Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Seasons (Spring), Plant Cycle, Food Sources
Social Studies – Cultures Around the World (Japan), Language Arts – Literature
Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Vincent Van Gogh, Pierre-Joseph Redouté
Painting, Printmaking, Art Careers (Botanical Illustrator, Botanical Artist), Observational And Contour Drawing
Vincent Van Gogh’s “Almond Blossoms”
Several coincidences inspired me to write this spring tree blog post. First, I’ve just completed a felted artwork inspired by Van Gogh’s “Almond Blossoms”. Then, I find that Cassie Stephens (one of my all time favorite bloggers) just created an Almond Blossom inspired art lesson. Lastly, while volunteering for an art teacher friend of mine, I discovered that her kindergarten students were studying a unit on where food comes from. It hit me that a lot of today’s blossoms will turn into fruit in late summer and fall. Voila, where food comes from! Too many coincidences in one week. So here I am.
Hiroshege’s “Plum Park in Kameido” Vincent Van Gogh’s “Flowering Plum Tree”
Talking about inspiration, Van Gogh was also inspired by others upon occasion. ( I’ve talked about Millet’s inspiration in this post.) In “Almond Blossoms” and “Flowering Plum Tree”, Van Gogh was influenced by Japanese block prints he collected. Thanks to Commodore Matthew Perry’s Trade Agreement with Japan , many Japanese items were showing up in Paris. It had been 200 years since any trade had occurred with Japan. The Impressionist and Post Impressionist artists were inspired by all things Japan. Look here to learn more. As you can see Van Gogh made an almost direct copy of the “Plum Park in Kameido”. In “Almond Blossoms”, there is a more subtle influence .
Printmaking would be a good Japanese correlation if you are inspired to create spring trees or branches with your students. After all, the Japanese Edo Prints were what inspired the European artists. Cassie Stephens’ spring tree lesson contains a lot of printmaking. Students could also print blossoms with soda bottom bottles and crumpled paper.
Spring is also a time of Sakura or cherry blossom festivals in Japan, Washington, DC, and other cities around the United States. Nashville, TN celebrated Sakura this past weekend. In Japan, families traditionally picnic under the blossoming cherry trees. Read more about cherry blossom traditions here , here and here. See the tradition recorded through woodblock prints here. These blossom trees are ornamental and don’t bare fruit. The Japanese still manage to use them as a food source though. They pickle and make tea from the petals. The United States received a gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Japan in 1912. These were planted around the tidal basin in Washington D.C. A parade and many other activities are planned for the next couple of weeks in celebration of our friendship with Japan.
The Japanese also paint tree blossoms. Last year I took a Sumi-e or Chinese brush painting class. We learned to paint the “Four Gentlemen”. The plum blossom was one of the gentleman, along with bamboo, orchids and chrysanthemums. You can find some examples of plum blossom paintings here.
Tree blossoms and fruit can also be rendered by botanical illustrators and artists. Read more about these two art vocations here. Before the invention of the of the camera, artists and botanists recorded what different species of plants and their stages of development looked like through drawings and paintings. One famous botanical artist, who painted for Marie Antoinette, was Pierre-Joseph Redouté. Even today, many of his works are reproduced as prints and on household items. See some examples of his work here. (Check out the lemon branch.) There is also a lovely picture book out about the artist entitled, Redoute: The Artist Who Painted Flowers by Carolyn Croll.
A science unit on where food comes from may include a piece of tree art. Primary students could first create a simple tree shape by drawing , blowing ink, twisting paper or tracing their hand and forearm. Next, students divide their papers in quarters either vertically or horizontally and vertically. Discuss with students the cycle of a fruit tree as found here and in this video. Students can brainstorm different kinds of fruits which come from trees. The following chart shows blossom colors.
|Fruit Tree||Blossom Color|
|Peach||Light Pink, Light Purple|
Students then choose a fruit and fill in the quarters of their tree with the different stages of fruit growth. This can be accomplished with paint,collage or printing.
Intermediate students, who may be studying plant cycles, could practice their observational drawing skills to create botanical illustrations similar to Redoute. When teaching students contour drawing, I would suggest students pretend they were an ant walking around on the object. Where would the ant be going? (up, down, at a diagonal, etc.) Students could arrange the seeds, blossoms and fruits in an interesting manner on the page. After drawing, students could fill it in with watercolor.
Who would have thought that so many teaching possibilities could come from a simple little blossom? I certainly didn’t. I hope that you’ve gleaned something that you can use in your classroom. If you like what you’ve read, please throw me a Like. Simply click on the post title and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Also, please share what you do in your classroom. I’d love to hear about it.
Stop by again real soon!