Teaching Art

Every Chinese New Year there is always an urge and an expectation to create something ‘Chinese’ to help celebrate the culture and holiday in which we live. And every year, we see the same projects being cranked out on Instagram and Pinterest. You all know them, the straw blown black branches with Q-tip pink cherry blossoms or the various versions of the construction paper lanterns. This year, my partner and I sought something different, a unit that would yield deeper learning of process while tying in a local Hong Kong artist. Our efforts paid off as we embarked on an ambitious project to begin the Year of the Dog!

IMG_1735 Wanting to glean inspiration from the city in which we live, our unit began with looking at the artwork of Francesco Letti. An Italian artist, Francesco lives and works in Hong Kong and is well known for his Hong Kong-themed collages and paintings. Although best known for his Hong Kong skyline collages, we focused on his lesser-known watercolor and pastel paintings of dim sum tables. After drawing their own teapots, bowls and dim sum baskets from observation, students looked at Franceso’s artwork. With Franceso’s artwork being more playful and exaggerated, students discussed the difference between drawing from your imagination and drawing from observations.

Dim Sum G1.jpg

Students then painted over their pencils drawings with white acrylic paint before using dark blue paint markers to add designs and decorations.

After painting the canvas blue or yellow, students used templates to mark where the table would be in their background and then painted the table top using a watered down maroon acrylic paint.


After a discussion about composition, students arranged their items on their canvas followed by gluing each item down with latex glue.

Students worked really hard to create these impressive works of art that showcased a variety of skills and technique – we put it all on the table!

As a self-assessment and a time to reflect on their learning, students participated in a Critique which all artworks were complete. In pairs, the students had to view their classmate’s artwork and place a Critique Card next to the artwork that they thought had the strongest composition, another card for careful painting and gluing, one for excellent observational drawing and a card for someone whom they thought tried their very best.

This unit was mutually rewarding as it taught many different processes, included inspiration from a local artist and life in Hong Kong and produced individually unique works of art by early learners.

These artworks unleashed the artistic abilities of our 1st graders and proved to them and others, that the Year of the Dog was going to hear them howl!

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