, the entire pencil is the lead. They have a weighty feel, but the drawback is that they just LOVE to snap in half. They’re so very fragile that if one rolls off the desk, we invariably end up with two shorter pencils. So most of our Koh-I-Noor is small, stubby half pencils and I just throw them away then. We also have a set of the Derwent Coloursoft, which is the dark brown pencil with red color below. Nice, but for some reason, they color laydown doesn’t feel as smooth as our favorite Prismacolors/Lyras. It almost feels dry and scratchy, but the color still looks nice. The pencils are a tad more thicker than most of our pencils.




For Watercolors – Derwent

The Derwent Watercolor Pencils are our favorite colored pencils that, with a brush of water, turn pencil drawings into watercolor masterpieces! I’d recommend a Water Brush to use with watercolor pencils for better control. Please note that we haven’t tried other watercolor pencils, so there’s a good chance we might prefer another brand over the Derwents.



Inexpensive Non-Artwork – Crayola Twistable Erasables

For homework, I try to keep a set of Crayola Twistable Erasable pencils. The quality is nowhere near the above that I’ve reviewed, and if your child is used to that, they might be a disappointment, especially when trying to write with them. But if Satori has to lay down a bunch of color for some homework, or write short words/phrases, these do the trick. They’re inexpensive, so we can keep purchasing them to add a bit of color to homework. They erase very well too!
Erasable Colored Pencils

The combination of being both “twistable” and “erasable” seems to offer only 12 colors, which isn’t as fun, but for homework, who cares! The downfalls are that the pencils are not labeled, so colorblind people can’t use them like they’re used to using Crayola brands which are usually labeled. Some people have noted the entire lead falls out, but we haven’t noticed that yet.

Crayola Erasable Twistables

So that’s our colored pencil review! I think for Christmas, we should get a new set of Prismacolors, some of them are quite bit up and worn down to small stubs already.

This month with Meet the Masters we have been studying two famous artists – Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington. Next week we start Georgia O’Keeffe and Satori was thrilled to find out we finally get another “female” artist. So far, Mary Cassatt has been the only female artist we’ve studied.

For this blog post I’ll cover our Winslow Homer study. After reviewing the MTM online video where we learned about the American artist Winslow Homer and his techniques, we then experimented with value, and finished up with a project depicting value – with torn paper in various white, black, and gray shades.

As usual, we strengthen our art study with a Mike Venezia book – Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists – Winslow Homer. We love seeing some of the same paintings being examined in the book that Meet the Masters covers as well as other works of art.

Our DVD “The Artists’ Specials” set also features Winslow Homer as one of the six artists featured. These 45 minute films bring the artist to life, usually with a few children characters intertwined in the plot. In this episode, Homer is looking for some peace and quiet after his exposure sketching scenes of the Civil War. All he wants is solitude but two curious children attempt to befriend him.

We also always set Satori’s computer display to a rotating desktop background and slideshow. Here’s one of our favorite paintings of his. Winslow Homer loves paintings of the sea, and especially perilous situations. Here this poor man looks doomed but if you look closely, you will see a glimmer of hope.

Another activity we sometimes do is find a page in one of our artist coloring books which Satori loves to color. This particular “Snap the Whip” painting is included in Art Masterpieces to Color by Dover. I printed out a sample picture for her to copy.

For Artistic Pursuits, Satori experimented with drawing her first still life. I asked her to do this one over the summer but with no direction, she was flustered and gave up. So I gave her some guidance in drawing what she sees. I set up the still life below and filled up a wine glass with grape juice for her.

I find myself working along and this seems to suit us best, as Satori gets a few drawing lessons from me and I get to exercise the right side of the brain.

We were to use water-soluable crayons but we used our Derwent watercolor pencils, in which we have more color choice. Here’s a closeup to see what they look like with water applied. I’m sure I could have taken my time to make it look better, but we’re pleased with how they work for us.

A few days later, Satori lined up all her stuffed animals  with their name tags. Art was one of the subjects her lucky students learned that day.

She usually teaches her class in the morning at 7am, before I’m even out of bed. I hear her prattling on about various topics like the rainforest, Latin, and history. This particular morning I work up to our whiteboard filled with art projects done by all the students in her class, complete with their names on the papers. 🙂

If her stuffed animals are not her students, a real person will make an even better substitute! Daddy often gets taught, and Satori is very eager planning out her lesson schedule the night before. Even Gramy and Grampy got to spend an afternoon this summer in Satori’s class, learning logic and Latin!

