February Blues

Teaching Art

Usually the month of February is represented by the colours red and pink because of Valentine’s Day, and here in the far East, Chinese New Year. This year I thought I would shake things up a bit so instead we focused on the colour blue. From Picasso’s blue period to cobalt blue design work on porcelain vases from a variety of cultures and countries, blue is in and red is out. However, because of the cultural relevance of Chinese New Year in Asia, I still needed to make my art lessons link to China without using red. So, our lower primary students created Ming Vases and upper primary students created Willow Ware.

The Ming Vase lesson is a popular one on Pinterest and, guilty, I pilfered must of my plan from there. However, I can give you some tips on how to execute this lesson effectively without you wanting to smash the Ming vases. For starters, I created vase templates which were half  of the vase. Younger students could trace both sides of the vase, the older students only traced one side and then used the centre mid-line and drew the other side. Be sure to make the vases on the smaller side to limit the amount of time spent on the next step. This was my first mistake.

After a quick lesson on value and shading, students coloured the entire vase with oil pastels. Using light, medium and dark blue, students showed where the light was shining to help make the vase appear three dimensional.

Next, they painted over the entire vase with a mixture of gesso and white poster paint. My second mistake was using only gesso which peeled off rather than scratched off. You can do a second coat to make the white whiter but make sure it is thin. Then, once dry, students can scratch different Chinese themed imagery using shish kabob screwers.

Lastly, students cut the vases out and glued them on a background. I chose to make the vase look like it was sitting on a shelf and then reinforced value and shading by having students add the vases’ shadow. Students also wrote their Chinese name on the front which was a nice touch. However, one cheeky student actually wrote, ‘I don’t like Chinese’ knowing very well I couldn’t read it. It’s all Chinese to me!

For the Willow Ware lesson, students watched a short video that explained the most famous Willow Ware story. From there, students sketched designs that told a story for their own plate. Using blue colour pencil, students sketched their design onto a paper plate. Make sure the plates you use are thick and absorbent enough to withstand watercolour paints. Students then used different blue hues to paint their plates.

The Ming Vases and Willow Ware make beautiful displays as well as allow for cross curriculum opportunities. Bye bye February blues, hello year of the monkey!

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