Sunday, April 10, 2011


Hello Art-in-a-Box volunteers!  Our project for spring is about Sumi-e:  the art of Chinese and Japanese brush painting.  This lesson is a little different from those in the past in that we will not be using the projector to display images.  Instead, I have several printed images of Sumi-e art that can be passed around the class, as well as traditional Sumi-e tools for the students to see and touch.  I find that this lesson lends itself well to a hands-on approach that I hope will engage the student's interest and involvement in the subject.

The art of Sumi-e is not exclusive to one artist, but is part of the artistic culture of China and Japan.  There are many legends about Sumi-e painting, and I wrote this lesson with the idea that it is part storytelling, part show-and-tell.  We cannot hope to teach Sumi-e in a day, but if we can introduce the students to the basic materials and techniques of this art and spark an interest in learning something new, then I feel this project will be successful.  Please read the lesson to become familiar with the art of Sumi-e, and feel free to add any creative touches you can think of.  At the training, I heard ideas for tea, sushi and kimonos which would all be so fun and memorable for the kids!  Also, I've included a cd of traditional Japanese music to play during the project which should help set the mood.  Thank you for being part of this project!

Sumi-e:  The Art of Chinese and Japanese Brush Painting
Grades K-5

Our Art-in-a-Box project for spring is about Chinese and Japanese brush painting. In Japan, brush painting is called Sumi-e (pronounce the "e" like the "ĕ" sound in egg), which means "ink picture."

History of Sumi-e
Ink painting began in China thousands of years ago. Pictures and calligraphy were painted on scrolls of paper to tell stories. There are many different stories and legends about brush painting. One legend is about a boy who loved to draw cats. His family was very poor and they had to send him away to live at a temple where he could have food and shelter. He was a smart boy, but he loved to draw cats so much he drew them on the ceilings and walls of the temple, and he got in trouble for this. He was told he couldn't stay there anymore, so the boy walked to an old abandoned temple. He didn't know that a rat goblin lived there. When he got to the temple he drew perfect cats on the paper screens that were in the temple, and then he went to sleep. In the middle of the night, the rat goblin came out, but his cats were so lifelike, they sprang to life and ate the rat. According to the legend, the goblin had caused all the crops to fail, and now that the goblin was dead the fields were lush and green. The harvest was so good the boy was able to return home to his family. He became known as a great artist, and every day used his ink and brush to paint at least one cat.

Most of the legends tell of a young boy (an eventual sumi-e master) who drew so life-like, the drawing came to life.  Another story is about a boy who liked to draw when he was supposed to be doing schoolwork.  As a punishment, he was tied to a tree outside.  He used his toe to draw mice in the sand, and the mice came alive and chewed through the ropes to free him. 

Yet another legend about Sumi-e is of an artist who painted a mural of dragons on a wall of a temple, but he didn't paint the eyes of the dragons. He thought that if he painted the eyes, the dragons would come alive. But people insisted that he paint the eyes!  When he did, the dragons came to life and flew away.

The Four Treasures
There are four simple tools used in brush painting that are called The Four Treasures because they are so important. They are the brush, ink, ink stone and paper.

Show the brush in the bamboo holder, the ink stick and rice paper to the class, and pass them around so the students can each look at them.

The Sumi-e Brush: The Sumi-e brush has a handle that is sometimes made of bamboo, and the bristles are made from animal hair such as sheep, deer, rabbit or horse. One Chinese master even saved his cat's whiskers to make into a paintbrush, and sometimes men even use hair from their own beards to make brushes!

The ink stick: The ink is made from different kinds of soot (a dark substance from burning wood) such as pine soot, mixed with glue. It is made into liquid ink by grinding the stick on an ink stone with a little water. In China and Japan, many artists collect ink sticks because they each are different. They have beautiful designs, and some even have a wonderful scent.

Paper: Before there was paper, pictures were painted on wood or bamboo. Now there are many kinds of paper, and a kind of paper called rice paper is popular for Sumi-e painting.

