{Crew Review} Artistic Pursuits High School Book One

Turtlegirl has always been my “artsy” girl.  Even at a young age she wanted to draw. Fortunately, she has outgrown the desire to use the wall as her canvas.  Her younger sister, Tailorbear, has recently become serious about improving her drawing skills as well.  With their enthusiasm encouraging me, I eagerly volunteered them to be the guinea pigs for a review of the NEW 3rd edition version of the High School Book One: The Elements of Art and Composition from ARTistic Pursuits, Inc.

I am not an artist.  Drawing and painting are skills I do not possess.  I think my 7th grade art class had a lot to do with my developing a strong distaste towards art,especially drawing.  No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much effort I exerted, no matter how enthusiastic I was, I could not get a grade better than a C.  A C!  In art class!  It was so discouraging.  So with my baggage surrounding art, I’ve not really ever felt confident to teach art to my children.  Oh we’ve done things to develop and foster an appreciation for art but I have struggled to find a program that would do the teaching for me.

ARTistic Pursuits has been perfect.  The high school book is written to the student.  I do not have to do any of the teaching!  Each lesson clearly states an objective.  I love that the program contains a rubric for grading that is based on the objective of the lesson and not the talent of a student.  A student will be rewarded with points based on an objective and not purely subjective standard.  With my history, this is very important to me! Page 91 contains the Evaluation Sheet.  I love this part:

“Because of the subjective qualities of art, it is best to mark higher rather than lower when deciding between two levels of achievement. If the student enjoyed doing the lessons and made the effort to create to create a work of art in a thoughtful way, then that student should be given a good grade.”(pg. 91)

There are 16 Units and each unit focuses on one particular topic such as line, texture,  shape, or space. Each unit consists of 4 lessons: Building a Visual Vocabulary, Art Appreciation and Art History, Techniques, and Application.

In the Getting Started section Brenda Ellis shares three secrets that artists share with others: 1. Learn to observe the world around you – to really see, 2. Learn what to look for.  and 3. Learn to focus on one element of art at a time while drawing and block out the others.  I think this program does a great job teaching students how to apply the artist’s secrets.

Using ARTistic Pursuits:

The "Getting Started" section recommends scheduling art class for twice a week for about one hour per class. The students can work independently and the time per activity will vary. I took the advice given: "Schedule art class at a time when they can complete the art assignment, even if it runs over an hour." I scheduled "art class" on Tuesdays and Thursdays as the last class of the day so that both girls could take the time needed. Occasionally, a lesson would list an activity as drawing more than one object. Sometimes the girls, especially Turtlegirl, would draw some objects during "class time" and then spend time on the weekend drawing more.  We found that one to one and a half hours per class, twice a week with an occasional “for fun” session on the weekend allowed us to move at the recommended pace of 2 lessons per week covering 1 Unit every 2 weeks.

The NEW 3rd Edition contains an additional type of activity “Elements Combined:”  These are like a “put it all together” type of activity.  The first Elements Combined activity occurs after Unit 3.  We’re not quite there yet.  The  girls are currently working in Unit 3.  I suspect that we’ll use the “Elements Combined” as one of those “for fun sessions” on a Sunday afternoon.


What You Need: 

In addition to the book, which is non-consumable, you’ll need some basic drawing supplies.  In the front of the book, Ms. Ellis has listed all the supplies you’ll need and she’s broken the list into First Semester, Second Semester and Additional Supplies.  For the first semester you will need basic drawing supplies such as drawing paper and a drawing pencil set.  For the second semester you’ll need charcoal and few tools such as a blending stump.  The entire supply list is available on the product page as one of the samples; just scroll down toward the bottom.  You’ll also be able to see the entire table of contents.  For your convenience ARTistic Pursuits does offer supply packs.  You can view the supply pack for the High School Book One here. 

Thoughts from Turtlegirl: 

I love this!! It was informative. It gave me assignments that made sense with what we were covering. For example, I’m working on ‘texture’. One of my assignments was to find a bunch of things that I could physically touch, feel, and experience. Another thing I liked was that not only did they give me assignments for each unit’s topics, they explained to me why I was doing this and how the topic fit in with art. The actual drawing assignments were challenging but fun! I liked how they had a piece of art (so far, I’ve seen work from the Medieval, Renaissance, and Impressionist art movements) to help demonstrate that element of art. One aspect I like is that you have to be dedicated. You have put a decent effort in to make the program work. I highly recommend this for art students in High School who really want to either learn how to draw or improve their drawing.”

Turtlegirl Art Collage

Thoughts from Tailorbear:

“Its art. Not much to say on that! But I LOVE the fact that it takes some things that I’ve had trouble with, (lines, eye grabbing, stuff like that!” And teaches me what I need to do to get my art better! It also allowed for mistakes. When I look at the “student Gallery” I noticed not so perfect art, and didn’t feel that bad when my pictures didn’t turn out exactly the way I wanted!“


  • Title: High School Book One: The Elements of Art and Composition
  • Author: Brenda Ellis
  • Publisher: Artistic Pursuits, Inc.
  • Format: Non-Consumable, Clear plastic front and back covers, Comb Bound
  • Length: 92 pages Includes 16 Units divided into 4 Lesson plus 4 Elements Combined Activity Pages
  • Age Recommendation: grades 9-12 or ages 14 and up
  • List Price: $47.95

 I fell in love with Brenda Ellis’s ARTistic Pursuits series when I had the opportunity to review the High School Book 2: Color and Composition.  I didn’t think the program could be improved but Ms. Ellis pleasantly surprised me with the updated 3rd Edition. (You can check out the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for reviews of the 3rd edition HS book and other levels from Kindergarten on up!) Both Turtlegirl and Tailorbear will move on to the high school Book 2 when they complete Book 1. I hope someday to use some of the Elementary level books with Supergirl.


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All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

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  1. Oh, how wonderful! I also had really, really, really awful art experiences growing up, and a lot of my life has been learning that even though I can't draw, I am artistic.

    It's a good lesson :)


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