Amezaiku: a traditional Japanese candy craft art

In art class this week, the children are watching this video, to see a glimpse into a small and disappearing subculture of art & cuisine. In Tokyo, you can visit the workshop or showroom of this artist, Shinri Tezuka, who makes amezaiku, traditional edible candy sculptures.

It is said Japanese amezaiku originated in the 8th century. During the Edo period, craftsmen peddled amezaiku on the street, as a kind of entertainment for the common people. The technique of amezaiku has no detailed written documentation and has been inherited from person to person over generations. Today in Tokyo, there are only two remaining Amezaiku craftsmen.

Tezuka-san’s website can be viewed HERE (in English) and HERE (in Japanese).

Art students begin their first units of inquiry

The elementary students are a few weeks into their art classes now, working on their first unit projects. Students are learning — little by little — about themselves as creators, about how to communicate, to take risks, to reflect on their work, and about how to be independent, responsible art students.

Kindergarten  –  In our first unit of inquiry, we’ve started by looking at the concept of Change and how personal journeys show the way that people change and can lead to new opportunities. These young artists have observed and discussed a variety of other artists’ self-portraits, have drawn their own self-portraits from observation, have experimented with a variety of materials as they developed their drawings, and explored different lines, shapes, and colors in creating 3-D crowns. At the same time, the students are becoming familiar with the elementary school art studio, learning what and where our materials and tools are, and practicing being responsible, cooperative classmates in storing their artwork properly and cleaning up their workspaces.

Grade 1  –  Families, family history, and the concept of Reflection are our focus at the moment, in our unit about Where We Are In Place And Time. The young students are practicing how to draw people realistically, both by observation — using mirrors — and with a step-by-step drawing process, from simple shapes and lines to more complex details. We will soon be reflecting on our own family histories. Later, each young artist will create a large family portrait as a way to communicate his or her unique family history.

Grade 2 – These young artists are focusing on the concept of Connection and how people can be enriched by their own cultures and the cultures they connect with throughout their lives, in this first unit about Where We Are In Place And Time. In art class, they have been practicing various modeling techniques with playdough in creating realistic human heads — using their hands and a variety of tools. Soon, the students will focus on a particular person in each of their lives, someone with whom each student celebrates a certain, significant cultural event. And the students will then create original sculptures of these people using clay and colored glazes.

Grade 3 – Three-dimensional sculpture and the concept of Reflection are the current focus for these students, along with the overarching notion that exploring and creating collaboratively helps individuals understand themselves and each other better. Thus far in this unit looking at Who We Are, these young artists made several practice sculptures, experimenting with different methods of manipulating paper. Now they are beginning to work collaboratively in small groups to create large sculptures, in a variety of media, which reveal something about themselves and their interests, individual strengths, and desires.

Grade 4 – The Grade 4 students are currently learning about organisms in this Sharing The Planet unit, focusing on the concept of Connection. In art class they are beginning to see how the natural world can be a rich source for imaginative artistic creation. We are looking at several artists who use nature as inspiration for imaginative, fantastical imagery. The students are now practicing drawing nature from observation and will soon attempt to transform these realistic sketches into imaginative pictures of whatever fantasies their minds create — all with a focus on the connections between the world outside us and the world we create inside our minds.

Grade 5 – In their homeroom classes, these students have been focusing on the idea of conflict, on how conflict affects lives, and on the concept of Perspective, in this first Sharing The Planet unit. In art class, we have been looking at, discussing, and practicing how to create self-portraits. The students are also learning that portraits can be either realistic or abstract, that faces need not look ‘perfect’ to represent someone or their feelings or personality. Soon the students will reflect on a situation of conflict in their own lives and attempt to communicate it through a self-portrait, and they will have elements in their portraits which are both realistic and abstract.

Welcome to Art Class 2016-17

AReed profile pic

Hello students and parents,

It’s Mr. Reed here, getting ready to begin learning and working and creating with the Kindergarten and Grade 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 students in Art Class!

I wish you a warm welcome back to school for those of you who are returning, and for those of you new to Y.I.S. and/or to Japan, I hope you are finding your way around well (please don’t hesitate to ask questions).

We’re soon to begin our ES art classes, to reacquaint ourselves with one another, to welcome our new classmates, and to dive right into our first art projects. As you know, the ES art classes follow the Primary Years Program (PYP) and are well integrated into the work the children are doing across their various classes and subjects. It’s an exciting place to learn and grow and push new boundaries.

