The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Term: 3 Year: 2017

The annual City of Banyule ‘Kids Arty Farty Fest’ culminates in a bright and colourful street parade, held towards the end of Term One. For the students, teachers and broader community of Rosanna Golf Links Primary School, the Parade is recognised as a major event in the yearly Arts Calendar. 

This year’s theme was ‘The Water Cycle’, which triggered discussion with students on the properties and importance of water and how water has been portrayed in art.
An early survey of Grade 3/4 students found a majority wanting to develop their sketching and painting skills. As a result, a unit of study on ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ (c.1830) by Katsushika Hokusai was chosen.

Initially, students discussed the design elements and the wood block printing technique used by Hokusai. They learned that one of his prints was at the NGV and that an exhibition of his work was scheduled for July 2017.

Students began with sketching outlines of shapes of the wave foam, blue water, boats, Mount Fuji and the sky as they interpreted and started producing their own versions of ‘The Great Wave’. To position these elements with some accuracy, students drafted grid lines on cartridge paper matching a similar grid on an image of ‘The Great Wave’. 

With sketches colour-coded, students used oil pastels for striped areas of blue water. Then, watercolours were added for sky and boats. Thick white acrylic paint was dabbed on the tops of the waves to create a first layer of foam. Using a mix of pale blue acrylic, shadow and depth were added to the foam by stippling the lower edge. Finally, with full permission to splatter runny white acrylic with a toothbrush (everywhere!), students lit up their piece with great foamy ‘spray’. 

All students were delighted with their ‘Great Wave(s)’ and enjoyed utlising new skills whilst learning about Hokusai. 

As for the Parade, the students dressed in ‘watery’ costumes depicting a river. They carried local aquatic fauna models, the sun, clouds and raindrops, and managed to win ‘Best School’ entry. 

Gayle Willmott
Visual Arts Teacher
Rosanna Golf Links Primary School

Visit ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ (c.1830) 
at the NGV International HOKUSAI exhibition.
On display 21 July 17 – 15 October 17