The Three Friends of Winter:

Ask for three volunteers to hold the scrolls. The three scrolls represent the three friends of winter: pine, bamboo and the plum tree

There is a saying in China that the pine tree, bamboo and the plum tree are the three friends of winter. The pine tree is strong, has a long life and lives where is is cold. Bamboo grows straight and tall and keeps it's leaves during the winter. The plum tree blossoms in the spring even when it is still frozen outside, and represents good luck for the coming year.

People who do sumi-e painting practice painting the pine, bamboo and plum tree over and over again to practice brushstrokes.  Once they are good at making brushstrokes they paint other parts of nature like birds, insects, flowers and trees.  Pass around the printed pictures by the Sumi-e master artist Xu Beihong.   

There is not just one person who paints in the sumi-e style, but many people have learned the technique.  Families and children in China and Japan often practice Sumi-e painting for fun.

Ask, "Have you started to see blossoms on the trees here? We are going to paint a plum branch in the Sumi-e style"

Project: Sumi-e Plum Blossom Branch
Grades K-5

Project: Students paint a blossom branch inspired by Sumi-e brush painting

Project Goal: To introduce students to the art of China and Japan by exploring the tools and techniques of Sumi-e brush painting. Most importantly, to have fun trying something new!

Watercolor paper
Black and pink liquid watercolor (we are using Blick Liquid Watercolor)
Small containers/palettes for the pink watercolor
Sumi-e brushes
Red markers
Hole punch/ paper reinforcements
Black ribbon

Project Steps:

If you like, play the included cd of Japanese instrumental music quietly in the background.

1. First, please demonstrate the project to the students. Place a piece of watercolor paper the tall way, then squeeze a small amount of the black liquid watercolor (an area about the size of a nickel) near the bottom of the paper. With the straw held nearly horizontal to the paper, blow the watercolor toward the top of the paper. This works best if you get down on the same level as the paper. Where the watercolor puddles up, blow the paint in different directions to form small branches. Keep doing this until there are no puddles of watercolor.

2. Hand out one piece of watercolor paper and one straw to each student. Remind them they will blow the paint from the bottom of the paper to the top, and it works best if they bend down to look across the paper, and blow the paint with the straw held sideways, not up and down. Come around to each student and squeeze a small puddle of watercolor near the bottom of the paper. (It's fine if the paint blows off the paper and onto the desks--it's completely washable.)

3. Give the students several minutes to blow the paint with the straws, and allow a few extra minutes for the paint to dry a bit. Now demonstrate how to paint blossoms. Place a small amount of pink watercolor in a dish, and use the sumi-e brush to paint the blossoms. Explain that the blossoms can just be dabs of color, or they can draw blossoms with the paintbrush. Hold up the examples so the students see they can paint many blossoms or just a few.
When you are finished painting a few blossoms, take a red marker and write your initials on the bottom right corner of the paper, surrounded by a square. Explain to the students that Asian paintings are signed with a carved letter stamp called a seal. When they are done painting blossoms, they can use the red marker to write a letter from their name surrounded by a square to make their own seal.

4. Hand out the sumi-e brushes, and a small dish of pink liquid watercolor for each table or every few students to share. A little goes a long way--each dish only needs a Tablespoon or two of watercolor to paint the blossoms. Then hand out the red markers.

5. When the student are done, hole punch the paper at the center of the top, and put reinforcement tabs on the front and back side of the hole. Loop the black ribbon through the hole for hanging, and place the included label on the back of the artwork. Thank you!

*For cleanup, please rinse the brushes and shape the tip to a point so they will stay nice for the next class.  Thank you!

My Sources and recommended reading:

Yolanda Mayhall, The Sumi-e Book. Watson-Guptill, 1989.

Naomi Okamoto, Japanese Ink Painting. Sterling Publishing Co., 1996.

The Fine Art of Chinese Brush Painting, Sterling Publishing Co., 2006.

Wu Yangmu, The Techniques of Chinese Painting. Herbert Press, 1990.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Winter Lesson: Marc Chagall

Please read the lesson to the class, and show the corresponding pictures using the document projector in each classroom.  Thanks!  Have fun learning along with the kids about a great artist!

