Our Young Artists Exhibit

The annual YIS Elementary School Art Exhibition has begun!

DATE & TIME: Saturday February 12 – Sunday February 21, 9:30-17:00 daily.

VENUE: Bluff No.111, adjacent to the fountain across the main street from Yokohama International School, is a Western-style house & cafe with a dedicated room for the exhibition of our students’  artwork.

This exhibition is part of the Yokohama Yamate Art Festival and includes the artwork of students from several schools in the Yamate area, each exhibiting at a different venue. All are welcome to visit our young artists’ exhibition and to view the energy, efforts, and two- & three-dimensional creativity of the 93 Kindergarten through Grade 5 artists whose artworks are on display.


CC BY-NC-ND 3.0: Aaron Reed & Nanako Yamaguchi

CC BY-NC-ND 3.0: Aaron Reed & Nanako Yamaguchi

Grade 5 begins the search for BEAUTY

The Grade 5 students have begun Unit 4 a little early in art class. The focus of this unit is the central idea that aesthetic expression can be influenced by a culture’s history and values. And so in art class we have begun with a provocation revolving around the idea of ‘beauty’.

The students spent the first 20 minutes of class faced with the challenge to “create something beautiful” from: 1. a large pile of old stuff, junk, and unused items piled on the table, 2. some tools (scissors, staplers, tape, glue), and 3. their own notion of what ‘beauty’ is. Upon completion of that abbreviated challenge, the students wrote down their own personal definitions of ‘beauty’ in their sketchbooks (their ideas are listed after the photos, below). And finally — looking ahead to the visit next week from artists Shoichi & Colleen Sakurai — the students perused www.shoichi-sakurai.com, exploring questions such as: Who is Shoichi Sakurai? What does he create? How does he create it? Some students wrote questions and comments to Shoichi through his website. The children seem intrigued, excited, and curious to meet the artists next week.

Beauty is something that makes you happy. – Julian
Beauty is the steps of life. Like how we change both mentally and physically as a person. – Troy
Beauty is something people want or something they adore. – Ben
For me beauty is colorful, happy, smiley. Beauty is happy. – Thiago
Something people like, something people want to see, something people think cool, that there is balance. – Ryo
Beauty means that you make something is nice for everyone. – Kiko
Beauty mean it should good contrast, unity, and balance. – Sharan
To express your love or opinion on something through art or anything else. – Polina
Beauty is something you really like. – Taiki
Beauty is something that when you see it, it makes you happy. – Gala
I think beauty means something that makes people inspired. Also I think it means there’s a reason why it’s beauty. – Eileen
Beauty is looking pretty on the outside but more importantly feeling pretty on the inside. – Juliet
Beauty is something that you love or like from your heart. Beauty is something happy looking at it. – Taka
Beauty means something that looks amazing and something nice and something that catches your eye. – Aika
Beauty is something good to look at admire. – Karthik
Something you are pleased to look at. – Daniil

Beauty is what it is fantastic. Something that you think is wonderful. – Sojiro
I think that beauty means 3 things. I think the first is nature. Nature is beautiful in its own way, the trees and flowers and other things. The second is people who wear makeup and big puffy dresses have their own beauty. The third is everybody. Everybody is beautiful in their own way. Its also other things. – Oscar
Beauty is something/someone that is nice and something I like looking at for me. – Mitsuki
Beauty means to me that something is pretty and balanced like a good piece of art. – Issey
Beauty is like beautiful flowers, and like butterfly. – Jun
I think beauty is interesting and nice looking. – Jungsu
Beauty is something that is aesthetically pleasing and it depends on the person. It means to me as something that I’m happy with. – Theo
Beauty for me is greenery with flowers that smell “beautiful”. I think beauty is peace, quietness, and nature. – Aya
I think beauty means love. Beauty is my heart, my everything. – Kento
Beauty means dreams, flowers, nature. – Azami
Flowers, architecture are beautiful. Beauty = beautiful. – Harold
I think beauty means something you like. – Le Le
Beauty has a lot of meanings. My beauty meaning is a awesome, pretty person, artwork, animal, gems. – Simon
Beauty is when something is or flowers or people that is cute. – Ken
Beauty is when something is nice or wonderful. Flowers, sun, colors. For me all those things are beautiful. For me art is beautiful. – Ingrid
Beauty means something that you really like seeing and looks really good. Opposite of ugly. – Julia

