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Japanese Rimpa Painting

The art of Japanese painter Sakai Hoitsu inspires original decorative paintings of flowers and plants.

  • Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Sakai Hoitsu, a Japanese artist, was born in Edo in 1761. He painted in the Rimpa style, a decorative form of painting which was often based upon literature and the revision of old classics. Organize students into small groups to research this style of painting. Have available a variety of text and electronic resources for students to use during this activity.
    2. Once research is complete, ask students to look closely at Hoitsu's Birds and Flowers, May Irises. The artist focused on the plant life, placing it in the foreground. Although he suggested a background with soft tones crossing the page, the emphasis was on the irises. The plant was arranged so the spaces around it are interesting and varied, which make the composition strong. Students discuss how they see this technique working to balance the artwork.
    3. To create their own artwork in the Rimpa style, students begin by researching different varieties of flowers and select one that they think is visually pleasing. Students draw a few sketches of the plant from various angles, using Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils. Students pick their favorite sketches.
    4. Students fold a large sheet of white paper into a narrower rectangle, similar to the shapes on which Hoitsu painted. Use Crayola Scissors to cut along the fold and trim away the excess paper.
    5. With colored pencils, students redraw their favorite sketches on the vertical paper, enlarging the flower so it fits well in the space. Look closely at the spaces around the drawing (negative space), as well as the drawing itself. Vary those spaces, even if it is necessary to have to change the drawing slightly to create a stronger, more interesting composition.
    6. Students cover their work space with recycled newspaper. Use Crayola Tempera Paint to fill in the negative spaces with a single, dark color. Dry.
    7. Students use tempera to paint their plants. Make the colors and shapes as realistic as possible. Air-dry flat.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

    LA: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify claims and findings and emphasize salient points.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

    VA: Describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts.

  • Adaptations

    Working in small groups, students research a variety of flowers. Students select a few flowers to view from several perspectives. Include several perspectives of one selected flower in the student's original artwork reflecting the Rimpa technique.

    Students research the history of Japan from the latter half o the 1700s. What type of a world was Sakai Hoitsu born into? What significant events occurred in Japanese history during his lifetime? Did any significant events influence Hoitsu's artistic development?

    Birds and Flowers, May Irises was one of a series of paintings based upon the months of the year. Challenge students to create a series of paintings revealing plants as they appear each month of the year in your home area.

    Students use pastels to draw a subtle, soft background for a painting done in the Rimpa style.


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