Marc Chagall Lesson Plan
Grades K-5

Hello! I'm glad to be here today for Art-in-a-Box. We are going to learn about the painter, Marc Chagall. First we will look at some of his art, then we will make some of our own.

Over the Village
Marc Chagall painted colorful pictures from his imagination. His paintings often look like a dream world because he painted people floating through the air. Here is a painting of him and his wife Bella flying over a village. Have you ever had a dream that you were flying?

Paris Through the Window
This is one of his most famous paintings, called Paris Through the Window. You can see the imaginative and colorful way he painted the world he saw. There is a man falling down from a triangle parachute in the sky and a cat with a human-like face. Do you see the train that is turned upside down?
I and the Village
He often painted houses and people upside down. This painting is called I and the Village. There is a peasant coming back from the field, a woman standing on her head and a few houses turned upside down. Can you see the woman milking the cow? He placed things wherever he wanted to on the canvas, sometimes putting something inside of or on top of something else.
The Fiddler
Surrealism is art that looks like a fantasy or dream. Some people think Marc Chagall's paintings are surrealistic, but he did not think of his paintings as fantasies. The things he painted were real memories of his life arranged in creative ways. One of his favorite memories was of the violinists that played music in the Russian village where he was from. In this painting, a green fiddler sits above the snowy village and a person soars high into the sky.

Russian Wedding
His family and village in Russia were very important to him. Even after he grew up and moved away he painted the people and places he remembered from his childhood. This is a painting of a Russian wedding. Do you see the violinist that played in the celebration? What else do you see in this picture?

Over Vitebsk (vē-tepsk)
Many of Marc Chagall's paintings represent the symbols and stories of his Jewish heritage and culture. He painted people, places and things that were important to him, but he didn't like to talk about his paintings or say what they meant. Here we see an old man with a sack on his back and a cane in his hand, wandering through the sky over the city. Can you think of a story he might be telling?

Self-Portrait (with Seven Fingers)
When Marc Chagall was a young man he moved to Paris, France to work on his art. He loved the bright colors of the city, and chose to live most of his life in France. Here we can see that he is thinking of his village in Russia but the Eiffel tower of Paris is out the window. Do you notice anything unusual in this painting?

Bonjour Paris
Some of the first people to appreciate his art were poets. They thought of him as a poet-painter because his paintings reminded them of poetry. In this painting called Bonjour Paris, the Eiffel Tower has a human face and there is a giant rooster in the sky under the moon. Do the colors or things in this painting remind you of a poem or a dream?

The Juggler
Do you think this is a bird or a human? This painting is called The Juggler, and it is filled with his memories of the circus. He loved to go to the Paris circus with his wife Bella and their daughter Ida. Do you see the woman on the trapeze? He painted many pictures of acrobats, clowns and horses in colorful costumes and impossible poses.

Around Her
Not all of his memories or paintings were happy. Marc Chagall lived through difficult times of war, when he had to leave his home to find safety in the United States. Painting was a way that he could express both happiness and sadness. Painting is like telling a story without using words. Do you think painting helped him feel better?
The Dance
While Marc Chagall was in America, he was invited to make the costumes and decorate the stage for the Ballet Theater of New York. He worked with the musicians and dancers to create colorful scenes and costumes that expressed the feeling of the music and dance. Audiences were inspired by his large, colorful paintings, and his work for the ballet and theater was a success.
 Jerusalem Windows
Marc Chagall was a painter, but some of his largest and most colorful works of art are windows of stained glass. He didn't learn the craft of stained glass until he was seventy year old, but he was always interested in learning new ways to share his art with people. The beautiful windows look like jewels when light passes through them, and are special for their color, shapes and messages of peace. What animals do you see in this window?

Child with Dove
Marc Chagall lived to be nearly 100 years old. There were many changes in his life, but he was always an artist. He painted, designed sets and costumes for the theater and ballet, illustrated books, and created beautiful stained glass windows. His art was colorful and imaginative, and filled with images and memories like a dream.