I look forward to meeting you at the upcoming Back To School Night on Wednesday, September 7th. Please do feel free to drop into my classroom — room E-203, upper floor, K-1 building — at anytime to ask questions or simply to say ‘hello’.

Best to you all in 2016-17,

Aaron Reed

Grade 1 creates life cycle dioramas

photo © by A.Reed

photo © by A.Reed

In their homeroom classes, the Grade 1 students examined how all living things go through a process of change. With Ms. Zoe and Ms. Saito the students looked at the cycles of life, how the creatures in our world change over their lifetime. And so in art class we have focused on the key concept of Change, as the children created artwork in response to a variety of stimuli. In so doing, they were challenged to identify a chosen living creature, to plan a way to visually display its particular life cycle, and then to make specific choices of materials, tools, and processes.

The students came to art class with much knowledge and many ideas from their homeroom inquiry. And after several weeks of work, they recently completed their life cycle dioramas — having utilized colored paper, pencils, colored pencils, oil pastels, scissors, staplers, soil, sticks, leaves, playdough, toothpicks, popsicle sticks, paint & paintbrushes, beads, rocks & pebbles, paste, wire, hot glue guns, and other media. Ultimately, these art students have attempted to transform ideas and materials into three-dimensional dioramas designed to educate their audience (parents and other students) about the various life cycles of living creatures.

photo © by A.Reed

photo © by A.Reed

The parent-sharing day is coming soon. All their dioramas are currently on display in the Grade 1 classrooms. Come have a look!

Grade 3: Can Comic Strips Save The Environment?

In their homeroom classes, Grade 3 students focused on the environment in Unit 4, learning about some critical global & local issues by focusing on the central idea that the choices people make as they buy and consume things can lead to the creation of waste. And so in art class, we extended that idea into the visual world, looking at how artists combine images and text to convey understandings and beliefs about important societal issues through the key concept of responsibility.

photo © by A.Reed

photo © by A.Reed

Having examined the comic strips and graphic novels of a variety of artists, the students began by sketching characters and drawing styles which are appealing to them. Later they identified a theme or aspect of the unit — waste, litter, recycling, reusing, and so on — which each student found important from his or her work in the homeroom class. From there, students created a simple plot, original characters, and decided what genre of comic strip they would try to create: humor, adventure, mystery, scary, science fiction, or romance.

photo © by A.Reed

photo © by A.Reed

After making rough drafts, students moved on to the final draft, incorporating the drawing process (1. simple shapes & lines, 2. refine the shapes, 3. add the details), text (with speech-bubbles and thought-bubbles), black ink, and color, along with the concept of balance. Lastly, each young artist created a name for his/her new comic strip, labeling it at the top of their creations in whatever font or style they choose.

The students’ finished comic strips are now being exhibited in the stairwell of the K-1 building, along with their original notes of their plans. Throughout the unit, students focused on using appropriate terminology to discuss artwork and on creating an artwork for a specific audience, all while looking at the role of the artist as a contributing member of society.

photo © by A.Reed

photo © by A.Reed

Kindergarten explore their growth through reflection, materials, and imagination

photo © by A.Reed

photo © by A.Reed

The kindergarten students have been very busy creating a class picture book, individual personal storybooks, and individual sculptures. Our initial central idea in kindergarten this year is that “personal journeys show the way that people change and can lead to new opportunities.” And a recent central idea that we have been addressing is that “materials can be manipulated to suit a purpose”.

photo © by A.Reed

In art class over the past two months, the students have been addressing both of these notions as they express their learning and their desires visually in both two and three dimensions. A big event in the kindergarten class was their trip to a sweet potato farm. And so in art class we created an original book, The Sweet Potato Farm, with color illustrations and narrative words documenting the students’ learning and growth before, during, and after their trip.

photo © by A.Reed

photo © by A.Reed

Later, these young artists progressed in a different direction with their work by exploring, manipulating, and transforming a variety of materials for stated reasons into personally imagined pieces of art. Having visited the Grade 12’s DP Art Exhibition recently, the students became aware of the “artist’s statement” and how artists explain the meaning or purpose or their work and their process. So in the library exhibition of the Kindergarten students’ sculptures, visitors can read each young artist’s statement about their own work.

photos © by M.Swatphakdi

photos © by M.Swatphakdi

We took the time to:

1. to look at, question, enjoy experiencing, discuss the various types of two- and three-dimensional works made by other artists (looking at pictures, watching videos, and examining others’ artworks);

