Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sumi-e Painting- RES

Ink wash painting is traditional in many East Asian countries, and goes by a different name in each. In Japan, it is called sumi-e. Second grade students at RES have been exploring this style of  painting, which uses black ink and bamboo brushes.

We began with looking at the traditional method of grinding an ink stick with water over a stone to produce ink. It takes quite a bit of time and strength to produce a very dark shade this way, but some students loved it and chose to use it for their paintings.  Most students used a concentrated, liquid type that can be mixed with water to achieve many shades.

Artworks began by preparing a surface onto which paintings would be made. To do this, artists created a sky with either a moon or sun and a color palette to match the sky at the time of day they chose to show.

While those dried, we looked at more examples of ink wash paintings, and discussed the philosophy behind sumi-e. The goal of artists painting in this style is not to accurately reproduce the object they are painting, but rather to paint how it feels, how it sounds and moves- its essential spirit.

Now, I tell you because that was the favorite part of second graders.  Their overall reaction was "You mean, it's okay if it doesn't look exactly right like real plants and bamboo?!"  They were astonished, relaxed, and feeling free to experiment.

Bamboo brushes have the amazing quality of being able to create both wide lines and lines as thin as a hair, all in the same brush. Sometimes even in the same brushstroke.

Second graders felt both freed and challenged by the idea that instead of essentially "drawing" with a paintbrush- trying show every leaf vein- a single leaf was instead created with a single brush stroke.

After practicing on scrap paper, students painted on their prepared backgrounds.

In lieu of writing a signature, sumi-e artists create a seal, or printed stamp, which acts as their name on artworks and documents.  These seals can be made of carved stone or carved wood traditionally.  RES artists made seals that were either an artistic arrangement of name letters or initials, or created a picture/symbol to represent their name.

In honor of National Poetry Month, these grade two students are working this week to write haiku poems about their artwork.  Here is a finished example:

morning light shining
bamboo swaying in the day
shining light on it

Hope you have a wonderful National Poetry Month!

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