Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Art of Hokusai

Following our study of Medieval Japan in history, we delved a little more into the cultural aspects of the country by studying the art of a Japanese master, Hokusai.

Art appreciation - preparation
As usual, I displayed a few of the artist's representative works up on our cupboard for Tiger to familiarise himself with them.

Since we did not know much about Hokusai and his work, we decided to learn more about him by reading the following books:

As with many great artists, Hokusai was a versatile artist in that he was very skilful in many different forms of art, the most significant ones being ukiyo-e and woodblock prints.  I could not decide which style to focus on for our study, so in the process of searching, we first looked closely at one of his works using the following book:

Art appreciation - focused study 
As we learned more about Hokusai's woodblock prints, we came across the The Great Wave documentary, and decided that we would focus on this particular masterpiece:

Once we have decided upon one single piece of work to focus on, we learned more about it through reading:

and completed the observational exercises from the lesson plan here, including mirroring our hand posture to that of the wave:

Field trip
Our timing to study The Great Wave could not have been better since we were able to attend a special exhibition on this work at the British Museum where we not only saw heard an expert lecture on the significance of and story behind this piece of work and saw one of the original prints on display,

we also learnt much about Hokusai's other woodblock prints, as well as the woodblock printing process.

Hands-on Project
We decided that Tiger would have a go at making his own prints following Hokusai's style.  Our project instructions are taken from this book:

First, Tiger had to decide on the pattern that he wanted to print.  After some discussion, he decided that he wanted to print a dragon in the oriental style.  We looked on the internet and found a simplified version of what he wanted:

Next came the transfer of the image onto the styrofoam pizza base.  Since Tiger was not confident about drawing freehand yet, he adopted my suggestion of transfering using the tracing paper.

Once the initial pattern transfer had been done, it was time to 'carve' out the indentation of the dragon.  We used the end of a teaspoon to press on the outline of the pattern.

The printing began after this.  Tiger chose different coloured papers for his base, then applied paint onto template with a roller.

After printing a few monotone copies, Tiger decided to change his output slightly by applying multiple colours to the template all at once.   While Tiger understood that the actual woodblock print process would have used one colour at a time, he did not want to repeat the process multiple times.  Therefore, Tiger's multi-coloured prints were each done at one go.

After the prints were completed, Tiger wrote an advertisement, complete with a web address and telephone number, to sell his prints for £4 each.  When asked to explain how he came up with the £4 price tag, Tiger explained his rationale: he did a quick mental estimate of the amount of effort involved to produce the prints plus the amount of paint used.

This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can visit to see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.  It is also linked to the April's edition of the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival.


  1. Your timing is perfect. I love the wood block prints you did. We are about to start a unit on Ancient China for our history co-op and we may end up coping this idea. - Fantastic!

  2. wow that dragon print is incredible. I love stopping by your blog because I always learn something too.
    My twin sister painted Hokusai's Great Wave on our toilet wall (full height of the wall) when we were teenagers. Its still there 20 years on because it looked so good (like you were going to be enveloped by the wave while you sat on the loo).

  3. Thank you for visiting, ladies!

    The Monko - I saw a full-sized version of the Great Wave painted on a public wall in London, which was amazing. I can imagine what an impact the Great Wave on your toilet wall would be to someone sitting on the loo! I am guessing going to toilet there isn't a particularly relaxing experience...

  4. What a great idea - I wish my kids were older so that we could do something similar.

  5. Oh, how fun!! Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!! I hope you have a wonderful week!


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