2. to identify the materials and processes other artists use in the creation of their artworks, as well as to look at where these materials come from and how they are manufactured;

3. to realize that our artwork has meaning;

4. to experiment with some different materials that can be used to create 2-D and 3-D artwork, such as those that come from wood, metal, plastic, plants: we’ve explored and used paper, felt, aluminum foil, toothpicks, popsicle sticks, burlap, paper & plastic straws, ribbon, wire, pipe cleaners, foam, spools, cotton, string, uncooked pasta, scissors, glue, tape, staplers, hole punches, colored pencils, paints, markers, and pastels);

5. to explore the various processes that artists can employ with these materials and tools to create what they envision and to discover new ideas.

photo © by A.Reed

photo © by A.Reed

Through this exploration and by making decisions for themselves, the young students have created original storybooks and 3-D artworks. The next time you see a kindergarten student at recess, ask him or her to explain the sculpture that he/she has created in art class. Or ask to to read and see their class pictures book: The Sweet Potato Farm. And don’t forget to visit their library sculpture exhibition!

photo © by A.Reed

photo © by A.Reed

Grade 5’s journey into Aesthetics

The Grade 5 students spent nearly 2 months focusing on AESTHETICS and the central idea that aesthetic expression can be influenced by a culture’s history and values.

Looking at how traditions are related across genres and over time and at how local traditions are similar and different to one’s home culture, the students focused initially on Japan. Concepts such as “wabi-sabi” (beauty in imperfection, hidden & transient beauty) and “ma” (space, such as the space in between sounds) were focal points, as were various Japanese arts which students were able to explore and research according to their interests.

In art class, this How We Express Ourselves unit began and ended with each student defining the word “beauty” for him/herself. On that first day, the students were presented with a pile of trash and discarded stuff and challenged to “make something beautiful”. Here are the results:

In the intervening weeks, students engaged in a variety of activities, culminating in each student’s presentation of an original work of art or design:

  • Explored an interactive PowerPoint experience (“Japanese Arts & Aesthetic Exploration”) to pursue the traditional Japanese arts they wanted to learn more about: calligraphy, ceramics, flower arranging/ikebana, tea ceremony, architecture, dolls, paper folding/origami, painting, gardens, sculpture, printmaking/ukiyo-e.
  • Two engaging visits from the artists Shoichi & Colleen Sakurai, who (1) introduced the students to the concept of “wabi sabi” and kicked-off their Wabi Sabi Project — creating wearable art from found and discarded materials — and (2) returned to assist the students’ in creating their projects.
  • Experimentation with specific Media, Tools, and Processes in art class, to be used in the creation of their Wabi Sabi Art.

Photos of Shoichi & Colleen’s presentation…

…and the children working with Shoichi & Colleen (and their amazing power tools!)

The Aesthetics unit culminated with the children’s presentation of their own wabi-sabi projects. Projects created from random trash and discarded objects included: handbags, a rain-protective bike helmet, picture frames, hats, a dartboard, a dress, a Christmas ornament, a sun-powered lamp, a candlelit lamp, a game, a cooking apron, a baby’s toy, necklaces, an ornamental wall hanging, a ring/jewelry, and a lot more. As the students presented their creations to the audience, a partner read their self-reflection which described their process, their materials, and their inspiration.

Presentation photos (above) credit: Ed Lemery

This unit of study is a one on which nearly all the Grade 5 teachers (homeroom, arts, and Japanese) collaborated. It has been an enlightening and engaging experience for students and teachers alike. We’ll end with some of the students’ recent definitions of ‘beauty’:

  • “Beauty is the thing made by human that made with person’s feeling and time.”
  • “Beauty is something that is pleasing to the eye and makes you feel good.”
  • “Beauty is something that makes you love nature.”
  • “Beauty is something that expresses someone’s opinions through simplicity.”
  • “Beauty is a combination of shapes, lines, and colors which is aesthetically pleasing.”

Grade 2 artists create clay sculptures based on cultural celebrations

Earlier this year, the Grade 2 students focused on the central idea that people can be enriched by their own cultures and the cultures they connect with throughout their lives. In art class we focused on the personal connections the children make through their cultural celebrations.

