Sunday, May 15, 2016

Chinese Dragons

Fourth graders are so enthusiastic about creating these Chinese dragons.  We talked about the difference between the European dragon and the Chinese dragon. The Chinese dragon is a symbol of good luck and wisdom. It is a symbol of power for people who are worthy of it and a creature to be feared by fools and evildoers. The European dragon on the other hand is typically an unruly dreadful beast feared by all for its ruthlessness.

We talked about how the appearance of the Chinese dragon has changed over time. It has become a creature that flies with a serpent's body, hawk claws, cow ears and the whiskers and scales of a carp (koi).

We also learned the Chinese Waterfall Legend. It tells if the koi fish that swam up the Yellow river against the current and tried for 100 years to jump up the waterfall. When he finally made it, he became a dragon that chases pearls of wisdom.  We talked about the life lessons that this story teaches us such as perseverance.

The dragon is a huge part of Chinese culture and makes many appearances at celebrations. We also watched some dragon dance videos while we worked. Notice that it is chasing a pearl of wisdom!

The main art concept that we talked about during this project was color blending. We talked about how to layer colors to blend, and we talked about using water to help colors to smoothly transition on our papers.

Does it Blend Well?
YES: 2 Primary Colors, 2 Analogous Colors (next door neighbors on the color wheel)
NO: 3 Primary Colors, Complementary Colors (opposites on the color wheel), Secondary Colors

When we talk about blending, I explain that our goal is to use vibrant rainbow colors on our artwork, so it's important to know how to avoid brown.

Next, we do some color math. I explain that to make brown, you combine all 3 primary colors.  I write out this basic equation on the board...

Red+Yellow+Blue = Brown

Then, we simplify the equation a variety of ways:
If, R+Y=O, and Y+B=G, and R+B=P, and R+Y+B= Brown then...
(R+Y)+B= O+B = Brown ...or...
(Y+B)+R= G+R = Brown ...or...
(R+B)+Y= P+Y = Brown

As it turns out, when we simplify the equation we end up with complementary pairs: (notice that these are on the "NO" list).

Orange and Blue
Green and Red
Purple and Yellow

Why can't we blend secondary colors together Mrs. Seitz? To answer this question we expand the equations and discover that all 3 of the primary colors are present in the mixtures.

Orange + Green = (R+Y)+(B+Y)
Green + Purple = (Y+B)+(R+B)
Purple + Orange = (B+R)+(R+Y)

The color math really helps the kids understand the reasons behind what works and what doesn't. It also gives them a way to figure it out if they haven't memorized what works. When I teach it this way, it creates an ah-ha moment for many of the kids. At this point in the year, my 4th graders are really quite good with color concepts because we have already done our Kandinsky color mixing lesson with fractions!

Learning Goals: I can...
- Explain the difference between Chinese and European dragons
- Tell about Chinese dragons
- Blend using analogous colors (next door neighbors)
- Give examples of colors that do and do not blend well


  1. These are beautiful. Why brand of watercolors do you use?

    1. Honestly, I don't know because these trays were in my room when I started at this school!

  2. would love to see instructions to students
    for drawing the dragon! Beautiful project!