Do you have a burgeoning artist who could use a confidence boost? Sparketh’s Art Style Portrait Track serves up lessons in technique and life skills, with self-confidence at the top of the list.
My older daughter is an artist.
She’s also a consummate perfectionist who fears failure, holds herself to high standards, and dislikes taking instruction because she is afraid she won’t measure up.
My daughter is very much like me in this way, and I wish with all my heart I could save her from the pains of hard-won growth. I know I can’t – to do so would be unfair to her and the young woman she is becoming. What I can do, though, is provide her with opportunities to spread her wings from a safe harbor.
The online art program Sparketh has done that for us.
Sparketh: The Online Art School For Kids
We discovered Sparketh several years ago through the iHomeschool Network. My daughter was drawn to the talent and energy of the instructors; I admired the program’s scope. As the first online MOOC learning platform designed to teach creative subjects to kids and teens, Sparketh offers high quality, mentor-guided video lessons on art, dance, music, vocal performance, and theater. While my oldest and her sister are theater buffs, our experience with Sparketh has remained in the visual arts.
How Sparketh Works
Sparketh employs a team of creative, young professionals dedicated to helping young people succeed in the arts. For the visual arts portion of the program, the instructors have recorded hundreds of lessons on varying art techniques and styles, from the basic mechanics of proportion and illustration to the more advanced areas of shading, perspective, and mixed media.
Each video lesson is categorized according to difficulty and skill. Students and parents can see at-a-glance for what level the lesson is intended and on what skill the lesson will focus. When my daughter first started with Sparketh she was hesitant to branch out beyond sketching and illustration; she also prefers to shy away from representing humans in art. But the more she has worked through the lessons in Sparketh, the more likely she has been to experiment outside that box. I’ve enjoyed watching her stretch her horizons: as her comfort level has grown so has her art.
My daughter’s burgeoning confidence is what led her to try the Portrait Style track. In addition to the wide variety of a la carte courses students from which students can choose, the instructors at Sparketh have combined lessons into longer, more in-depth tracks. Her experience with the Portrait Style Track has been phenomenal: while she started out exclusively drawing portraits of animals, she has gradually opened up to creating portraits of human subjects. She’s not only developed her skills as an artist but as a thinker and adventurer, too.
In the Art Style Portrait track, students have the opportunity to learn portraiture in 10 distinct styles:
- Pop Art
- Harlem Rennaisance
- Abstract Expressionism
Each style contains 45 to 60 minutes of instruction (there are 14 courses and 100 videos in all). But because the lessons are broken into segments of eight to 10-minute videos, young artists won’t feel overwhelmed. This also allows the three different instructors to incorporate a number of skill-specific lessons. The first lesson, for instance, is one on facial proportions; later on, there are lessons on watercolor and colored pencil technique.
The sheer scope of the Portrait Track’s instruction is fantastic on its own, but what I most appreciate is how it has both stretched and supported my daughter.
Like many differently-wired kids, fear of failure rests firmly on my daughter’s shoulders. She will often refuse to take part in an activity or lesson if she thinks she won’t immediately excel. If you are parenting a child with a similar personality, you know it can be incredibly difficult to move them out of that hole. The great thing about the Portrait Track, though, is how it challenges young artists while respecting their skill level and learning styles. The Portrait Track teaches art with depth and clarity, but it teaches life skills, too.
Sparketh’s Art Style Portrait Track Encourages Critical Thinking
Metacognition – or thinking about thinking – is a valuable learning skill. I love that the instructors model that internal monologue as they are working. From listening, my daughter not only learned how to discern the proper brush and media choices but also learned how to think through a problem without immediately giving in.
Sparketh’s Art Style Portrait Track Encourages Executive Functioning
Many differently-wired kids lack executive function: the skills that help order and organize the world around them. The Art Style Portrait Track reveals the steps required to create a formal portrait. Certain tasks must be completed in a specific sequence in order to achieve the desired effect. (For example, in the Manga lessons, instructor Amy teaches the students to lay down watercolor first as a base, then create shading with colored pencil.)
Sparketh’s Art Style Portrait Track Gives Depth and Meaning to the Artwork
Students who are working through the Art Style Portrait Track aren’t just putting down shapes and lines. Instructors encourage the students to express the personalities of the individuals they are drawing. They ask the students to consider who they are drawing and why they want to portray them in a certain way.
Most importantly, Sparketh’s Art Style Portrait Track gave my daughter an increase in confidence she sorely needed.
It’s encouraged her to try new things and experiment with her artwork. I love that it has challenged and stretched her but allowed her to approach those challenges at her own unique pace. The simple fact that she’s now drawing human figures speaks volumes to me.
Thank you, Sparketh, for giving her the spark to succeed.
Enjoy this post? Read on!