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Barry Stebbing received his degree in art from Salisbury University, then went on to do graduate study in Cortona, Italy, and Montreal, Canada. His experience as a public school teacher, as well as his conviction that he should surrender his artistic talents to God, led him to develop the How Great Thou Art curriculum.

Please tell us something about your early development as an artist, focusing especially on how your parents nurtured your interest in art, and the education you received as a child.

I was brought up in poverty in a non-Christian home. There was little encouragement with the abilities that I had as an interested young artist, and I mostly drew on my own because I enjoyed it. Neither was there any education in art as a child, and I don’t remember it being instructed in any of my elementary years. However, my father was a poet and though he was 100% disabled from WWII, whenever he was home from the hospital, he became an inspiration in his aspirations as a writer.

Some home educators may feel ill equipped to teach art to their children because they’ve had no background in the discipline themselves. What encouragement or advice can you give parents?

It is amazing how many homeschooling parents feel inadequate in teaching art in their homes. We have even come across many during our travels who not only had backgrounds in art but also in education, and still had problems instructing in this area. Feel comfortable in the fact that 99.9% of all homeschool families go through the same dilemma. First of all, select a program that teaches fundamentals, or building blocks in art. Secondly, find a program with simple, easy-to-follow instructions and specific learning objectives. Art books are no more than instruction booklets—how to hold a pencil, how to mix your colors. The sad thing is most instruction booklets are too complicated and confusing, whether they are on how to assemble a bicycle or how to draw a cat. Finally, learn along with your children. That’s the fun of it. Remember, your best teachers are always learning. Currently, we are doing a book on how to draw horses. I don’t know much about drawing horses—that is why I am going to the stables and drawing them daily. As teachers, we are continually learning in order to be able to instruct at a higher level.

Art often is regarded as an “elective,” rather than an essential aspect of a well-rounded education. How do you respond to this view?

Ironically, as we travel North America, we find that our art classes are becoming larger and larger. In the past five years, we estimate that we have instructed over 25,000 homeschoolers in such a capacity. Now, that has to tell you something about the interest that these students and their parents have for the subject of art. And, even though art is considered an elective and not of pre-eminent proportions in a student’s education, don’t tell that to these students. There is much joy, gratification, and quality time spent during art time. Art also can relate to just about all of the other subjects. For example, when doing an English report, the student may want to include artwork. Finally, research has shown that those students who are nurtured in a quality art program do better with the other more academic courses than those students who do not partake in an art program.

Drawing and painting do not come easily to every student. What suggestions can you offer homeschool parents to help them build their children’s confidence and self-esteem?

Funny thing we have discovered: 50% of students like to draw and 50% like to paint. What I believe is that those students who like to draw find their comfort zone with a pencil and paper and do not want to venture out in the unknown waters of color theory and painting. Whereas, many students who feel incompetent in drawing love to paint and experiment with color theory, realizing that they can do a good job. What I explain to my students is that I am an artist, I love to draw, and I love to paint, and that they go hand in hand. A student of the fine arts should learn both how to draw and how to paint. Many students do not realize that drawing is a learned discipline. It comes from studying the basic fundamentals, practice, determination, and a good attitude—knowing that trying is winning half of the battle. Likewise, learning to paint and about color theory is very academic; it takes no talent to learn.

Your art curriculum takes a comprehensive approach by integrating biographies of famous artists, as well as overviews of important historical periods, with the art lessons. How important is it to the child’s development as an artist to study art history and appreciation along with the fundamentals of drawing?

I find that a great majority of homeschooling students (and all other American students, for that matter) love to draw cartoons. I like to call this the “junky” period. We mention to parents that if they are introduced to some of the great masters, it can and will influence the subject matter which their children spend time on when drawing. For example, John Singer Sargent, the great American artist from the turn of the 20th century, was brought up in Europe where his mother continually took him to the great museums. And I will guarantee you that he did not spend his time as a 12-year-old boy drawing cartoons, because he had been influenced and inspired by the works of the great masters. We are trying to give our students a taste for what is good and worthy in the fine arts, and hopefully, this will have a bearing on what they produce.

What connection do you see between the study of art and learning about God as Creator?

With the passing of the years, I have had great revelations of the simple fact that God is an artist. Jehovah Eloihim—the great Creator. And since we are all made in his image and likeness, with the ability to create, he has given us all a measure of that ability that only needs nurturing. All we have to do is believe in ourselves and to practice as much as possible—“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).


 

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How Great Thou Art I: An Inspirational Approach to Drawing, Revised
How Great Thou Art I: An Inspirational Approach to Drawing, Revised
Barry Stebbing

How Great Thou Art II: An Inspirational Approach to Drawing, Revised
How Great Thou Art II: An Inspirational Approach to Drawing, Revised
Barry Stebbing

Baby Lambs: A Preschooler's Art Book, Revised
Baby Lambs: A Preschooler's Art Book, Revised
Barry Stebbing


 

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