Studies of Asia
Term: 1 Year: 2007
Appreciating and interpreting art from another culture not only uncovers aesthetic views, values and standards of
that country, but delves deeper, in a more visceral way, so that something of the common ground of humanity is reflected
(Ainslie, L. (2003) "Crossing Boundaries", ARTicle, Autumn 2003, p.28)
Dingley Primary School is highly committed to Studies of Asia.
In addition to Asia-related perspectives and activities infusing all areas of the curriculum, our school annually
implements five-week, whole-school intensive, integrated unit focussing on specific topics / countries within the
To date our focus units have included:
2000 Asian Textiles
2001 Japan / Technology
2004 International Year of Rice – Rice is Life
2005 Endangered Asian Animals
Over the years a number of Dingley Primary School staff have successfully applied for scholarships to travel to and
experience a variety of Asian cultures via Asia Education Foundation Study Tours. Study Tour experiences have had
an immense impact on teacher enthusiasm, insights, inspiration and knowledge, the ultimate result of which is improved
curriculum content and pedagogy throughout the school.
Countries visited (so far) include: Japan – 1988, China – 1999, Thailand/ Laos – 2000, Japan – 2001, Thailand – 2003
& Vietnam & Cambodia – 2006.
Having personally participated in the two most recent trips, my experiences, purchases and quality digital photographs
have provided rich cultural insights, resources and inspiration to incorporate into my Visual Arts program.
As a result of my trip to Vietnam and Cambodia in January last year, it was decided that our 2006 whole-school integrated
unit would focus on these countries. In addition to comprehensive classroom and school-wide activities, the unit
culminated in a performing arts 'extravaganza'. Included here is a representative sample of some of the
visual artwork produced by students.
The Naga is a significant character in Southeast Asian mythology. This serpent-like creature is readily evident in
artwork and architecture throughout Cambodia, and representations are especially impressive on temples and royal
palaces. The number of heads on a Naga can vary. In this instance the students made a single-headed Naga, however
this activity could certainly be adapted to include a multi-headed version. (Always ensure an odd number of heads).
After rolling short 'sausages', students bend two complete arcs, make a head and a small tail, all with
'flat bottoms' to ensure stability. Spines, frills and texture are added for extra effect. In subsequent
lessons, (while waiting for clay to dry and be fired), students design and paint a firm cardboard base for their
creature. Rivers, lotus ponds, and rice paddies are popular choices. After sketching ideas on paper, students transferred
their designs to the card then painted with viponds quick-dry paint, ensuring paint is dry before abutting different
colours against each other. When returned from the kiln, students have to plan the sequence of painting their clay
to ensure maximum coverage and minimum mess. When everything is completely dry, a warm glue gun is used to attach
the Naga to the base and to apply goggle eyes if desired.
Sumi Ink Pictures
In August 2006, Dingley Primary School (and St Bede's Primary) participated in The Japan-Australia Culture and
Art Class Exchange. In addition to viewing and exploring original contemporary children's artwork from Japan,
level four students at D.P.S. had the opportunity to learn about a traditional Japanese art form, experiencing some
of the techniques and effects associated with Sumi ink on Washi paper.
Tissue Paper Silhouettes
* Students tear and/or cut narrow, irregular shapes horizontally from A3 cover paper in 2-3 colours then glue pieces
to a contrasting A3 sheet.
* After covering the entire surface with smooth runny 'paste',carefully drape a slightly larger sheet of
rainbow tissue onto the slippery surface, sliding in various directions to create a crinkled effect or flatten for
a smooth surface. Cover with thin layer of paste.
* Allow to dry then flatten under a heavy board.
* After exploring and discussing features evident in enlarged photographs of Vietnamese / Cambodian skylines, students
sketch out basic design ideas, (being careful NOT to include an over abundance of intricate detail.)
* Approximately 1/4 is removed horizontally from a sheet of A3 black cover paper then students sketch their design
onto the top portion of the remaining 3/4 page.