Project: Dreams and Memories 
inspired by Marc Chagall

Project:  Students tell the story of a memory or dream using colorful images and symbols

Project Goal: To encourage children to express thoughts, feelings, memories and ideas in a visual way.  To explore combining meaningful images in unexpected ways.

Key Concepts: 
-Students discover ways of visual communication and self-expression by telling a story through drawings
-Students develop an awareness of color, composition and space by discovering new and creative ways to arrange elements on a page
-Students gain vocabulary as they learn about the artist's background and techniques

Crayola water-soluble oil pastels
watercolor paper
plastic cups for water 
paper towels 
mounting paper, glue (for mounting), labels

Project Steps:
1. First, talk with the class about what makes Marc Chagall's art so unique and dream-like.  Some good things to say might be:
His paintings are colorful!
Things are turned upside down
People float through the air
Animals have human-like faces
Objects are on top of or inside of something else
He painted what he remembered
He painted the night sky, moons, flowers

2. Hand out the watercolor paper and the pastels. Ask the students to think of a special memory or dream they have had. Suggest that they can think about a birthday, a special person, a favorite toy, a trip they have taken, a dream they have had, etc.

3. Have the students draw something from that special memory or dream. After a few minutes, tell the students to turn the paper a quarter turn (demonstrate so they don't flip the paper over to the back side) and draw something from a different memory or dream. Continue in this way, turning the paper 4 times until they are back at the first drawing.

4. When they are starting to fill up most of the white area of the paper with color, hand out the water and paintbrushes. Tell students to use just a little bit of water (they can dry the paintbrushes on the paper towels if necessary) to blend the pastels.

5. When the students are done, make sure each drawing is signed. Glue the artwork to the mounting paper and place one of the Marc Chagall labels on the back of the painting. If possible, place the pictures on a drying rack overnight, then staple up to display. Thank you!

This project is inspired by a lesson by Stephanie Corder, from the website

Resources and Recommended Reading

Though I have researched the subject of Marc Chagall thoroughly, and every effort has been made for accuracy, if you feel that information is in error, please contact me at sara at sitkacoast dot com

Benjamin Harshav, Marc Chagall and the Lost Jewish World.  New York, NY: Rizzoli International Publications, 2006.

Howard Greenfeld, The Essential Marc Chagall. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2002.

Jude Welton, Marc Chagall. Danbury, CT: Franklin Watts, 2003.

Marc Chagall, Life is a Dream. New York: Prestel, 1998.

Jacques Lassaigne, Marc Chagall, Drawings and water colors for The Ballet.  New York:  Tudor Publishing Co., 1969.


Artist at a Festival, 1982; Private Collection

Over the Village, 1914-1918;  Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Paris Through the Window, 1913; Guggenheim Museum, New York

I and the Village, 1911; Museum of Modern Art, New York

The Fiddler, 1912-1913; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

Russian Wedding, 1909; Foundation G.G. Buhrle collection, Zurich

Over Vitebsk, 1915-1920; Museum of Modern Art, New York

Self Portrait (with seven fingers), 1913-1914;  Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

Bonjour Paris, 1939-1942; Private Collection

The Juggler, 1943; Art Institute of Chicago
Around Her, 1945; Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

The Dance, 1942; Illustration for Aleko

Jerusalem Windows, Tribe of Reuben, 1960-1961; Hadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem

Child with Dove, 1977-1978; Private Collection

Monday, January 3, 2011

Emily Carr Trees!

Thank you volunteers for doing such a good job teaching the fall lesson!  Here are a few of the wonderful results.  The students really captured the movement, size and color of Emily Carr's trees, and each tree was unique!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Art-in-a-Box Cart is ready to go!

Hello Volunteers,

The Art-in-a-Box cart is stocked and ready to go!  I see that we have classes signed up as soon as this Wednesday, and I look forward to seeing the trees in the hallway.  Both the newsprint for the charcoal and the tagboard for the pastels are on the bottom shelf of the cart.  In the box are the charcoal, pastels, labels, project examples, lesson plans, mounting tabs, fixative (the hair spray can be used as fixative) and books on Emily Carr.

