Tag Archives: China

The Age of Brain Fog

True confessions: I am so glad my art classes stop at 6th grade now. Something just happens around 12 or 13 to kids that appears to others around them as if huge segments of their neural networks have been posted “road closed.” Sometimes there are detours that leave bystanders scratching their heads in wonder and confusion, and sometimes it seems as if traffic has shut down altogether.

My youngest son is, well, over 12 and a half. He isn’t much for sticking to the well-worn path when his neural network is a beehive of smoothly operating roads. But now… let’s just say he isn’t always tracking with me. And guess what? He is one of my art students! He has created a number of fun art pieces for me, mostly as my student, and often only loosely guided by the project goals. (Some kids are just scouts, you know?) One of them is currently in the Gathering of the Talents in Nebraska, waiting to see if the judges there are as excited by it as they were the one I sent for him last year. But sometimes his unique spin on a project is more the result of working while “road closed.”

Remember the student brush art roosters? From a reference photo? My son was zoned for the description of brush art capturing the idea of the subject, lines suggesting wings and tail feathers. He seemed to pay attention as we walked through an observation of our subject together, yet he ended up asking me and his neighbors, “What am I supposed to do? I don’t get it. What am I painting?” He didn’t even follow what his fellow students tried to tell him. And this is his brush art rooster:

Essence of Rooster

Honestly, I love this rooster. I love how he blends color into color, yet maintains control of his overall figure. He still has no idea what we are looking for in a sample of this era of brush art, but he has so little fear of any medium. He rarely likes his own artwork, and I rarely see anything to dislike. I wish I could get more out of him.

His fellow 6th grader:

Definitely strutting his stuff.

Two views, one chicken.


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Filed under Art, Fifth/Sixth Grade, Teaching

Brushing up on Chinese Brush Art

All grades but Kindergarten spent the month of March learning to watercolor with Asian tools and methods. Well, not really…. There is far too much involved; but they have been introduced to the bamboo brush and its very different, rollable fingertip hold, as you saw in some of their bamboo paintings. After gaining a little familiarity with some of the brush strokes, and practicing with bamboo and Chinese characters, the third through sixth grades gave a little attempt at one certain Chinese style popular for a short time among the academics. I chose this not only for its goal of capturing simplicity and essence, but also for the strong influence this one school of Chinese painting had on our NEXT country, Japan.

A few brush art pandas:

This third grader's drips actually enhanced the subject.

Note the chops the students signed with; these were REALLY challenging for them!

This and the previous panda were fourth graders. This one seems to be standing, with hands on hips. Adorable!

We also had some colored roosters:

This fifth grader's rooster was painted from a reference photo of a very colorful bird.

this fifth grader's rooster seems very fierce to me.

We are finally through China, and after some free art this week, we’ll look at Japan. I am especially interested in how our first ever lino prints turn out!

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Filed under Art, Fifth/Sixth Grade, Teaching, Third/Fourth Grade

Introducing China…

Most of my classes are in the middle of a big unit on Chinese brush art. We are taking our time, focusing on not only craftsmanship, but also trying to get the hang of all-new tools and techniques. Third through sixth grades have been learning a few of the most basic calligraphy strokes, and have used them to create a bamboo background. The next step will be adding calligraphy characters for a fruit of the spirit to this background. I am considering letting them put it on clear paper and choosing a “best” to overlay on their background. Some bamboo examples:


I have been very pleased with how the students are catching on to the use of the new techniques and handhold for the bamboo brushes, with the watercolor, to achieve changes in value in their bamboo.


This student seems to have a natural feel for Asian art! Perhaps it is her name: Asia!

First and second grades started at the end, with their chops. I decided to use non-drying modeling clay for students to carve out their chops. I knew this would be a bit of a challenge for the younger students, since it requires envisioning the negative space and removing that, leaving a positive image. It was even harder than I expected. Most of my students have a chop now, though! I wish I could have afforded Sculpley clay, though, because it would be nice to be able to bake the finished product into something a little more durable. Enough use of the softly modeled chop wears it down in the less gentle printers. Some first and second grade chops:

This student managed the backward image to get a positive letter after a couple of tries!

Simple is often best!

Some letters don't have to be reversed, of course.

a die! Great, simple idea!

I really look forward to seeing how all the students projects turn out!

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Filed under Art, Teaching