Welcome to The Helpful Art Teacher, an interdisciplinary website linking visual arts to math, social studies, science and language arts.

Learning how to draw means learning to see. A good art lesson teaches us not only to create but to look at, think about and understand our world through art.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Draw and paint Koi (Carp) using traditional JapaneseandChinesetechniques




Printable worksheet by The Helpful Art Teacher using a 
line gesture technique. This method emphasizes  movement and space. In order to create dynamic koi  you need to see how fish move in the water. Start your drawing with a curved line across the paper. This represents both the movement of the fish and the current of the water.
My cousin Hiroko grew up in Japan where every school child is taught the secrets of sumi brush painting at a young age. In the video below, she is teaching me how to paint koi (carp). I am humbled to find that I know less about sumi brush painting than the average Japanese elementary school student. The wonderful thing about art is that there is always more to learn.
SOME PRACTICE PAINTINGS BY MY COUSIN HIROKO

SCIENCE-ART CONNECTION
Here is an experiment you can do at home

Here are a few images I found on science websites that show how  fish swim




     DYNAMISM OF A FISH IN WATER
 Created in  May of 2012 on my cell phone shortly after I learned how to use the app Animation Creator. The only way to develop any skill is to practice. I have decided to leave my earliest animations on this blog to demonstrate how my skills have evolved over the last year.
Created in July of 2013 on my iPad using the app Animation Creator HD
HOW TO DRAW A SWIMMING FISH-LEARN BY LOOKING
I created this movie on my cell phone in the spring of 2012, shortly after downloading the app iMovie. At the time, I did not own a drawing app with a time lapse feature so I used 'Animation Creator' to show the trial and error drawing process. All fish were created on my phone, using my finger. I wanted to show how artists often erase and change their minds when developing an idea.

I have created the short movies above to demonstrate this drawing process. First I studied the shape and movements of fish. I learned by observing and tried to deconstruct what I saw. Then I created the drawings from memory and imagination. None of the drawings in the videos above were copied. The only pictures I looked at were in my mind. I developed a mental vocabulary of fish movement and form from observing, filming, photographing, analyzing and deconstructing nature. Observing live fish is easy to do. They are in your local pet store. I drew with my finger on the touch screen of my phone to animate the creative process of trial and error. My objective was to dispel the myth that artists do everything perfectly the first time. My sketching style for this project was intentionally quick and sloppy, since my focus was on movement and gesture.



STUDENT GALLERY


PENCIL DRAWINGS BY FIFTH, SIXTH AND SEVENTH GRADE STUDENTS AFTER READING THE WORKSHEET AND WATCHING THE MOVIE ABOVE, HOW TO DRAW A SWIMMING FISH-LEARN BY LOOKING.



      
             Drawing of koi by a 5th grade girl, marker and crayon




PENCIL DRAWING BY A SIXTH GRADE STUDENT

PENCIL DRAWING BY A SEVENTH GRADE STUDENT
FISH DRAWING BY A FIFTH GRADE STUDENT

PENCIL DRAWING BY A SIXTH GRADE STUDENT
PENCIL DRAWING BY A SEVENTH GRADE STUDENT


This unfinished drawing is an excellent illustration of how the line and gesture technique, outlined in the worksheet, can create a sense of fluid movement in a student's artwork.

Compare the unfinished drawing to these fish by the same sixth grade student prior to instruction

While both drawings are lovely, the line and gesture drawing isdynamic, while this drawing is static

If you want your fish to look as if they are swimming, pay attention to the first curved lines you place on your paper. 





Before you begin:



Today we will focus on the gesture and movement of the swimming fish.  I have created some printable worksheets to get you started on your journey. 

Begin by reading the directions on the worksheet above and looking through the pictures below. 


Draw some fish using my line gesture technique. Instead of simply copying your favorite fish picture, try starting with my directions. When you get to the final step, pick out your favorite pictures and copy the details on to your own drawing. In this way you can learn from master artists while still creating a picture that is uniquely yours. 

Starting with a gestural curved line enables the student to focus on movement and space.  understanding how a koi swims frees the artist to draw and paint from imagination.










Once you are comfortable drawing  koi traveling along a single curving line, try adding more lines to your picture to show  fish moving along many overlapping paths.
Use this technique to create a border. Create your own koi stationery and use it to write a haiku.



  


Next, watch my videos of real fish 
swimming in an aquarium.
Try drawing and painting while the videos are playing. It is very relaxing to paint to classical music and you may be surprised at just how beautifully you can paint when you are happy and relaxed. Notice how the fish shapes change as they move  through three dimensional space. I filmed cold water, tropical and salt water fish. Notice the variety of colors and shapes. Let your imagination wander and don't worry about faithfully depicting nature






Watch the videos that show how traditional Japanese and Chinese artists paint. Notice that they do not draw their pictures with pencil before using paint. Try to paint a fish without drawing it first. See if you can employ some of the traditional techniques from the videos. 


The artist in the first video is Chinese. The artist in the last two videos is Japanese. My article, THE ART OF THE BRUSH, covers the similarities and differences between Chinese and Japanese brush painting techniques. 






Some of my students did not feel confident enough to paint fish without first drawing them. They were worried about 'messing up' and not being able to erase. I created the instructional video below to help them bridge the gap between drawing and painting.




The more art you look at the richer your creative vocabulary will be. Watch this beautiful animation of fish dancing to the Nutcracker Suite from Walt Disney's 1940 classic animated film, Fantasia.

Here are some original sketches used to create this beautiful animation. As you can see, the Disney artists used the same traditional Japanese technique outlined in this article to give their characters a sense of dynamic movement
Dancing Fish Plan from Walt Disney's Fantasia, 1940

Dancing Fish Guide from Walt Disney's Fantasia, 1940

Dancing Fish Plan from Walt Disney's Fantasia, 1940
For more information, photographs and videos on creating under water fantasy worlds, please click here to see my most recent article on the subject.

8 comments:

  1. thanks!!! this is sooo interesting!! in the last video painting of the koi in black, what tool was being used?? i feel like an idiot saying that it does and also doesn't look like a brush haha

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  2. The very last video is my own. I was using a very thin paint brush and a fan brush. The fish is blue though, not black.
    If you are referring to the last Japanese sumi-e video, where the fish IS black, the artist is using a bamboo brush. When the wet brush is loaded with ink the soft bristles come together to create a very fine point. The artist must have a very steady hand because the very tip of the brush barely touches the paper. That is how he is able to make such a fine, delicate line. If I were teaching adults or had a little more time I would have my students use this method. Alas, my students only have art once or twice a week. It's much easier for them to achieve good results with little time to practice if they just use a fine detail brush.

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  3. I'm SO glad I found this blog. I'm designing a tattoo with a Koi theme & the info here is priceless! I see this blog will a BIG help to me in my artwork. Thank you for taking the time to put something like this together:)

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  4. I'm so happy I found this blog. I'm designing a Koi Tattoo & this info is priceless. I'll be referring to this blog for help with other designs, too. Thank you for taking the time to post this information:)

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  5. The pictures are spectacular. Wonderfull blog.
    My friends pushed me into buying a flight ticket through Flysky.ro and I await for my vacation time \ ^ o ^ / Can't wait to see this wonderful masterpieces

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  6. Wonderful collection of materials. I just used this with my second graders and they loved it! They are studying sea life in science and like you I try to make connections between art and all of the other subjects when ever I can. Interesting, I first found the blog while looking for sumi-e demo videos to show my 7th graders. I used the one you made of your cousin in addition to ones with a more professional look. It was great for them to see that all people can learn to paint but some just are better at it!

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