One change I made to the lesson binders is that I printed out the images of the lesson on paper, to be used with the document projectors in the classroom.  This is an alternative to using the overhead with the transparencies, to see if it works better.  The transparencies are still included in the binder if you are more comfortable using the overhead projector--it's up to you.  Please let me know what works best!  Also, be sure to grab the correct binder--there are separate lessons for K-1, and 2-5.

Thank you to those of you who were able to make it to the training and to those of you who have taken a look at the lesson on this website.  If you haven't yet signed up your classroom for a date and time, the calendar is hanging on the wall to your right as you go into the copy room.  If you don't know where the copy room or the Art-in-a-Box cart is, Denise in the office can point the way!

Thank you all again for volunteering for Art-in-a-Box, and please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.  I encourage you to watch this short film by the National Film Board of Canada to get familiar with the art of Emily Carr.

lesson plan for grades K-1
lesson plan for grades 2-5

Sara Lehto
(sara at sitkacoast dot com)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Emily Carr Lesson Plan, Grades 2-5

Thank you for your interest in Art-in-a-Box!  Below you will find the lesson plan and project for grades 2-5.  If you are volunteering for kindergarten or 1st grade, that lesson plan is available here

Emily Carr Lesson Plan
Grades 2-5
Fall 2010

Read the lesson aloud to the class, showing the overheads when directed. Questions, vocabulary and information for class discussion are highlighted in blue.

Introduction: How many of you remember the winter olympics last year in Canada? One of the most important artists from Canada was a woman named Emily Carr. She loved the big trees, big skies and big spaces in Canada, and she painted them in a way that had never been painted before.

She isn't as well known in the United States as she is in Canada, but many artists who paint the landscapes here in the Northwest are inspired by her paintings from almost 100 years ago. In Canada, children learn about Emily Carr in school, and you can even visit the house where she grew up, in Victoria.

Show Overhead #1: Map of Canada
This is a map of Canada. Emily lived on the western edge of Canada, on Vancouver Island. Canada is just north of Oregon and Washington. Point out where Victoria is in relation to Oregon.

Show Overhead #2: Emily Carr House
This is a picture of the house that Emily Carr grew up in. She was born in 1871 (139 years ago). She was interested in art from a very young age, and her parents paid for her to have art lessons. Back then, art was considered a good hobby for girls and women, but it wasn't considered a job or a way that they could earn money. Emily wanted more than anything to make a living as an artist, and when she was a teenager she asked her family to let her go to art school in California.

Show Overhead #3: Emily at age 21
This is a picture of Emily during the time she was studying art in San Francisco. While she was there, she learned skills in drawing and watercolor painting. She didn't have enough money to stay there, so she moved back to Canada and taught art classes to children in her barn. During this time, she made trips by boat to the north part of Vancouver Island because she was interested in drawing the villages and art of the native people of Canada.

Show Overhead #4: Cedar Canim's House, Ucluelet, 1899
This is a watercolor painting of what she saw in a village called Ucluelet (Yu-clue-let). Everything she painted was something she actually saw in person; she did not draw from photographs. She liked to do plein-air painting. Does anyone know what plein-air painting is? It is a painting made outside in the open air, rather than inside a house or studio.

She earned enough money from teaching art classes to go back to school and study art in England. In England, she practiced more plein-air painting, and had a teacher that encouraged her to paint the woods that she loved so much. She worked so hard, that she got very sick, and had to rest in bed for a year and a half.

Show Overhead #5: 5 am
She was not allowed to paint during this time, but she convinced her doctors to let her raise some songbirds by hand. She wanted to take them back to Canada because there were no songbirds where she was from. Here is a sketch she did of feeding the birds when she was sick. Even when she could not go outside to paint, she still always drew in her journal.

Show Overhead #6: Totem Walk at Sitka, 1907
When she got better, she went home to Canada and did more plein-air painting. She took a trip with her sister to Alaska and saw the great carved totem poles on the Totem Walk in Sitka. A totem pole is a carved wooden pole placed inside or outside of a house that tells the story of the family that lives there. Emily thought it was very important to paint the totem poles, because in her lifetime many of them were old and falling down. She admired the culture of the First Nations people in Canada, and wanted to help document their art. "First Nations" is the name given for the indigenous peoples of Canada. Does anyone know what "indigenous people" means? Indigenous people are the first known people who lived in a place.

