Sunday, June 4, 2017

Arts Around the World: Sakura & Gyotaku from Japan

For our study of Japan, we began by learning about cherry blossoms, or sakura. Cherry blossom season is a very big event in Japan, as it occurs during the spring and the cherry blossoms bloom for a limited time. Japan also gave the U.S. a gift of cherry trees that were planted in Washington, D.C., so there is a big cherry blossom season there as well.
We looked at photos of the cherry blossoms in bloom, as well as traditional paintings of cherry blossom trees. To begin our own paintings, we actually used black ink and a straw! First, black ink was dripped onto the bottom of their paper and students lifted up their paper to move the ink down and create a trunk or longer main branch. Then students used straws to blow the ink around their paper, causing smaller branches to form and extend towards the edges of the paper. 
We noticed that by angling the straw sideways and blowing away from the ink, we could create smaller branches off of the main branch or trunk. It took a lot of effort! Then we put these on the drying rack. 
Next class, students looked at a variety of different cherry blossoms and noticed all the different kinds of pink. We remembered that to make pink, you mix red and white. When you add white to a color to make it lighter, it is called a tint. We noticed that when you add more white, it creates a lighter pink, and when you add more red, it results in a darker pink. We also discussed what kinds of shapes you could use to create petals and flowers. 
We learned how to use different brush strokes, dabbing to create smaller dots and also pressing down the side of the brush to create petal shapes. Students got their ink branches back and using red and white paint, they mixed a variety of different pinks to add the cherry blossom flowers. Students were challenged to mix at least 3 different kinds of pink, and many students made even more! 
Students experimented with a variety of different shapes for their blossoms. Some students created smaller dots and dabbed their brush around to create smaller buds. Others pressed the brush down on its side to create petal shapes and overlapped these to create full blooms. Some students also painted petals falling off the flower, as they do in nature. Below are examples of our work:
Kaylee O., 2nd Grade (Pearse)
Camryn, 2nd Grade (Pearse)
Muntaha, 2nd Grade (Pearse)
Okasha, 2nd Grade (Pearse)
Sophia, 2nd Grade (Pearse)
Urmi, 2nd Grade (Pearse)
Continuing our study of Japan, 2nd grade artists then learned about a traditional Japanese method of fish printing called gyotaku, which began in the mid 1800's. In Japanese, "gyo" means "fish" and "taku" means "rubbing." We watched a TED video that explains the history of gyotaku, as well as the techniques. Gyotaku allowed fisherman to keep a record of their catch, both the size of the fish and the species, before cameras existed. Eventually, it became its own art form and is practiced today both in and outside of Japan. 
For our own gyotaku printing experience, we used rubber fish, instead of real ones -- they smell a lot better! We watched a demonstration to understand the steps involved and then each table made prints of their rubber fish. 

First, we painted tempera paint onto the fish using a brush. We began with black paint, to mimic the sumi ink that is traditionally used in Japan. After brushing paint all over the fish, you take paper -- we used newsprint paper, to mimic traditional rice paper -- and place it on top of the fish. 
We pressed the paper down to get all the different parts of the fish and capture the textural details. Then we lifted the paper off to reveal the fish print! We put our finished prints in the drying rack. Everyone printed one with black paint, and then another with color. We experimented with different colors to emphasize the shape and different parts of the fish. 
Next class, we learned about three different watercolor painting techniques to create the background for our fish print. The first technique we learned about was wet-on-wet, which involves painting the paper with water first and then dropping or painting with watercolor on top for a blurry effect. The second technique was blotting, which involves dabbing and removing some of the paint with a paper towel. The last technique, which was the most popular, was using salt! 
After painting an area, students sprinkled some salt on top and watched as the salt absorbed the water in the paint to create blooms and different textures. For our last class, we selected our best gyotaku print, cut out the fish and glued it on top of the painted paper. 

As a final step, we added a chop, or signature, to the bottom of our painting using red marker. We looked at examples of this in traditional Japanese paintings. Many students chose to use their initials or nickname, or a symbol that represents them as an artist. Students used the same signature on both their gyotaku artwork and cherry blossoms painting. Below are examples of our finished gyotaku projects!
Aaron, 2nd Grade (McIsaac)
Abena, 2nd Grade (McIsaac)
Darya, 2nd Grade (McIsaac)
Elizabeth, 2nd Grade (McIsaac)
Anna, 2nd Grade (McIsaac)
Jashua, 2nd Grade (McIsaac)
Mera, 2nd Grade (McIsaac)

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