The Grade 2 art students created clay sculptures: original artifacts of each student’s experience in reflecting on a cultural celebration that he/she experiences with family (and/or friends).  Having chosen a particular person whom the student associates with this cultural celebration, the children moved from the practice (play dough) stage to the final (clay) stage of their sculptures. The students have used these two videos to assist them in their work and to allow them to work at their own pace, accessing the desired instruction as needed. The first video focuses on the basic head, eyes, nose, and mouth forms:

The second video addresses additional details such as the teeth, lips, eyelids/eyelashes/eyebrows:

And — as the human nose seemed to be the most challenging facial feature to model — a third video was created later, as it became apparent that some students needed alternative approaches to sculpting a nose:

Having modeled and carved a head, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hair, and the related details in clay, the students attached the heads to a clay base and engraved the subject’s name. Once bisque-fired, the sculptures were glazed in color and finally glaze-fired.  The artworks were unfortunately not completed in time for display at the Cross Cultural Lunch in October; however, they are now complete and ready to share at the Student-Led Conferences this month.

Here are some images of the students at work in art class:

Grade 4 graphic designers create campaign posters

The Grade 4 students have completed their campaign posters, from a collaborative unit which focused on the central idea that the media can influence thinking and behavior. The students worked in small groups to develop their own media campaign on a subject of their choosing. In art class, the students learned about Contrast, Unity, and Balance as principles of design, and they used these guidelines to help them create a visual display (e.g. a campaign poster) to communicate their goal for their campaign. The students made much progress in learning how to communicate visually using Contrast, Unity, and Balance to create a simple, clear message with text and images.

Have a look at the students at work:

This year our Grade 4 graphic designers relied on both traditional tools (pencil & paper) and contemporary tools (laptops & digital apps) to help them to create their posters. Student had the choice of using their own drawings, photos they took themselves, and/or photos found with Creative Commons or other appropriate search tools. Creating and combining text & imagery with Google Drawing, the students were able to work collaboratively to achieve varied levels of successful visual communication through good contrast, unity, balance, and interesting imagery.

Both the students’ rough draft designs and their final version were shared with their peers globally on the website Creatubbles, where students both at YIS and in other schools worldwide could view and comments on their graphic design work. Our Grade 4 students used some of the constructive feedback to help them improve their visual communication. See the students’ work in these two galleries (you’ll need to join Creatubbles first, but it’s easy and free to do so): Gr.4 Rough Draft Posters and Gr.4 Final Posters.

The students’ final posters have been printed in color and being exhibited in the stairwell display area in the K-1 building. Ultimately, the goals for the Grade 4 art students were for them to provide constructive criticism when responding to an artwork, to recognize that different audiences respond in different ways to artwork, and to show an awareness of the affective power of the visual arts.

Grade 1 students create environmental treasures

In their homeroom classes, the Grade 1 students looked at the rights and responsibilities of people and living things — looking at how people have an impact on the environment. With Ms. Zoe and Ms. Saito the students discussed and considered our natural environment as well as the impact of the choices people make on that environment. And so in art class we have learned about sculpting and drawing living things (animals, insects, fish, birds, and so on) so as to transform to our downstairs hallway outside their Grade 1 classrooms. The students began by drawing various living creatures from observation (photographs) and then constructed large, three-dimensional paper sculptures of their favorite living creatures. It is these sculptures — these treasures — which now fill the hallway.

The following video shows the process the Grade 1 — and all ES students — use to become proficient at drawing what they see.  Limited to 10 minutes, the video is a basic overview and does not cover all the finer points of observational drawing. (Students can use this video to practice drawing at home)

how to draw what you see from YIS Academics on Vimeo.

The students first drew pictures and made small playdough sculptures of living creatures as a way to recreate their ideas in both two and three dimensions. We also read the books  The Butterfly’s Treasure by Schim Schimmel and Oi Get Off Our Train by John Burningham, both of which convey the beauty of the natural world and allude to the fragility of our environment. The students have had a variety of interesting reactions to these stories. We also had an opportunity to look at photographs of various living things and of the environments that they live in, and the students thus had the chance to observe and comment on how human beings can affect the natural environment and why they do so.

The Butterfly’s Treasure storybook cover (photo by A. Reed)

The children finished their large 3-dimensional sculptures of each student’s favorite creature in art class — using pencils, paper, paint, staples, foam, toothpicks, buttons, pipe cleaners and various other media — learning to express their opinions about art and to engage with and to enjoy a variety of visual art experiences. Now that all the sculptures are complete and the students have had a chance to reflect upon their work, the 1st grade hallway has been turned into our imaginary natural environment, filled with these “treasures”: animals, fish, bird, and insects. The students hope you will come visit their 3D art exhibition soon.