Tuesday, January 31, 2012

There be Dragons!

I woke up today feeling a distinct sensation of panic. Tomorrow is co-op, Fine Art co-op, and I am teaching the "art" in that title yet I had nothing to go with. Usually I am pretty prepped--at least in my head. Recently though, my head has been a giant swirl of vendor lists, ship dates, and memos to myself in what I like to term my mental ticker tape. The ticker never stops and the feed keeps going and I have to keep up! 

So today I thought, Can I even pull this together?! I wasn't sure what I wanted to teach let alone what I wanted the children to learn, but this is often when I get my best work done--when I have a due date I Must. Meet. (At least that is what I tell myself!) I began flipping through my art instruction DVDs from Coyote Creek that I reviewed, Art Lessons for Children, and decided to go with More Fun With Watercolors. One of the lessons had a Chinese dragon that looked like fun for the kids and not too difficult for this art leader to pull off. ;) 

Not only do I lead the art instruction, but I also lead the art history lesson. I LOVE this part of it. Art instruction is something I do because we need it and I have the DVDs and I can do it, but art history is something else altogether for me. I LOVE it. It is my thing that charges up my synapses and gets me excited about learning. This is probably because it is so closely tied with history and I adore history. :) 

So. I thought, dragons...HEY! I can teach them about Chinese dragons! And then they can draw them! How extraordinary is that? (I know, just humor me. We all need these happy moments. LOL) So, I started with my trusty Google and I found so many cool things! Did you know that dragons have been in the Chinese culture for thousands and thousands of years? I mean I knew they were old, and I knew ancient cultures had their legends and even Draco the dragon is in the night sky, but still - some of the ancient jade finds have been dated to close to 6,200 BC! 

I thought I would share some of it with you. I hope you find it interesting because I sure did. :)

Chinese Dragons from the Nine-Dragon Wall

(If you click on the links, they should enlarge for you. Some of the detail is just fantastic.)

From Wiki: 
In yin and yang terminology, a dragon is yang and complements a yin fenghuang ("Chinese phoenix").

The next picture is an ancient artifact. I wonder what it was used for. What do you think?

From Wiki:

The origin of the Chinese dragon is not certain. The presence of dragons within Chinese culture dates back several thousands of years with the discovery of a dragon statue dating back to the fifth millennium BC from the Yangshao culture in Henan in 1987, and jade badges of rank in coiled form have been excavated from theHongshan culture circa 4700-2900 BC.

The coiled snake or dragon form played an important role in early Chinese culture. The character for "dragon" in the earliest Chinese writing has a similar coiled form, as do later jade dragon amulets from the Shang period.

Ancient Chinese referred to unearthed dinosaur bones as dragon bones and documented them as such. For example, Chang Qu in 300 BC documents the discovery of "dragon bones" in Sichuan. The modern Chinese word for dinosaur is konglong (恐龍, meaning "terrible dragon"), and villagers in central China have long unearthed fossilized "dragon bones" for use in traditional medicines, a practice that continues today.

From this site

The dragon is a very revered creature in China that has many symbolic meanings in Chinese culture. Unlike the European dragon, the Chinese dragon is a creature that symbolizes auspicious omens and is a symbol of good luck, fortune, and power. The Chinese dragon also, according to legend, symbolizes control over water and bodies of water, such as rain, floods, waterfalls, rivers, and typhoons.

The following is just lovely and in an entirely different style from the other things we are studying.

From Wiki: Detail of an embroidered silk gauze ritual garment from a 4th century BC, Zhou era tomb at Mashan, Hubei province, China. The flowing, curvilinear design incorporates dragons, phoenixes, and tigers.

Below is a neat dragon from the 13th century.I love his expression! 

From Wiki: One of the dragons from The Nine Dragons handscroll (九龙图/九龍圖), painted by the Song-Dynasty Chinese artist Chen Rong (陈容/陳容) in 1,244 CE. Ink and some red on paper. The entire scroll is 46.3 x 1096.4 cm. Located in the Museum of Fine Art - Boston, USA.

Chinese culture isn't the only one with a score of interesting dragons. Bhutan has its own dragon stories. The country's flag is below. The dragon is holding gems as a symbol of wealth. 

Japanese dragon art is one of the most familiar in the world due to two artists; Hokusai (the first right below) and Utagawa Kunisada (the artist that created the dragon below with people on it). These are some of my favorites. I love the detail and the expression on the faces.

Below is a Korean Dragon. I think his face looks like a lion's face. 

The last is a Vietnamese dragon. I like the swirls in the metalwork here.

I think it might be neat to consider that dragons are not entirely fictional. There are certainly fossilized creatures we have found today that look an awful lot like some of these dragons. This video is a 3+ minute video of a compilation of several ancient creatures that we can only see in fossil format today, but this video brings them to life. As I watched this, I remembered that these are swimming creatures and would have been made by God on the fifth day of Creation. They are swimming reptiles and are really quite magnificent. I can't say the music is what I would have chosen, but the video had some interesting shots. 

Do you think they are similar to the dragons here? It is something to think about! :)


justpitchingmytent said...

I know my boys would love this art lesson! :)

Vickie said...

Very nicely done. My son got a "How to Draw Dragons" book for Christmas. He's loving it. It does give a little info about each of the dragons.

Thanks for sharing. I will be sharing this info with him as well.

Jennifer said...

Very cool! We recently read an elementary book about dragons. This will be a nice step up for my older two. Thanks for sharing. Do you have pictures of the completed art?

Dawn said...

It was a fantastic lesson, Kate! Everyone loved it. :)

Under the Sky said...

Thanks, ladies! Dawn, it was great fun to see what they did. I always love the creativity of the kids. :)


Charlotte said...

We so loved this, Kate! And it was cool to review the lesson on your blog, pictures included. Thanks so much, dear friend.