Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cherry Blossom Paintings



My Grade 7 class recently finished these cherry blossom paintings as part of our "Japanese Art" unit.  I absolutely adore cherry blossom paintings- I think they're very stylish and feminine. I also love anything Japanese related, so I really enjoy teaching this unit. And believe it or not, the blossoms are just finishing up here where I live. Yes, in June.

We started off by watching a video about the Cherry Blossom festival in Japan known as Hanami ('flower viewing').  In the spring, thousands of people fill the parks to hold feasts under the flowering trees, and sometimes these parties go on until late at night. I thought it was interesting to find out that most public schools have cherry blossom trees outside of them.

Cherry blossoms have been used extensively in Japanese art for hundreds of years. According to the Buddhist tradition, the brief beauty of the blossoms symbolizes the transient nature of life as the flowers last for at most a few weeks. The cherry blossom is also tied with the samurai culture, representing the fleeting nature of the samurai’s life and symbolic of drops of blood.

So for this lesson students created a scroll-like painting of a cherry blossom branch using the classic 'blow paint through a straw' technique. You can find this technique all over the internet and Art teachers have been using this technique for eons. We first created a blue sky background (on long strips of white paper) with a faint full moon silhouette by placing a small circle container (in this case yoghurt) and painting around it with light blue tempera paint.


 
While the sky paper is drying, student practiced painting (tempera paint) cherry blossoms
in their sketchbooks. 
I demonstrated how to mix various tints of pink (always add the darker colour, red, a bit at a time, to the white- not the other way around). The blossoms: as long as they had five petals, students could paint them however they wanted and in whatever tint of pink. (You could also do plum blossoms in tints of purple).


Once the sky paper is dry, student blew watery brown tempera paint (ink-like consistency) across their paper in a branch-like shape.  I really demonstrated how to do this, as kids have a tendency to blow down as opposed to across.  If you blow downwards, you get really, erm, hairy-looking trees!!  I stress to keep it simple and follow a line of paint across the paper. Keep adding more paint and creating new branches as necessary. 
Encourage the kids to take lots of breaks as you can get really light-headed doing this!


Let these dry flat.


Next class, students paint on their cherry blossoms using tempera. 
Just add them randomly anywhere- add lots.


I own some Asian-style rubber stamp 'chops' or seals- which is basically the artists signature.
They are stamps or seals used in lieu of an artists signature in Asian art.
They are typically made of stone and used with red ink.  I have no clue what mine say and none of my Chinese students could read them either. Soooo, I just hope it's nothing rude or way wierd!
Of course, if you have lino-cutting tools, students could make their own from an eraser.


As I didn't have a red ink pad, I just squirted some red tempera onto a pad of paper towels. 
 It worked pretty good.  But an ink pad would be easier, obviously. Once these were dry, I mounted them onto larger mauve construction paper.


Here are some of the Grade 7 results: Ta da!




I displayed them with our Kimono project.




37 comments:

  1. Your students did a phenomenal job in interpreting Japanese art.

    I love the elegance of lines and color.

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  2. Wonderful artwork! I did something similar but our backgrounds were of various colours and we used chalk pastels. Beautiful!

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  3. These are beautiful-I really love them! I am your latest follower and an Art teacher from Australia. Please come over and visit ubersavvy sometime. The Chinese teacher at my school wants a chinese welcome artwork. HAve you done anything like this?

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  4. Thanks all!

    Anna- I love your versions with the chalk pastels!

    G'day Lynda! I posted an answer to your question on your blog (on your Text & Transfer Tutorial post)

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  5. Great! I'm going to steal this idea. Can't wait for the next spring.

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  6. Miss -
    Absolutely beautiful! I really appreciate the time you are taking to photograph all stages of the project. I would like to do something like this with my sixth graders in the spring (our trees bloom in February and March).

    Really enjoying your blog.

    Rina at k6art.com

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  7. Thanks Rina. Have fun trying this with your class- I'm sure they'll do great! I am jealous of your early Spring!!! :O

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  8. WOW! These are beautiful! Your link was given by a member of the Oriental Stamp group (Yahoo!), so I am sure many others will be taking a peek. Great inspiration and gorgeous results! I think your students obviously enjoyed this challenge! great work!
    Anne, (from France)

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  9. I ADORE your blog! It inspires me a lot and I even started my own art teaching blog very recently. I took your idea of cherry blossoms to make japanese lanterns with my secondary 1 students. I love the way you show every step of the work, it's so simple, practical, clear and fun to read!

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  10. I love your ideas for the Japanese art study! I would love to implement these in the art class I teach for homeschoolers. I do have one question. Did you use tempera paint for the entire cherry blossom painting, including the branch and petals?
    Thanks for sharing!

