Being Michelangelo…

I am no art professor.  But I love art.

I am no composer.  But I love music.

Play that one piece of music or paint that one picture with your kids to open up this love in them.  There is power in incremental change.  Instead of beating yourself up over not doing a full fledged study of an artist, or self criticizing in not being able to do a perfect lesson, just do a little.

One painting, one thought, one piece of music is better than none.

Our study of Michelangelo, when my 2 oldest were little was thorough.  This time, with my 3rd child, time has gotten away from me and our study of Michelangelo was lacking.

Of all the things my kids reminisce about in our past artist studies, they mention our picture study with photography and painting under the table, ‘being Michelangelo’, the most.

So, even though this year’s study didn’t go as I had planned, I decided to do the best I could.  We read a living book, Michelangelo and a few pages on Michelangelo in the hilarious, Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought) 

Kids love great stories.

Diane Stanley writes, “Michelangelo did not find the naked body in the least embarrassing, for he had been taught that man was created in the image of God.  It was the human form, in fact, that most interested Michelangelo as an artist.  To understand his subject better, Michelangelo went to the hospital of Santo Spirito and got permission to study anatomy in the morgue.  he spent hours there dissecting bodies, memorizing the origins and insertions of the muscles, the positions of tendons and veins.  It was a gruesome exercise, taking apart the dead to discover their secrets.  But it was there that he gained his astonishing power to bring forth life from a block of stone.”

Moses for the tomb of Pope Julius II

Moses for the tomb of Pope Julius II

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” –Michelangelo

Focusing on 3-4 paintings and sculptures of Michelangelo (I let the kids pick from an old calendar) this semester, I had my kids pretending to ‘be Michelangelo’ painting ‘on a ceiling’ while under the table.  Their arms got tired.  They complained some.  But I know they appreciated the change of pace and living out of the box.  It took less than an hour but the memories are priceless.

We actually learned that most of Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel was accomplished while standing, his beard pointing up in the air.  However, it still gave the girls the idea of how difficult this would be to do.


being Michelangelo1









You do not have to try to paint a Michelangelo, just paint!  This is a picture of my oldest daughter in 2008, ‘being Michelangelo’.

My eldest ' Being Michelangelo' in 2008

My eldest ‘ Being Michelangelo’ in 2008. She painted an angel.

And did you know that Michelangelo was a poet?

While miserably painting the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo wrote this poem:

Michelangelo To Giovanni da Pistoia
“When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel”—1509

I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture,
hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy
(or anywhere else where the stagnant water’s poison).
My stomach’s squashed under my chin, my beard’s
pointing at heaven, my brain’s crushed in a casket,
my breast twists like a harpy’s. My brush,
above me all the time, dribbles paint
so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!

My haunches are grinding into my guts,
my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight,
every gesture I make is blind and aimless.
My skin hangs loose below me, my spine’s
all knotted from folding over itself.
I’m bent taut as a Syrian bow.

Because I’m stuck like this, my thoughts
are crazy, perfidious tripe:
anyone shoots badly through a crooked blowpipe.

My painting is dead.
Defend it for me, Giovanni, protect my honor.
I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.


7 years old’s rendition of Michelangelo using a light box and colored pencils.


14 yo’s sketch from Michelangelo’s

I see the perfectionism in my kids.  Their frustration in not getting a picture perfect.  And I see it in my attempt to do a ‘perfect’ artist study.  There is no such thing.

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”–Michelangelo

I am finding it is better to do something, anything, than nothing.

Here is to your efforts, no matter how small!

Please share your ideas for picture studies!

 “Ancora imparo” (I am still learning.) —  Michelangelo

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