She could paint well, but she didn't feel like her watercolor paintings captured how big and grand the trees and totem poles were in real life. She heard about a "new art" in France that used bright colors and brushstrokes to capture the feeling of a place, so she traveled to France to learn about the technique.

Show Overhead #7: Trees on a Hillside, 1911
In France, Emily learned that a painting doesn't have to look exactly like it does in real life. She met artists who were called the Fauves (foves). "Fauves" is french for "wild animals" and the Fauves were named that because of their wild use of bright color in painting. What colors do you see in this painting? (bright yellows and greens) Emily went back to Canada, ready to paint what she saw in Canada using bright colors and bold brushstrokes.

Show Overhead #8: House Posts, c. 1912
She wanted her paintings to show how special the totem poles were in real life, so sometimes she painted them bigger or brighter than they really were. When she had about 200 paintings of the First Nations totem poles and villages, she held a show of her artwork and tried to sell her paintings to a museum. Some people liked her paintings, but most people on the west coast of Canada had never seen paintings in that style before, and they expected paintings to look more realistic like a photograph. Some people thought her colors were too bright, and the paint was too thick. The museum didn't buy her paintings, so she had to do something else to earn money.

Show Overhead #9: Woo
She built a house that she called "The House of all Sorts" where she rented out rooms and raised sheepdogs, chickens and rabbits to make money. She loved animals, and even had a pet monkey named "Woo." She didn't do as much painting during this time, but she made rugs and pottery. Then, in 1927, she was invited to show her paintings, pottery and hooked rugs in an Exhibition of Canadian West Coast Art. At the exhibition, she met a group of Canadian artists called The Group of Seven, who were famous in Canada for painting colorful landscapes with simple, smooth shapes. They liked Emily's work, and encouraged her to continue painting the land of Canada with more expression and less detail. She went home, excited to start painting again.

Show Overhead #10: Big Raven, 1931
This painting is called Big Raven. What shapes do you see in this painting? She used curving shapes to get a feeling of movement in the picture. Instead of painting all the branches on the trees, or all the details on the statue, she painted smooth shapes without adding a lot of detail.

Show Overhead #11: Zunoqua of the Cat Village, 1931
What do you see in this painting? This painting is called "Zunoqua of the Cat Village." This village was overgrown with bushes, and she said that she was followed by cats, purring and rubbing everywhere she went. It is interesting that she didn't put the statue in the middle of the picture; it almost looks like the statue is walking out of the painting.

Show Overhead #12: Red Cedar, 1931-1933
This painting is called "Red Cedar." Can you see the brushstrokes in this painting? Brushstrokes are the way an artist puts the paint on the paper with a paintbrush. She painted wavy, curvy lines to add a feeling of liveliness to the tree. Emily is best known for her many paintings of trees.

Show Overhead #13: Abstract Tree Forms, 1931-1932
Can you tell that this is a tree? This is called "Abstract Tree Forms." Abstract art uses color and shapes to show ideas and feelings, and doesn't try to show things the way you would see them in the real world. What shapes did Emily use here to represent trees?

Show Overhead #14: Tree, 1932-1933
Here is another tree where she used wavy, curvy lines and long brushstrokes to add movement to the painting. If she was painting this out in nature, where do you think she was standing?

Show Overhead #15: Untitled Charcoal 1930-1931
One of the interesting things about Emily Carr is that she liked to make her art BIG, to help show what it felt like to look up at the big trees in Canada. But paint and canvas were expensive, so she painted with thinned down paint on big pieces of cheap paper, and did lots of charcoal drawings. That way, she could practice and paint as much as she wanted. She would try to draw or paint at least once every day.

Show Overhead #16: Untitled Charcoal 1930-1931
This is another charcoal drawing done on big yellow paper. Can you see the way she drew the curved lines of the branches?

