Friday, April 9, 2010

Fantastic Friday with the Arts - Japanese Folding Screens

Japanese artists make the loveliest folding screens, carved with designs and painted black. Some are made from wood frames and have hand-painted silk stretched in each panel. The paintings are often of flowers or landscapes. The Japanese also have a love for things that are very small, so miniature table top screens are a popular decoration. This week my art class made their own miniature paper folding screens to hold their favorite photos.

For this project, I asked each child to bring in four photos that they would like to have on their screen. I also had magazines on hand the day of the lesson for those kids who forgot to bring in their photos. Those kids were able to cut out pictures from the magazines to use on their screen.

The first step in this project is to fold construction paper to make their screens. Each child needs 2 pieces of 9"x12" paper. Both papers need to be folded in fourths in a fan type of fold. On one of the pieces, cut a small photo window at the top of each folded section. I did this step for the kids with an exacto knife. Next, tape one photo behind each photo window. Glue the second 9"x12"piece of paper to the back of the first to create the backside of the screen and to give the screen strength.

It is now time to paint the designs. We used black watercolor paint to simulate the black india ink that would be used by real Japanese screen artists. Black marker could be used as well. I printed out pictures of flowers for the kids to look at for ideas.

I also printed out some simple Japanese words in case they wanted to put some Japanese writing on their screen. They really seemed to enjoy painting the real Japanese characters.

This lessons is also a great time to teach the kids about the art of calligraphic line painting. Based on oriental calligraphy or "beautiful writing," calligraphic line is characterized by variations of line width and the power of a simple line to convey a complex feeling. I encouraged the students to use black ink with various sizes of brushes and sticks, practice making marks with different widths, directions and pressure.

Here is a finished miniature folding screen. This will make a terrific table decoration!

The kids seemed to really enjoy this project. They liked exploring the art of a different culture, and anytime they can include photos of their loved ones in an art project, it is a big hit!

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