There is not really actual art or drawing instruction in Artistic Pursuits, at least not in the first few books yet. Take our lesson last week, “Artists Make Portraits”. You can click to see the lesson larger. They talk about a famous painting that includes a portrait, show a sample by another six year old, and then it’s all up to the child. There is usually one little tip on using the art materials or something like that.

So we find a picture that Satori can use for a portrait. This is David and myself. 🙂 We really need to get more family portraits, but that’s beside the point.

After setting Satori loose, I can see that some intervention might come in handy. Luckily, she was a good sport about the whole family bursting into giggles after seeing her first try. I asked if she wanted me to show her a few things. She said ok, as long as she doesn’t have to draw a nose, since she can’t draw noses.

I not only walked her through making passable noses, but pointed out the shape of the eye, trying to make it look a tad more realistic. Daddy has a wide mouth so I thought it would be funny to have her draw a big mouth, hehe, some things I cannot resist. But I showed her how to draw the shape of a lip and include some space between the upper/lower teeth. We drew some individual hairs to add texture.

End result? An improved portrait of her mom and dad! One thing Artistic Pursuits did have her start was to make sure she includes some sort of background. Here you see purple fireworks upon a pink background.

We only had 15 Caran d’Ache Neocolor II Water Soluable Pastels to choose from, I think she did a pretty good job. A bit of water, and we have a painting!

We have her first try on the back side of the finished portrait, and we all still can’t stop laughing. 😀

We still enjoy Artistic Pursuits. Satori doesn’t do well with following cookie-cutter art projects, so this is perfect. Hopefully a little guidance from Mom won’t hurt now and then.

Next lesson we’ll do tomorrow is to paint a Still Life. We made Daddy buy his ladies a colorful bouquet assortment. These flowers will also come in handy as we’re studying flowers in REAL Science Odyssey this week. I’ll blog about that next week.

In contrast to my previous post, where we follow a step-by-step art project to mimic the project, Artistic Pursuits is the creative art program that we use that specifically doesn’t encourage conforming. This program has books that cover preschool all the way up to grade 12. We finished the Pre-K book last year and are in K-3 Book 1 – An Introduction to the Visual Arts. The projects we’ve done so far mostly have us working with watercolor crayons, oil pastels, ebony pencils, and pastel sticks. Other mediums include colored paper craft and clay.

Since we haven’t done any Artistic Pursuit lessons almost all year long, we did two in the past week. I’d love to do several lessons per week this summer and finish Book 1 in time to start Book 2 this fall. Each lesson usually is shown in 1-2 pages. This lesson covered “Artists Make Landscapes” and we looked at an example from Paul Cezanne. (One of the complaints about AP is that the art prints are too small. That’s okay, we cover art appreciation more fully with Meet the Masters.)

We were to sit outside and draw the landscape with oil pastels. Satori started really good coloring in the hills and snow-covered mountains in this picture, but she saw how sloppy I was doing my picture and then she hastily colored in the rest. Oops.

Our second lesson was “Artists Use Photographs”. The example shown was a Degas painting where he got inspiration from a photograph of ballet dancers. We flipped through magazines and books until we found a photograph that inspired us. This lesson had us using watercolor crayons. Love these, I would love to have more.

Satori drew a Portuguese Man-o-war, one of the creatures that fascinate her. Again, I might have ruined the picture by suggesting she lightly layer some black on the edges to give the water some interest. I don’t think she knows what “layer” means. I should just keep my mouth shut!

I found a cute little frog with vibrant colors that I couldn’t resist drawing/painting.


This will be our third project from The Usborne Art Treasury book. We love this book because the projects turn out to be colorful, unique artwork that you’ll want to hang on your wall. They’re so much fun to do.

Of course after finishing, Satori did want to frame it, but we ended up with a project that wouldn’t be framed easily.

We wanted to do their Monet project, so we started out with a review on who Monet was. Satori already knew this through our Meet the Masters lesson we just did, so she was anxious to get to the actual project.

The Monet art project of the book was “Layered Lilies” using tissue paper. The book gave sufficient instructions as well as a colorful visual to see how it might turn out.

Tearing tissue paper into narrow strips was easier than I anticipated, as long as you tear just one layer at a time. Within ten minutes, we were swimming in a sea of cool blues.

We then took our glue sticks and glued the strips of tissue paper to make the watery pond. We layered them on to simulate Monet’s layers of colored paint.

Had we followed the book directions, we were supposed to get our lilypad and flower circles by tearing them around a glass jar bottom, but that didn’t work for us. Neither did a paper puncher. So I just cut circles to make our lilypads and flowers. Satori glued them on.