Show Overhead #17: Wood Interior 1932-1935
Do you see how the tree trunks are a little big bigger at the bottom than they are at the top? This helps give a feeling of perspective, like you are looking up at the tree. Perspective is a way to create a feeling of space and depth by making objects that are closer appear larger than objects that are farther away.

Show Overhead #18: Sombreness, 1937-1940
This painting is called "Sombreness." Somberness is a sad or quiet feeling. She tried to express not just what trees looked like, but also what it felt like to be in the trees. One of the ways she did this was by putting light into her paintings. How did she put light into this painting?

Show Overhead #19: Swirl, 1937
This painting is called "Swirl." Her trees and skies often had a swirling feeling to them. This almost looks like there is wind moving through the trees. What colors do you see in this painting? She used many different shades of greens and yellows and browns in her tree paintings.

Show Overhead #20: Strait of Juan de Fuca, 1936
She also painted skies that had a swirling feeling. This one is titled "Strait of Juan de Fuca." Can you see the yellow paper showing through the paint? Sometimes she did that on purpose, and sometimes that is because the thinned paint she used didn't last over time.

Show Overhead #21: Laughing Bear, 1941
This painting is called "Laughing Bear." When she was old, she couldn't take trips into nature like she used to, so she painted from old drawings and wrote stories about her times visiting the First Nations villages. In one of her books she wrote "There was a wooden bear on top of such a high pole that he was able still to look over the top of the woods. He was a joke of a bear-every bit of him was merry. He had one paw up against his face, he bent forward and his feet clung to the pole. I tried to circle about so that I could see his face but the monstrous tangle was impossible to break through."

Show Overhead #22: Self-Portrait, 1938-1939
This is a self-portrait of Emily Carr when she was 67 years old. She worked very hard her whole life to be a painter, and even though there were times when she was too sick or too busy to paint, she never gave up. She succeeded in being an artist when most women were not able to. She studied hard and learned what she could from school and other artists of her time, and then developed a unique style of her own. Most important to her was that she painted a sense of movement, light and feeling into her paintings. She loved the nature and native art of Canada, and helped introduce new types of art to the remote area where she lived. A huge bronze statue of Emily Carr is going up this fall (October 13th) at the Empress Hotel in Victoria to honor her life and work.

Show Overhead #23: Cedar Sanctuary, 1942
Now we are going to draw a tree in the style of Emily Carr!
This lesson was written by Sara Lehto.
Please contact at sara at sitkacoast dot com
for any questions or comments

Project: Emily Carr's Trees
Grades K-5

Project: Students draw trees in pastel using the techniques of Emily Carr

Project Goal: To inspire children to “think big” like Emily did, by filling up the whole paper. To encourage children to have fun exploring new materials and techniques. To promote fine motor skills, imagination and expression.

Key Concepts:

-Students explore concepts of size and space by practicing filling up the entire paper
-Students develop an awareness of line, shape and color by drawing
-Students gain vocabulary as they learn about the artist, materials and techniques


Colored Pencils
12x18 manila colored tag board
landscape colored pastels (we are using Blick non-toxic pastels)

Project Steps:

1. Hand out one piece of newsprint and colored pencils to every student.

2. Ask, "Have you ever looked up at the big pine trees in Drake Park or before? What do you see when you look up at a big tree?" (the trunk, branches, needles or leaves, the sky)

optional: Have the students all stand up, and pretend to be a giant tree. Have them reach their arms up into the sky like branches, and pretend to feel the wind moving through their branches.

3. Have the students practice drawing trees.  Suggest that they could start at the bottom with the trunk, and draw the tree to the top of the paper. Encourage the children to fill the entire paper, top to bottom.

Demonstrate or talk about what drawing is: "There are many different marks you can make on paper. You can make lines, dots, or wiggly lines. You can draw big, or you can draw small. You can press hard, or you can press light. Emily Carr used wavy lines, or long curved lines to show movement in her paintings."

4. After 10 or 15 minutes practicing with the colored pencil and newsprint, hand out the tagboard and pastels. Students can share the pastels, 1 box for every table or every few students.