* Silhouettes are carefully cut out using both 'classroom' scissors and small pointed 'nail'
scissors for finer details then positioned and glued to the background.
* (Some students then covered the finished picture with runny paste ~ which stuck everything down, looked great when
wet, but crinkled significantly when dry. The general consensus amongst students was…glue the back only! )
Old Tom Postcards
In art classes prior to my trip, students created postcards about their lives in Australia for me to distribute to
children I met whilst I was away. When teaching in Vietnam, I shared these postcards with groups of grade five and
six children and then repeated the activity, guiding the Vietnamese students to write and draw about life in their
country. The resulting laminated postcards were shared throughout classrooms during our whole school focus unit.
At the commencement of our unit, as an adaptation/continuation of the postcard activity, students drew the picture
storybook character Old Tom in Australia, and at the end of the unit reflected learning outcomes via their representations
of 'Old Tom's Asian Experience'.
* Initially, after reading Old Tom Man of Mystery, we discussed the major physical and behavioural characteristics
of Old Tom.
* Students then folded A4 draft paper into quarters. In one box they drew a basic front-facing Tom, then in the others
depicted him from various viewpoints and involved in a variety of activities.
* When confident, students sketched their final design onto A5 card. Pencil lines were traced over with waterproof
fine liner, pictures coloured with water-soluble pencils, then water applied.
* Once dry, pictures were flattened under a heavy weight prior to mounting.
* At the end of the unit, we read Old Tom's Holiday and discussed things he may have seen or done on a trip
to Southeast Asia, then repeated the activity.
(This may seem rather repetitive activity however the students thoroughly enjoyed creating adventures for Old Tom
and appreciated the opportunity to refine skills, knowledge and techniques. * On this occasion Levels 2 & 3 participated
in the activity however it is certainly adaptable to other levels…even Grade Six!)
Angkor-Inspired Figures & Prints
The highlight of my trip was our three-day exploration around Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
* Of the numerous (thousands) of photographs taken there, I enlarged, printed and laminated a selection of those
specifically depicting male and female figures.
* After exploring and discussing the images, students decided upon a 'character' they would focus upon,
sketching basic ideas onto A4 draft paper.
* In addition to Zart hinged 2D manikins depicting the human form in profile, I personally created a class set of
* After arranging a 'stance' for their figure students carefully traced around the contour of their manikin
onto lightweight cardboard. (The cardboard needs to be thin enough for detailed cutting but thick enough to 'hold
its shape'. We used approx 400gsm. 510×320 was large enough for most designs, however I also provided some taller
and wider pieces if needed.
* Students then critically viewed their own and other's figures to gauge whether they 'looked right'.
'Imperfections', (often evident around the waist and hip area) were sketched over and smoothed out, 'bulk'
added to the male warriors, breasts to the female dancers etc. Basic body shapes were then carefully cut out, keeping
cardboard scraps for additional features.
* After a lesson on basic tracing, students made paper pattern pieces for clothing, headpieces, jewellery, weapons
& 'accessories'. Patterns were transferred to the same weight card, cut out, layered and pasted into
position on the basic body form.
* As we progressed, the students worked out that some body parts needed to be repeated because they were in front
of clothing etc. All students added an extra head so that it would 'jut out' from the neck and 'look
right'. We also specifically explored the positioning of facial features and I provided a mini template to assist
* Once all pieces and details were firmly glued and dried, students were ready for printing. Some students took three
weeks to reach this stage, others five.
To ease logistical pressures, only 2-4 students printed at any one time. (Others students were either finishing their
own figures or working on the tissue paper silhouettes).
* Each student made four prints:
- Black on thick textured tissue (donated)
- Black on parchment paper
- Black on Rice Paper
- Bronze on black paper
* Printing the bronze directly after the black results in a very effective texture/colour on the cardboard figure
rendering it a beautiful piece of artwork in itself.
* Although an involved and at times challenging activity, all students were engaged and motivated for its duration.
Every time someone printed their figure we would all stop to view the resulting artwork, with "WOW!!" being
the most common response.
Dingley Primary School