Summertime art opportunity in Yokohama

Hello parent & students,

If you are looking for some outside-the-home art activities, you might look into SmartStart in the Motomachi area. It was formerly run by a YIS parent and then sold to another owner.

They offer 4 different classes:

  • Arts & Crafts for children 3-6 years old;
  • Science Arts for children 3-6 ;
  • Arts & Crafts for 6 and older;
  • Art Classics for 8 and older.

Their summer school runs from July 16 – August 23, 2013, and they offer other classes and services.


*NOTE: I have brochures in my classroom. Please feel free come pick one up!

  • Their website is here:
  • You can email Aki Naito at, and the phone number is 045-680-0506 (Mon-Sat 9:00-17:00).
  • The address is: 6F Motomachi SKY Bldg., 5-203 Motomachi Naka-ku, Yokohama Kanagawa 231-0861

If your children do SMARTSTART this summer, please let me know what you think of it. You can email me your feedback at:


Drawing during vacation?!?!

I know that some students love drawing. Some of you love drawing after school, over the weekends, and on vacations. If you plan to do some drawing during the summer and want to practice your observational drawing (meaning that you want to learn to draw real things more realistically), then watch the following two videos.

This short instructional video reviews the basic steps to drawing realistically from observation (this mean: by looking closely at the thing you’re trying to draw):
*And always draw very LIGHTLY at first, so you can erase those lines easily later on.

The second video is a bit longer, reviews the same ideas, but goes into a bit more depth:

The key thing is to look closely at the different types of lines and shapes you see on the thing you’re drawing.

Don’t forget to have your eraser by your side. Erasing is important! It means that you’ve noticed something about your drawing that you can do better! So just erase your first effort and try again.

“If you are not making mistakes, you’re not taking enough risks.” – Debbie Millman, artist & designer



Young Artists Group ESA propose a new mural for Y.I.S.

After finishing their first mural (check it out here), the ten young artists who participate in the Young Artists Group ESA began preparing for their next visual adventure, another effort to increase the on-campus art here at YIS.  The chosen space is the wall at the bottom of the outdoor stairway leading from the ES level up to the main building and library.

It should be noted that there has been an existing mural on the wall which was made some years back by YIS students (a number of whom are still here at school!). The existing artwork had some simple colors — early green and brown with a light blue sky above — painted on the concrete wall, as well as many colorful ceramic sculptures adhered to the wall to evoke a landscape.

The young artists decided to incorporate these clay sculptures into their new landscape idea, and so the ceramic pieces have been left intact. But what was needed was to start fresh with a so-called clean slate (or at least, a white concrete wall). And so part of our Session 3 ESA time was spend painting the wall with a permanent white paint, being careful not to cover the existing sculptures. The other part of our ESA time together was spent addressing the big challenge before us: What new image will we paint on the wall?

Realizing that the wall is part of our entire school and is for the enjoyment of the entire school community (students, teachers, parents, staff, and our visitors) the young artists had many discussions about what would be appropriate to represent. We focused the mural as a landscape with Japan as a theme, including incorporating a traditional Japanese pattern, and then — after much brainstorming and back and forth — finally voted for the five most important ideas to represent in the mural: Mt. Fuji, sakura, shinkansen, ocean waves, and cats & kittens.

The artists split themselves into two groups, and each produced a proposed illustration of what the mural might look like. Each group then created their own presentation, rehearsed it, and filmed it. The presentations and illustrations have been submitted to our director, Mr. MacDonald, along with all the principals and head administrators, and we are now awaiting their feedback.

You will have to wait until next year to see the outcome and watch the mural develop. In the meantime, above are some pictures of the young artists at work along with each group’s proposed illustration and their video presentations (see above).

2nd Graders complete (and launch) their storybooks

A final post for the 2nd graders here — to announce that after long, arduous, and impressive work, the young authors & illustrators have completed their storybooks and held their book launch for parents.

See the images of the children at work illustrating and binding (as well as some of their favorite pages) below — and previous posts here and here — to get an idea of what went into this massive project. And if you haven’t read any of their stories, find a second grader today and ask!

Down in the park: Kindergarten artists

The lovely spring weather saw the kindergarten artists take a walk with sketchbooks in hand to the park across the street from the school to explore the plants, flowers, trees, walkways, fellow nature-lovers and artists, and to see what sorts of things we might like to draw from observation. Students chose from pencils, ink pens, and colored pencils to sketch their chosen scene.

The park art-adventure is part of our shared unit focused on the idea that people use a variety of languages to communicate their ideas and feelings. Even when drawing from observation (and not imagination), the young artists are able to express themselves by virtue of the subjects they choose to draw and in the way they do so. The children have spent much time this year learning to combine different formal elements — line, shape, color, texture — in order to create specific effects.