5. Have the children place the paper the tall way, and sign their name in the lower right-hand corner.

Things to talk about:

"You can draw one tree, or a whole forest of trees."

"Remember that it doesn't have to look exactly like a tree does in real life. It can be a tree like one you have seen before, or any tree you can imagine."

"If you want to, give a name to your tree."

"Remember that Emily used long, curving lines and smooth shapes to draw her trees."

"Use as many colors as you want to for your tree. You can draw light shining through the branches by adding yellow."

"If you get a lot of pastel dust built up on your paper, you can gently tap it off on your desk, or blend it in with your fingers."

6. When the children are done, make sure each drawing is signed. Have the children wash the pastels off of their hands. Tap the excess pastel off the paper, then lightly spray the drawing with fixative outside the classroom and away from the children. Place the included label on the back of the drawing. Staple the drawings up for display.

Additional Resources:

To help you prepare for the lesson, please watch this short film called "I Can Make Art ... Like Emily Carr" by the National Film Board of Canada.  It gives a great overview on the life of Emily Carr, and will help give you a better sense of her to share with the class.

Another great site to get familiar with the works of Emily Carr, is The Vancouver Art Gallery.  They have an extensive gallery of works by Emily Carr, along with biographical information and educational resources.

Resources and Recommended Reading

Though I have researched the subject of Emily Carr thoroughly, and every effort has been made for accuracy, if you feel that information is in error, please contact me at sara at sitkacoast dot com

Books by Emily Carr:

The Heart of a Peacock. Vancouver, British Columbia: Douglas & McIntyre, 2005.

Pause: A Sketchbook. Vancouver, British Columbia: Douglas & McIntyre, 2007.

Klee Wyck. Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 2003.

Growing Pains. Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2004.

Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr. Vancouver, British Columbia: Douglas & McIntyre, 2007.

The House of All Sorts. Vancouver, British Columbia: Douglas & McIntyre, 2004.

The Book of Small. Vancouver, British Columbia: Douglas & McIntyre, 2004.

Biographical Books:

Doris Shadbolt, The Art of Emily Carr. Vancouver, British Columbia: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 1979.

Anne Newlands, Emily Carr, An Introduction to her Life and Art. Ontario Canada: Firefly Books Ltd., 1996.

Jo Ellen Bogart, Emily Carr, At the Edge of the World. Toronto, Ontario: Tundra Books, 2003.


Special Thanks to The Vancouver Art Museum's online site for Emily Carr, including Featured Works, Biographical Information and Educational Resources:

I Can Make Art ... Like Emily Carr, a film by the National Film Board of Canada:

Pictures and Paintings:

Map of Canada; Nations Online Project,

Emily Carr House; City of Victoria, Steve Barber, 2004.

Photo of Emily at age 21; British Columbia Archives

Cedar Canim's House, Ucluelet, 1899; Newcombe Collection, Provincial Archives of British Columbia

5 o'clock am; Emily Carr, Pause, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 2007

Totem Walk at Sitka, 1907; Collection of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

Trees on a Hillside, 1911; The Vancouver Art Museum

House Post, c. 1912; The National Gallery of Canada

Woo; British Columbia Archives

Big Raven, 1931; The Vancouver Art Gallery

Zunoqua of the Cat Village, 1931; The Vancouver Art Gallery

Red Cedar, 1931-1933; The Vancouver Art Gallery

Abstract Tree Forms, 1931-1932; The Vancouver Art Gallery

Tree, 1932-1933; The Vancouver Art Gallery

Untitled Charcoal, 1930-1931; The Vancouver Art Gallery

Untitled Charcoal, 1930-1931; The Vancouver Art Gallery

Wood Interior, 1932-1935; The Vancouver Art Gallery

Sombreness Sunlit, 1937-1940; The Province of British Columbia, Provincial Archives

Swirl, 1937; Private Collection

Strait of Juan de Fuca, 1936; McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Laughing Bear, 1941; Private Collection

Self-Portrait, 1938-1939; Private Collection

Cedar Sanctuary, 1942; The Vancouver Art Gallery