And here’s our finished “Layered Lilies”!

I think this is such a fun program! This has been 50% off for a long time at Homeschool Buyers Co-op. I’m not sure how long that offer will last, but if you do purchase through them, you’ll get 3 years access to the program that you choose.

We haven’t done much art lately, but we intend to catch up this summer! We “met” Claude Monet today.

When you log in to the program, you’ll have a chance to print out the lesson and art print PDFs. Once you’re ready for the lesson, head to their online program, with your printouts ready.

It’s a scripted program, so it will tell you what to say, and when to click “Next” on the computer screen. This lesson had us start out with a box of crayons – missing black and brown. Why? Monet avoided brown and black and was one of the first artists to use the spectrum of color in his paintings.

We learned that Claude Monet is considered the “Father of Impressionism”. As the lesson continued, we learned more about his life, his styles, and his paintings.

Satori announced that Monet is her favorite artist, she thinks his paintings are “lovely”. She especially loves his water lilies (of course) and his Japanese bridge paintings. We now have her computer’s screensaver set to cycle through Monet paintings.

The hands-on Art Technique practice was playing around with warm and cool colors, which she already knew, but the worksheets had her also giving soft, strong, and bright examples.

For our first day with Monet, we stopped there. Next week we’ll do the MTM project and I’ll share our results.

We did enjoy reading more about Monet with Mike Venezia’s Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists – Monet and Laurence Anholt’s The Magical Garden of Claude Monet. Next week we’ll read Claude Monet: Sunshine and Waterlilies (Smart about Art series).

We had so much fun learning about Monet, we couldn’t stop there. I remembered we had a set of DVD’s from Devine Entertainment and one of them included Monet – Shadow and Light.

This 6-DVD set includes: Monet, Goya, Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas and Rembrandt. We’ve already watched Mary Cassatt. These videos are suitable for children and adults of all ages.

I am not surprised to see that this company has won awards for their educational videos. They also have DVD series covering Inventors and Composers. I’ll have to check them out sometime as well.

Next week we’ll watch Linnea in Monet’s Garden DVD. This is also on Netflix, but currently the DVD availability is “Unknown”. I wonder what that means.

So far, we’ve purchased two of the MTM bundles. I would love to do the Level 1 (for ages 5-7) quickly, and then do a short study of any important artists they didn’t include, and then dig in again with Level 2.

First off, I apologize for the site expiring and going down for a few hours yesterday. Oops! It marked the day of the SatoriSmiles blog Two Year Anniversary! Exactly two years ago, I decided to homeschool and used one of the available domains I had. So this isn’t the most “homeschooly” domain name, but it sure is full of Satori’s smiles. That’s because we love homeschooling! At the time, I didn’t tell anyone in our family I started homeschooling Satori, but pointed them to this blog as documentation on how Satori could learn at home. Everyone was amazed with her progress.  Two months later, we all knew that homeschooling was a tremendous success! From not being able to write her name at daycare at age 4, to writing storybooks at age 5, it truly has been an amazing experience for us.

To celebrate, I am doing a doing a Giveaway of the book Lives of the Great Artists by Charlie Ayres. I have two copies to giveaway to two random commenters on this post. Monday, February 21, the two winners will be announced and these books will be going to them.

NOTE: This is a children’s book on the great artists, but there are a few images that may not be for sensitive children (artistic nudity, violence). I am not worried for Satori, but for those of you who this might be a concern, read Dawn’s (nestof3) Amazon review for a head’s up on the images you may want to cover up. If you are a winner, and wish to not receive this book (or already have it), I have another book for a giveaway – Andy and the Lion. This is one of the FIAR program’s books, suitable for ages 4-8.

I decided to give away the Art books above, because this year we started really learning about art, and our family’s lives feel so much more enriched. We started using Meet the Masters program (through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op) and so far we’ve learned about Vincent van Gogh, Mary Cassat, Piet Mondrian, and Picasso. A few other artists we’ll be learning about this spring include Monet, O’Keefe, Degas, Frida Kahlo and Matisse. Satori has been to people’s houses and she can point out their artwork and tell everybody who did it. I love Meet the Masters!

Here’s a few pictures we have up on our wall from our various art programs, including school (she attends on Mondays).

This is from our general art program, Artistic Pursuits. This lesson was “Artists Communicate”. Here Satori communicated using body and facial expressions what fun it was to meet her best friend Sophia at school. She even used perspective to draw in a smaller (further away) person behind the pair.