I think that beauty is something that on the outside can make someone happy and sometimes light up the room or the world, and on the inside kindness, and someone that can think of others more than themselves. – Leylia
When something looks out of the ordinary. – Jack
Beauty is something pretty and sweet looking and cute. – Khadija
Beauty is something that is nice. Beauty is something amazing and wonderful. – Hemal
Beauty is something that is not ugly. – Taiga
Something that is cute and pretty and that stands out to you. – Lisa
Opposite of ugly. Nice. – Colin
Beauty means something cute or opposite of ugly. – Vincent
I think beauty is something nice and clean and neat. – Ryuta
Beauty is something pretty and cute. The opposite of beauty is ugly. Nature is beautiful. – Mai
Beauty is something pretty and pettit and nice. – Ellenah
Having a significant amount of prettiness, having the qualities of what you think is pretty. – Toshimi
I think beauty is looking good. – Luis
Beauty is something that grabs attention of someone. Beauty is something that someone likes. Beauty is something amazing. – Anish
Something that is cute. Something that is amazing. – Alicia
I think beauty is something you make or it’s already is something colorful. – Alvin

Our journey into beauty, aesthetics, and culture continues!

Grade 3’s collaborative creativity & self-portrait sculptures

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Photo © A. Reed 2015

With a brief interruption to design and create props, scenery, and costumes for their Unit 3 plays, the Grade 3 students have finally finished their Unit 1 sculptures which — as the students now realize — spell out WHO WE ARE IN GRADE 3 when strung together, as seen above hanging in the windows. At the beginning of our unit, there was much discussion about what these letters would spell!

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Photo © A. Reed 2015

The central idea of this visual art unit is that collaboration can lead to learning, creativity, and an understanding of one’s own strengths and weaknesses. At the outset of this inquiry, each team of two or three students practiced the various aspects of this sculpture’s process (ideating, drawing, painting, building, measuring) and then assessed their own strengths and weaknesses on each one. Students also reflected on their own interests, desires, and favorite activities and made notes in their sketchbooks accordingly for later use.

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Over the course of the unit, the students taught and learned from one another and all contributed in different ways to the development of the unique projects. The collaborative aspects of the project — making decisions, solving problems, and working/teaching/learning together — was quite challenging for some, but most teams came to appreciate the advantage of a collaborative effort. And throughout the unit, the students also practiced learning to identify stages of their own and others’ creative process.


Teams were assigned a letter of the alphabet to construct in three dimensions (using paper, rulers, scissors, tape, and papier-mâché). Each team then was challenged to transform the 3-D letter into an imaginative, sculptural self-portrait by showing their interests and personalities in, on, and around the sculpture (via drawing, painting, sculpting or collaging). Grade 3’s three-dimensional letters are now exhibited together (in the windows of the upstairs K-1 building hallway), visual, three-dimensional representations of the images, ideas, thoughts, fantasies, and passions particular to these 3rd grade students.

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Come view the finished artwork both from the vantage point of the basketball court, looking up to the 2nd floor display, and from a much closer viewpoint upstairs in the hallway where the sculptures hang — where you can also read each student’s written reflection about their work (about how “the sculpture is a reflection of me” and why “collaboration is important”).

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Photo © A. Reed 2015

Grade 5 self-portraits about conflict via drawing, color, and abstraction

In the homeroom classes the Grade 5 students inquired into the central idea that “finding peaceful solutions to conflict leads to a better quality of human life” by looking at how each student manages situations of conflict and interpersonal problems. And so in art class, we were taking this opportunity to create self-portraits that communicate each person’s experience with or feelings about this theme. Our main lens through which we viewed conflict and each person’s approach to the artwork was the concept of PERSPECTIVE.

These young artists initially identified a personal situation of conflict and used this event as a catalyst for their art project. They have spent time reflecting on their perspective on these conflicts, learning different approaches to drawing realistic facial features, and exploring and practicing geometric and organic abstraction in paint. They have now finished putting their new learning together in creating their final self-portraits — attempting to convey their ideas both in a realistic and in an abstract manner. These self-portraits are each made up of:

  • foreground: a pencil and ink image of themselves — drawn from life using a mirror, showing a facial expression indicating the feelings aroused by this situation of conflict, delineated with traditional ink pens, nibs, and ink.
  • background: an abstract painting — either geometric, organic, or both — utilizing specific colors as symbols of the student’s feelings about this situation of conflict

Soon after completion, the students evaluated their ideas and the execution of their work by responding to these questions:

  • How does my abstract painting communicate my perspective about conflict?
  • What feeing or message is my facial expression meant to convey?
  • What was new or unusual about the process of creating this self-portrait?