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  11. Anne: merci beaucoup!

    Laurie: thanks very much for your kind comment. The lanterns sound so cool! Please post a link if you've blogged about them!

    Robyn: thanks for your comment!

    To answer your question, yes, we used tempera paint for the entire project:
    *very watered down blue paint for the background
    *slighty watery brown paint for the branches (ink-like consistency)
    *full strength for the cherry blossoms.
    Of course you could also substitute acrylic paint. Good luck!

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  12. These are gorgeous. Could you tell me if you use a particular type of paper? Thank you kindly.

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  13. Diane: thanks for your comment. We just used a heavyweight white drawing paper, like a sulphite type paper. Maybe 80lb weight.

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  14. Thank You, I appreciate your help. : )

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  15. These are gorgeous! Thanks for the step-by-step. I'm inspired to try a modified version with some junior primary students next week for Harmony Day. I'll let you know how we go. Thanks!

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  16. Diane: no problem!

    Markeeta Roe: Thank you! Please do let me know how these turned out with your students- I'm sure they'll love it!

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  17. wow! love the art. going to use this idea with my poetry class....haiku poems would be a nice addition. What is size of paper? Thanks.

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  18. Shane: yes, Haiku poems would be a lovely addition! The paper size was about 10" x 24".
    Have fun and good luck with the project :)

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  19. Your work is very peaceful and serene. Beautiful and elegant work.

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  20. Loved the idea! Did it in one class, but forgot to do your sky concept which i really liked!!!! I'll try that with classes tomorrow!

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  21. Hi, Love the blog and our little Art group really enjoyed this session, many thanks for sharing,
    Phil @ http://www.penarthblast.blogspot.co.uk/

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  22. Shelley- thank you :)

    Anonymous- I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    BLAST: thanks for the comment:) I had a look at your kids' work and blog and they did fantastic!

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  23. Beautiful! I would love to try this with my grandkids one weekend! I usually use acrylic paint. would it be better to thin the paint with a binder rather than water, I just would rather use a binder.

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  24. Benim: Thank you!

    Anonymous: If you're using acrylic for the background sky, I would use lots of water to thin it out to make it transparent. I never use binder, so if it works for the tree branch, go for it!

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  25. Love this. We just painted some today---we're still on a cherry blossom high after seeing them in Washington, D.C.! Wonderful project!

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  26. Thank you for sharing this. I got a bit of nostalgia.....Having lived for quite some time in Japan.
    I too have done Japanese art with my second graders.
    I bring in Kokeshi dolls to show the students. Then, I pass out a template and we decorate the template. I use red construction paper for the kimono. It's more rustic, but still very pleasing to the eye.
    Your art is absolutely beautiful!! Your kids are fortunate to have you.

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  27. Hello, I love this project! I am going to use today with my first graders. I think they will love blowing the ink around with the straws! I also want to inquire about the stamps. Where did you purchase them? I have been looking for a set for a long time, but I am having no luck! Thank you!

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  28. Michelle: thanks so much- glad you tried it out :)

    Anonymous: thank you :)

    Rhonda: yes- still checking comments! About the rubber stamps: I actually have no clue where I got them- I've had them for over 15 years at least. I would check your local craft stores first; any type of Asian style stamp would work (obviously more authentic if you can find Japanese ones. To this day I'm not quite sure what mine say, haha)

    Another option, depending on your skill level, is to carve your own rubber stamps from an eraser using an x-acto knife. If you're crafty it should be do-able. You can find loads of tutorials on Youtube :)

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  29. Wow, Nice paintings. I am doing a painting using Washi paper crafts at Japanese Creations. It's looking amazing on my room wall. Thanks For sharing.

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  30. Love this! My students made this project. We used liquid watercolor for background and tree on watercolor paper. And acrylic paint for the cherry blossoms. They turned out beautifully!!!Thanks for such a great idea!

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  31. Thanks Emily :)

    Thanks Becky- yours sound beautiful! I'm glad they worked out :)

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  32. These are beautiful! Do you think this would be too tough for third graders? If so, how would/could you modify? Thanks!

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  33. Hi Lisa, I think Grade 3 could do this. I wouldn't do the moon background, just use light blue or white paper and have them create the branches. Have them practice first to get the hang of it. Then they paint on tiny flowers! Good luck!

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  34. Could you share what video yall watched? I have a group Monday that I'd like to share one with.

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  35. DaniL- honestly I don't remember which video I showed. Just go to Youtube and search up "Cherry Blossom Festival Japan" and choose which one you like the best!

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