Look below to see what happened at the park:

4th Graders realize that Math + Imagination = Art

The fourth graders have been combining some new art skills (sketching, planning, cutting, gluing, building, constructing) with some new math skills (geometry, three-dimensional forms) — then adding a bit of their own imaginations — to create some very original sculptures.

After being challenged to create five basic 3-D forms (cube, pyramid, cone, cylinder, and sphere) using only paper, scissors, pencil, tape, and glue (from a hot glue gun) during the first day of this unit, the students then were asked to think of what new sculpture — what object, person, animal, fictional character, etc — they would love to make for themselves.  After brainstorming, sketching ideas, drawing their proposed sculpture, and making a detailed plan of how to go about constructing it (complete with each type of three-dimensional form labeled), each student began building with paper, cardboard, found materials, and some random things found around the art studio.  The requirements for the students were to use a minimum of three different types of forms in one’s sculpture and that the sculpture could be a maximum of 30 centimeters in any direction.  Once the “skeleton” was constructed, students covered it with a “skin” of paper macho, and then finally painted the finished artwork to their satisfaction.

See the student artists busy at work below!

Third Graders verbally critique their latest projects

As you may have read and seen in a recent blog post (click here if you missed it), the 3rd graders have just finished constructing their latest sculptures. This week the students are spending time in art class critiquing — describing, analyzing, interpreting, and judging — their artworks.

Check the Twitter feed in the righthand column of this blog (where it says “THE LATEST TWEETS!”) and click next to any Third Grade student’s name: you’ll automatically be taken to a new window where you can see the child’s sculpture and — by clicking the PLAY button — hear each young artist critique their work.

Congratulations to the students on a project well done and well critiqued!

5th Grade ponders mistakes and risk-taking as they prepare for Middle School

At the beginning of art class this week, the 5th graders were presented with a quote — “If you are not making mistakes, you are not taking enough risks” — by artist and designer Debbie Millman.

The students were asked to consider this idea about mistakes & risk-taking by responding to the following question: Why is this idea important for Grade 6 art students?  Below are their thoughts.

Tuesday, class 5G:

“Making mistakes is better because make you learn and thing [think].” – Ares

“I agree with this because when you try something new you take a risk and you make mistakes. It’s important in 6th grade because in 6th grade you try new things.” – Kiyoka

“I think this is important for us because we have to be risk-takers even you makes mistakes and humans are perfect and its okay to make mistake. You make mistakes, you learn form the mistakes and you get better.” – Reina

“Because if you don’t take a risk you will be shocked or you will think I can’t do this enymore.” – Sayo

“I think you need it for 6th graders because you’ll need to do a better job than now and you learn from mistakes.” – William

“I think that this tells people that if you can make mistake that mean you are taking risks. Because it proves that you are risk taking and you can trust yourself to make mistake. Because you can learn from mistakes.” – Sae

“I think making mistake is good because if you don’t make mistake it mean your not trying and if you make mistake you should try to make it better.” – James

” I think this is not true because making alot of mistakes mean to get scolded alot.” – George

“Because from taking risks you learn to always take risks and if you make mistakes you learn from them. So always taik a risk.” – Brazil

“I think it is not good to not take risk and making mistake because if you make a mistake you will learn a lot from it so you can do it better next time.” – Shannah

“I think that people should take risk to improve there skills and we need to take risk to talk.” – Phillip

“Because in 6th grade you do new things! It’s OK to make mistakes. Mistakes -> challenging. Mistakes -> take more risks. Mistakes -> it makes you become closer to perfect.” – Nina

“I think it because when you will be in 6 grade, you will take a lot of risk. So you need to try.” – Toma

“I think it is important for 6th graders because they need to know how do things right and better so for harder projects you will be able to do it easily. And when you take risks and get it right, then you find a new way to do things.” – Akhil


Wednesday, class 5W:

“This idea is important for the grade 6 because if they make something they already do they will never learn.” – Ryan

“Because that is the best way to learn and if you don’t make mistakes you’ll never know how to fix them.” – Lente

“This is important for Grade 6 art students because it shows them that they don’t have to be scared to make mistakes. It also tells them that life is all about taking risks, and if you take risks you try new things.” – Amelia

“Because if you don’t take risks you wont make mistake so you won’t try new thing. Because when you try new things you can learn from what you did.” – Isabelle

“I you don’t make mistakes it means that you are not trying new things. Because when you make mistake it means you were trying something but it didn’t do it as you expected. It’s important to learn from your mistakes.” – Ceci

“Do mistakes and learn by doing it. You should to mistakes and learned from it.” – Oscar

“This idea is good because when you get older you will have to do many more risks. And you can learn from those mistakes.” – Anna

“I think that is right because if you don’t make much mistakes, your not challenging yourself and if you don’t challenge yourself you won’t know how to do anything.” – Rei

