Picture Study Q & A

A couple of you had questions following my post on Picture study, so rather than hide those responses in the comments, I thought I'd take some time here to answer those questions and provide some more resources.

Q: Do you print the pictures for the photo album yourself, or send them to a place like the Costco photo lab?

A: I get them printed at Costco. If we had a good color printer and photo-quality paper, I'd do it here. But we don't, so I send them to Costco.

Q: How do you choose your art?

A: I have several favorite artists I remember from college classes or from traveling, so I have a list in my brain that I'm anxious to study with our children. At this point my goal is to keep our study to artists and paintings that are age-appropriate for my children. At this season, that means scenes of children and families or activities they're familiar with or interested in.

Ambleside Online is a wonderful resource, particularly for those of you who may be at a loss for which artists and which paintings to consider for your study. Follow that link and you'll find a wealth of information!

Q: Where do you get your art from?

A: I have found most of our books at either a local used bookstore or Goodwill. The book we got on Winslow Homer was $2.99 at Goodwill. The book I bought on Mary Cassatt was $9.95 at my favorite used bookstore. If I see a book on an artist I like and think we will study someday, I pick it up.

I have also seen reasonably-priced books on the bargain shelves at Barnes & Noble. Just recently I was there and on an end-cap they had a series of large books on various famous painters. [Think: oversized paperback or hardcover books]. They were marked down to $6.99 each or something. I didn't happen to want any of the particular artists they had left, but at one time they had several artists I would have been interested in. (I just didn't get there soon enough!) If all else fails, there is Amazon.

I like to have a print in hand to examine, but you could certainly do picture study simply by pulling a painting up on the computer and looking at it on your screen, too.


I gleaned almost all of my how-to-do-this ideas from Linda Fay at Higher Up and Further In. Linda Fay's blog posts schooled me when we initially began doing Picture Study. The link above will take you to all of her Picture Study posts.

One last thing. Recently I came across a list of questions to use in Picture Study. (I'm not sure who to credit as the author of this list, so please let me know if you happen to be familiar with the source, so that I can give proper credit.) I thought it might be a good resource for those of you who'd like to try this but don't exactly know what to ask. There are some great questions in the list below. My encouragement to you would be to keep it simple. Choose maybe 1 or 2 questions each time, or choose your favorite questions from this list and rotate them, a couple at a time, each time you study a painting.


1. What kinds of things do you see in this painting? What else do you see?
2. What words would you use to describe this painting? What other words might we use?
3. How would you describe the lines in this picture? The shapes? The colors? What does this painting show?
4. Look at this painting for a moment. What observations can you make about it?
5. How would you describe this painting to a person who could not see it?
6. How would you describe the people in this picture? Are they like you or different?
7. How would you describe (the place depicted in) this painting?


1. What does this painting remind you of?
2. What things do you recognize in this painting? What things seem new to you?
3. How is this painting like the one we just saw? What are some important differences?
4. What do these two paintings have in common?
5. How is this picture different from real life?
6. What interests you most about this work of art?


1. Which objects seems closer to you? Further away?
2. What can you tell me about the colors in this painting?
3. What color is used the most in this painting?
4. What makes this painting look crowded?
5. What can you tell me about the person in this painting?
6. What can you tell me about how this person lived? How did you arrive at that idea?
7. What do you think is the most important part of this picture?
8. How do you think the artist made this work?
9. What questions would you ask the artist about this work, if s/he were here?


1. What title would you give to this painting? What made you decide on that title?
2. What other titles could we give it?
3. What do you think is happening in this painting? What else could be happening?
4. What sounds would this painting make (if it could)?
5. What do you think is going on in this picture? How did you arrive at that idea?
6. What do you think this painting is about? How did you come up that idea?
7. Pretend you are inside this painting. What does it feel like?
8. What do you think this (object) was used for? How did you arrive at that idea?
9. Why do you suppose the artist made this painting? What makes you think that?
10. What do you think it would be like to live in this painting? What makes you think that?


1. What do you think is good about this painting? What is not so good?
2. Do you think the person who painted this do a good or bad job? What makes you think so?
3. Why do you think other people should see this work of art?
4. What do you think other people would say about this work? Why do you think that?
5. What grade would you give the artist for this work? How did you arrive at that grade?
6. What would you do with this work if you owned it?
7. What do you think is worth remembering about this painting?


  1. again...love. Thanks Stacy! We incorporated your method in our picture study yesterday and the kids adored it! Today I found Jones with another picture (just off a shelf I have set up for them) and he was leading me through some questions about what I might have noticed and pointing things out...he's 3!

    I think it was especially great in our family to give one child that bit of focus for the initial description and questions from the rest of us...it meant a lot to Maia, who always gets a bit squished in the middle and I am excited to see how this continues as we rotate around. Thanks again friend!

  2. Kristen-
    Oh, I'm so glad it was effective in your home, too. Great job, Jones!

    And, yes, I agree that one of the great things is singling out one child for an opportunity to shine. :)

    Thanks for your encouraging comment, Kristen!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing more information about picture studies!! I am excited to try that at our house.

  4. Hi! I just found your blog through the Perkins through Leading little ones.. Anyway Thank you for typing this out. I am a new homeschooler and this really helps me out! I am enjoying seeing your schedules as well!
    Thanks a bunch!


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