Very often in our home, art is a subject that can drop off of a day’s to-do list, partly because it isn’t a core subject but mostly because I feel so unqualified to teach it. I love when a curriculum comes along to help me teach a subject I’m not comfortable with. And I love it even more if my kids respond well.

The day Promising Picassos arrived, my 12-year-old son asked to take a look at the DVDs. I handed them and the book to him, and he disappeared for a half-hour, only to emerge with a stack of drawings and an invitation to his sister to come draw with him. Both kids loved the program, and I knew I needed to take a closer look.

Teresa O’Brien has produced a series of drawing lessons on DVD for local schools and park programs throughout Wisconsin and Illinois. They translate nicely for the homeschool setting because Ms. O’Brien is simply teaching the student to draw a variety of subjects: fish, abstract shapes, crayons, a bowl of fruit, and a gumball machine on disc one and birds, elephants, kites, bugs, banana splits, and farms on disc two. Ms. O’Brien is easy to follow and understand. The video is uncluttered and simple but engaging.

I was concerned that the student might only learn to draw the specific subject Ms. O’Brien teaches (a bird like the one she draws, for instance), but the program is designed to give children the information they need as they advance through the grade levels. Various aspects of art (including attention to detail, shading, overlapping, and perspective) are taught. These are foundational building blocks to other fine art skills, such as painting, color theory, art history techniques, working with pastels, and sculpture.

I’m not super impressed by the packaging–it’s not beautifully marketed or immediately appealing. But judging by my own students’ reactions, this is a good basic drawing curriculum that they will use and learn from. They’re currently asking to go back and re-watch some of the lessons they’d like to try again. Judging by their response, I’d say Promising Picassos is a good, solid drawing curriculum for the home-educated student.

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