“I think you are not taking enough risks because if you took risk you might fail. If you take risk you can learn new things.” – Kenryo

“It’s important because the point is to communicate. No matter if you make mistakes. Unless you communicate. Communicate helps your work gets better.” – Ryu

“Cause if you don’t take risk you’re not making mistakes and if you don’t make mistake you won’t learn anything. Also by taking risk you can get new ideas.” – Haruna

“It would be important because no boy in this work is not perfect. Which means it is impossible. You have to make mistakes because you will not learn.” – Everest

“It is important because it will make us risk takers, so that we can discover new ways of working.” – Athul

“I think it is important because if you don’t make mistakes, you can never learn.” – Meg

“I think if we make mistakes, we get experience.” – Leon

“It is important because if you don’t take risks you don’t know the outcome of the risk because then you don’t learn new things.” – Grace

“If you don’t take risk you would not learn anything. By making mistakes you learn new things.” – Hyun-Seo


Thursday, class 5B:

“I think its right because art is about playing around with paints and mixing stuff and if you’re too careful, you will not invents a new stuff and you will not sucess.” – Yu-Jin

“I think if you take risks that mens you not make mestakes. I think it is a good thing to take risks because wen you rode your first time your bicycle you take risks.” – Julian

“Because as you get older, you need more hard experience that means.” – Shoichi

“This matters ’cause if you do mistake you learn more about it. For example you go out to present a speech and you make a mistake and you do that in front of loads of people you take a risk.” – Hana E.

“If you take a risk, you can do more things to fix and create.” – Wongyung

“I think it is important for Gr 6 art students because you can improve your work by making a mistake.” – Vienna

“I think that is true because when I try doing a skill that I’ve never done before in gymnastics and I make mistakes, but whenever I do a skill that I already know, I don’t make any mistakes. When you make mistakes you can go further and you can improve.” – Elena

“It’s important because it means that you got a try to gues sometime so you will fail and learn from you’re mistakes.” – David

“It means you’re not trying your hardest at what your doing. Learn form your mistakes.” – Owen

“You won’t improve if you don’t make mistake and risks.” – Kai

“If you take risks you might find out that you are good at different thing. It is also important to try new thing.” – Liam

“This is important Gr. 6 students because if you don’t make mistakes you won’t be able to arrange the mistakes to a cool thing.” – Julynn

“Being messy is art and when you make mistakes you learn from it so if you don’t make any mistake, then you don’t get better.” – Andreas

“I think it’s important because if you don’t make mistakes you don’t learn anything.” – Kelly

“I think it is important for art because art dose not have a right answer. So people could learn from them or even fix it and change it a little bit.” – Hana C.

” I think this is important because if you don’t make mistakes, you can’t think in lots of ways.” – Shion

Third Grade confronts limitations and glue guns

The 3rd graders began the school year in art class by working in three-dimensions, learning to manipulate two-dimensional pieces of paper to create 3D sculptures independently and, next, working collaboratively to construct new sculptures — developed from a detailed plan, larger, made of a variety of materials, and containing personal symbolism to represent themselves and the Third Grade as a whole.

After a long break to work two dimensionally on developing original comic strips (see earlier Grade 3 post), the Third Graders are back working in three dimensions. But this time, rather than create a plan first and then deciding on the materials after, this time the students were presented with a limited type and amount of materials (primarily scrap wood pieces but also including — if they wished also to incorporate some or all — wire, string, fabric, paper, and paint). And in working with and playing with — and sometimes building, breaking apart, and reconstructing — these materials, the students created original sculptures in a different manner than previously. Some students chose to create realistic things (a restaurant, a boat, a video game), others made abstract sculptures, and some built highly imaginary, partly realistic, partly abstract creations.

See the young artists at work (below) and hear their critiques of their artworks on the Twitter feed to the right (look for the artists’ first names):

First Graders explore Life Cycles in three dimensions

In their homeroom classes the 1st graders focused on the central idea that all living things go through a process of change. The students studied a variety of living things, and then each child chose a particular one to focus on for his or her art project. After some discussion and review of a ‘life cycle’ in art class and then practicing drawing the chosen mammal (or insect or plant, etc), the students began to think about how they could communicate the concept of a life cycle — not only visually but also in three dimensions.

The children worked diligently to create multiple sculptures from plasticine so as to represent the beginning, middle, and end of their tiger’s or tree’s or penguin’s life cycles. Once their sculptures were completed — after being pushed to develop further their modeling and painting skills — the students then constructed three-dimensional dioramas from paper, pencil, pastels, markers (and words), creating environments for their artwork in which to present their new knowledge and skills. With the sculptures installed in the dioramas, the students were ready to present their projects to the other students, to teachers, and to parents at their Friday assembly performance.

Below, see the students at work on their sculptures and dioramas, see some of their finished projects, and see the display of their work at the Friday assembly.