I was really looking forward to ink working on sumi-e* with my 6th grade students. I made a big deal about ordering the special brushes and real rice paper and sumi ink because I was trusting them to try really hard. This was difficult for most students but I was just as frustrated by the lack of effort from some, as they were by learning a new media. I allowed one class period to practice using the brushes with diluted black tempera paint on regular paper and one class to use the "real" supplies and paint Kansas landscapes. I wanted the students to create landscapes from their place in the style of another place to make it really multi-cultural.
*In case you were wondering (I had to look it up,) "sumi" is the Japanese word for ink and "sumi-e" means ink painting.
|"Practice" painting from the 1st class. I like these better than the landscapes!|
The frustration had 2 causes. First, it was hard for the students to translate a photograph into the simpler style we saw in traditional sumi-e. I don't mean "simple" as in easy. I think it is hard to understand how a "simple" style and composition can be harder to plan. You have to get just the right balance. This part was my fault. I demonstrated using the brush and showed some videos from YouTube, but I didn't want to over-demonstrate and have all the paintings look the same. Maybe the students could have used more instruction.
The second cause was that my supply order didn't show up in time so they had to practice with tempera instead of ink. It was really hard for the students to achieve a value range with the real ink so after the first two classes, we switched back to black tempera.
Even though it was hard, and I admitted that I was learning too, most of the students did make an honest effort. Some, did not. I was tempted to bust out a "no-no" board when I saw giant suns and loopy flowers showing up because it translated as a lack of sincere effort. We stopped and talked about effort, craftsmanship, attitude, etc. The paintings I've included here were all by students who were really trying.
This painting was a major accomplishment! This was the only student to reference the little waterfall photo who actually used directional lines to differentiate between the rocks and the water while still showing texture.
So now I have lots of supplies leftover but I'm hesitant to try sumi-e again anytime soon. I think we'll paint with the ink on top of water and pull prints. I know there is a term for this besides marbling, I just can't remember what it is!