Art teachers today are looking for more and more ways to integrate the study of other cultures into their Art curriculum. By teaching multicultural lessons in Art class, students are able to gain a better understanding of the world around them, and learn outside the ‘easy’, typical study of the Western world. The following are ideas for lesson plans that teach students about Asian Art – China, Japan, Korea and India – that can be adapted to both elementary and junior high grades:
Asian Art Lesson Plan #1: Chinese Dragon Sculpture
After viewing examples and learning about the history and symbolism of the Chinese dragon, students will brainstorm and design an imaginary creature of their own. Students will then create a papier-mache sculpture of this mythical creature. After it has dried, students use acrylics or tempera to paint their sculpture, or add accessories.
Asian Art Lesson Plan #2: Japanese Woodblock Relief Prints
After studying the ‘Ukioye’ prints of master Japanese printmakers – such as Hokusai and Hiroshige – students learn the technique and process to woodblock relief printmaking. Next, they create a design for their own print, and transfer this onto a relief plate (such as Styrofoam). The design is carved into the plate, then the students ink the plates and create prints from their designs.
Asian Art Lesson Plan #3: Asian Ceramics: Glazed Pottery
Introduce students to the background of pottery and glazing techniques, which take root in ancient China. Show many examples of Asian pottery, including porcelain pieces. Demonstrate ceramic techniques – either hand-building, or by using the pottery wheel. Discuss texture, and when pieces are dry and fired, students cover their bisque with glazes.
Asian Art Lesson Plan #4: Japanese ‘Gyotaku’ Fish-Printing
Gyotaku literally means “fish printing” or “rubbing” in Japanese, and this technique started when Japanese fishermen needed to create permanent records of the fish they caught – so they inked one side of the fish and rolled it onto paper to create a transfer print. Show students examples, and demonstrate on either a real or rubber fish (available in Art catalogs). Roll ink onto one side of the fish evenly, then press paper against it and rub slowly so all of the texture of the fish transfers. Students may also add other details, backgrounds and other artistic details to the finished print.
Asian Art Lesson Plan #5: Korean Silk-Painting
Show students examples of Korean silk painting, and discuss common motifs (tigers, flowers, etc.). Demonstrate the technique of painting on silk (silk-painting class-packs can be purchased in Art catalogs). Students brainstorm ideas for their own artwork, then use the dyes to create their own silk painting.
Asian Art Lesson Plan #6: Chinese Paper-Cutting
Paper-cutting is a long-respected form of Art in China. Show examples of these intricately cut paper artworks to students. Show students how to create a ‘Notan’ collage – a particular way of cutting paper to create intricate, complex collages. Students practice, then create their own cut-paper artwork.
Asian Art Lesson Plan #7: ‘Sumi-e’ Ink Painting
Brush-painting with ink is also a long-respected Asian art form, as is calligraphy and writing. Show examples of ‘sumi-e’ ink paintings to students and discuss their history and symbolism. Demonstrate painting with ink, and how to create different washes and values. Students brainstorm, then create a ‘sumi-e’ ink painting of their own.
Asian Art Lesson Plan #8: Fabric and Tie-Dyeing
Discuss and show examples of the multi-cultural art of fabric dyeing, including the batik technique expertly done in India and other Asian countries. Demonstrate pleating, folding, binding and tying techniques to students, and show the results of those techniques when dye is applied. Students bring in their own t-shirts or other cotton fabrics to use, bind them appropriately, apply dye and ‘tie-dye’ their object.
Asian Art Lesson Plan #9: ‘Origami’ Sculpture
Show examples of ‘origami’ paper sculpture, and discuss how paper-folding came about as an Art form in Asian countries. Bring in plenty of interesting and patterned papers for students to use, or have them make their own papers. Demonstrate plenty of techniques for students, as well as have them research folding their own ‘origami’ sculptures (then teach them to their classmates).
Asian Art Lesson Plan #10: Modern-day Japanese Animation
Students today are very familiar with Japanese animation, anime and comics. Have students create their own storylines and movie features using the process of ‘Claymation‘. Break students up into teams, create their story, build sets and scenery, and construct characters out of polymer or modeling clay. With digital cameras and a simple video program, such as Windows Movie Maker, student teams can produce original film shorts.
It is important for today’s Art teachers to introduce their classes to artwork outside the ‘safe zone’ of American or European artists. By introducing your students to Asian art, you are exposing them to the greater world around them and how they – and the rest of the Art world – has been inspired by these global influences.