Friday, March 9, 2012

Deluged by Dragons!

Dragon Show!
Ah...dragons. Such an inspiring subject for young artists. Such a no-brainer as a topic to cover. And cover it in depth we did! My 3rd graders spent weeks on these lessons and never, ever showed signs that they had hit a creative wall. So the new year cooperated nicely, well, the Chinese New Year did, 2012 being The Year of the Dragon! So we began with that, since you must begin somewhere and the more concrete and tangible you can be with young children, the more invested in the journey they will be. This was also a perfect way to integrate different cultures into our discussions. I have some Chinese American students who were excited to personally share their experiences, and many of the other kids were familiar with how the Chinese celebrate and ring in the New Year, as well.

I created a power point that began by highlighting the fact that the dragon has very special symbolism in East Asian cultures. Then we saw some examples of dragons in popular culture. I shared a cool video produced by The Discovery Channel, a faux-documentary that presupposes that dragons are real. But we made sure that we understood that this was fictional and opposed to nonfiction, connecting the use of vocabulary they use in their academic setting to the world of the Art Studio. As we got deeper and deeper into exploring dragon mythos, the more interested and excited the kids got. This book Dragonology proved a source of great interest to all. We discovered that dragons are all over the place; in literature, film, art and culture. (Obviously this unit took weeks... and if I didn't mention it before, my days are chopped into 40 minutes classes!)

So let's start a photo-journey about creating Dragons....
Some added texture by using crayon texture rubbings
Some drew their textures

We started with a simple lesson on using shapes to create the basic shape of a dragon. (I do this with all my drawing lessons). It demystifies the drawing process and allows children to feel more confident when tackling a more complex drawing. In pencil we started. Then after learning that dragon's bodies have scales and lumps and possibly bumps, we added details and texture. Then we traced it all in a thin-tipped sharpie.
Next comes the water color painting! (A beloved activity if ever there was one. Very soothing and engaging.)

After painting - the only other thing that made sense was to make these creatures POP OUT! I mean, come on! We cut them out, added some small stacks of corrugated cardboard to spots in the back and mounted on black construction paper to capitalize on the drama!

Oh, wait! Not dramatic enough for you? Well then how about if we create a shiny border with a collage pattern of paper? I mean, dragons are very commanding creatures!

Here's the final display for all to enjoy: (this creates some chatter among the younger kids..."When do we get to do dragons? And the older kids..."I remember when I made a dragon! I still have it!")
So you think we're done here? Oh, but how wrong you are. We haven't made these dragons in clay yet! We work with air dry clay which I like, because my kiln is a little wonky and it scares me a bit. When we work with clay my mantra is: "your hands are the most important clay tool you have!" Although we do have an extremely special tool, I call a "tiny tool" to slice a mouth, poke in eyes and flaring nostrils. It's actually a...toothpick.
The modge podge(gloss medium is what I call it, more sophisticated!) looks sort of milky but then it dries nice and shiny.

This dragon is missing a wing. That happens when you don't attached the clay properly! But these things do happen. we hot glue gunned it on later.

This dragon has details added with a sharpie, then glossed.

A dragon in hand is worth two in the...oh never mind.


  1. Love the way you use content area studies to explore dragons in both mediums! We, too, are studying China...and our end product is a China Museum in which one of my sixth graders will be sharing his findings about dragons in myth and culture in China. You've done great things here!

  2. Hey, thanks so much gael! So, your kids create their own "museum"? that's a terrific idea.