The finished self-portraits and written reflections are now on display upstairs in the Kirin Building. Please come see the students’ amazing work and efforts.

Grade 1 Reflects on Personal Histories in Family Portraits

In their homeroom classes the Grade 1 students studied how one’s family history provides insight into one’s own personal identity, and in art class the students drew and then painted their self-/family-portraits. For this “Where We Are In Place And Time” unit focused on the concept of REFLECTION, each student developed the background of his/her picture by adding imagery from the memory of family events or from knowledge of his/her family’s history. In the foreground of each student’s picture is their own self-portrait, drawn from observation with mirrors.

See the students at work, below, reflecting on their own family histories and attempting to depict them through various processes: drawing from observation, drawing realistically, practicing mixing new colors, and depicting details so that the audience can understand the stories and events.

Created in response to a range of stimuli (photos, storybooks, conversations, sharing of personal experiences), students made personal connections to their artworks as they developed. The task proved challenging as the students had reflect — on their inquiries in the homeroom class and at home with parents — to determine how to represent, visually, what they envision in their minds and what they can discuss verbally.

See the students’ completed artwork below. Each student used his/her portrait as a talking point during the recent Parent-Sharing to discuss his/her personal family history.

Grade 4 artists use organisms to spur their imaginations

In their homeroom classes, the Grade 4 students have been studying organisms and cultivating their garden. They have been focused on the central idea that “organisms rely on one another” while in art class we’ve been engaged in the visual art inquiry into how “the natural world is a rich source for imaginative artistic creation”, looking specifically at the CONNECTION between the natural world and the imagination as seen in visual art. How do artists combine what they see in the environment around them with what they imagine in their minds? From where do ideas come?

Photo: A. Reed

Students began their two-part drawing project by, first, focusing on organisms (in this case, plants) and on the realistic depiction of them through close observation. We looked at how we focus first on the simple shapes and lines found in the plants’ leaves and stems; then, how we refine the shapes and lines into something more closely approaching the actual plants; and finally, how we add the many small details which brings the image to its realistic conclusion.

Photo: A.Reed

Then the students moved on to the second stage of the project. Having left areas of their paper blank, these young artists then had to tap into their imagination — considering the plant drawing they’d just finished — and continue the drawing by depicting some imaginary, fantastical imagery. We discussed how artists do this: sometimes by thinking of their own interests and drawing those (animals, movie characters, patterns, particular colors); sometimes by closing their eyes and letting their minds wander; sometimes by looking around and noticing pictures or words in their immediate environment, one of which might spur a memory or thought or other image. Students brainstormed many different sources for visual ideas, and they also took risks in trying to depict depth through overlapping and shading and in attempting new techniques of coloring.

Photo: A. Reed

In the end, the Grade 4 artists had the opportunity to practice different approaches to drawing — via observation and fantasy — in the creation of original artworks begun in the natural world and ended in the world of their own imaginations.

Students at work, in-progress artwork, and final drawings:

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  –  We’ve started by looking at 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 watercolor paints as they developed their drawing, 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 and family history are our focus at the moment. 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 how people can be enriched by their own cultures and the cultures they connect with throughout their lives. 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 is 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 the young artists have 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 – As the Grade 4 students are currently learning about organisms, in art class they are beginning to see how the natural world can be a rich source for imaginative artistic creation. We have looked 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 and how conflict affects lives. 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 2015-16

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 9. 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 2015-16,

Aaron Reed

Grade 4 graphic designers create campaign posters

The 4th graders 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:

Students did not rely on digital tools to help them to create their final posters. Instead the boys & girls made their posters in a more “traditional” manner: by hand, using pencils, rulers, paper, colored pencils, and/or markers. 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 the Grade 4 Art+Media Gallery (you’ll need to join Creatubbles first, but it’s easy and free to do so).

You may also view the results here — the campaign posters created by these young graphic designers:

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.