My school students recently completed a unit focusing on craftsmanship, in preparation for taking on art inspired by China and Japan. In trying to understand what I was describing as craftsmanship, one boy mentioned ninjas as craftsmen. Well, hey! I can work with that! Ninjas are, indeed, well known for the excellence of what they do. I called my students to be ninja artists, the best at using their tools and media.
Our first practice project was with drawing tools, and I didn’t want them comparing drawing SKILL, but care in use of the TOOL. So we created an abstract marker drawing which had to have at least two straight lines utilizing a ruler. I LOVED these. I am even taking two of them to our art competition in Nebraska.
Then we worked on using our paints and brushes with good craftsmanship, while practicing changes in value. A Coke commercial inspired me to go polar, so third through sixth put a polar bear in theirs, and first and second grade put collaged penguins (more accessible to them). This was definitely more challenging for them, but I really enjoyed the results.
I hope to see the benefits of focusing specifically on craftsmanship as my ninja artists move into Asian art and its emphasis on excellence.