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Synthesis in watercolor.

As one learns to read and write, a variety of visual images are formed in the "mind's eye." People throughout the ages have captured these images in verse and painting, often as an expression of the beauty of nature.

A type of verse unique to eastern cultures is haiku, a 5-7-5 syllable statement. In a middle school seventh level communication class, students developed their own haiku poems. The communication teacher then shared his class experience with me and we decided to incorporate students' verbal images with visual statements. After completion, some fifty haiku verses, most of which were about nature, were typed and copies were handed out to the class. The objective was to use watercolor to visually express the haiku.

The class opened with a brief history of haiku and Oriental paintings. We observed the haiku traditions, and read books from our media center. As a class, we also looked at Oriental paintings from the school museum collection, and discussed the painting style. We also examined painting on ceramic ware. The students discovered that much of the brushwork was quick and decisive. Now the challenge began. Could we use the brash in such a manner? What controls would we apply to the watercolor paints? Could we simplify our ideas to limited brushstrokes?

We began the actual lesson by doing some preliminary sketches of our interpretations of the haiku verses. It was thrilling to see the individual ideas that were generated from one verse. Students then moved on to the use of the brush and watercolor. We practiced handling the tools, working to create the deft effect we had observed in our "art appreciation" of the Oriental tradition. Each brushstroke was to become a leaf, building, stem or petal, etc.

As students developed some success with the process, we discussed how the painting and verse would be placed on the page. We used 9" x 12" (23 cm x 30 cm) watercolor paper for this project. Some of the works required a colored background to relate to the season of the year that had been chosen for the interpretation. Often a lightly sketched circle, oval or square was placed on the page to allow room for the poem. The student then created the painting around that space. After much effort, failure and finally success, the lesson was completed and the work compiled into a booklet.

The lesson was a success! It was a combination of art appreciation, interdisciplinary relationships, and a feeling of accomplishment for the class and its teacher.

Mrs. LaDonna R. Koch is an art teacher at Westchester Middle School/Duneland Schools, Chesterton, Indiana.
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Author:Koch, LaDonna Rae
Publication:School Arts
Date:Feb 1, 1990
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