Introducing Chinese Painting

Term: 4 Year: 2015

I spent 2013/2014 teaching English and studying Chinese Art in China. I enjoyed the experience and plan to return in a few years time. My main objective was to familiarise myself with traditional Chinese methods so I could teach my students when I returned. 

Upon returning I taught the Yarra Road Primary School students about traditional Chinese painting and they thoroughly enjoyed this. Before visiting China, I was reluctant to teach the subject because I knew so little about it. What I discovered is, you don’t need to be a master, and all you need is the right equipment, (a few good digital copies of the masters, and interesting stories that fit the pictures. The internet has heaps of paintings and stories that will engage your students.

My classes loved learning how to hold a Chinese paint brush and painting thin and thick lines as well as wet and dry lines. Their painted lines were relaxed and fluid because they were too busy remembering how to use the brush. The secret is you always keep the brush tip pointed to paint thin lines and press harder for thicker lines. The first lesson was simply how to use the brush. 

These are a few examples of the units I taught my students: 

Grade 3 & 4: Paradise Flycatcher and Osmanthus by Qi Baishi. When the two birds are painted together it means fortune, longevity, and honour. This painting is often given as a gift to married couples.

Grades 5 & 6: The Pine Tree and Crane by Qi Baishi. Feng Shui meaning - The Crane along with the Phoenix means good luck, longevity and peace.

Chinese paintings are full of symbols and famous stories from the past. The two paintings I included are about birds and plants. But the list is endless. I have covered (my favourite) animals, celebrations (such as the New Year) and historical love stories.

You don’t have to be a master to introduce Chinese painting. It’s simply finding the right painting to suit your lesson. Don’t worry about the lines being correct, children never cease to surprise when they attempt new art styles. Their desire to learn always makes teaching a pleasure. Chinese painting is a discipline that takes many years to master, we are just learning about it. Finally don’t forget to use the internet to find the students Chinese names so they can sign their work in red marker or if you want to you can create a chop (signature stamp) by carving into a rubber or small piece of Soft Cut Carving Block.

Kerry-Ann Halliday
Visual Art Specialist
Yarra Road Primary School

Supporting teachers in creative education
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