Shirley Huller White

Grade 8: Art Education

This lesson was developed in association with art educator Alethea Roy.

All lessons presented here implement project and inquiry-based learning strategies, and meet or exceed Massachusetts Arts Curriculum Framework standards.

Artwork presented here may NOT be reproduced in any way.

Art Lesson/Unit: Grade Level 8

Asia Art: Word Play

Enduring Understandings:

  • There are many legends about the origins of the written Chinese language, but there is a common theme: the Chinese written language was created after close observation of and meditation on the natural world.
  • The Chinese written language began as pictographs and evolved over time into the characters that are used and seen today.
  • A pictograph is a symbol belonging to a pictorial graphic system similar to ancient and prehistoric images of animal and human symbols seen on rock walls and in caves.
  • Chinese visual artist Xu Bing plays with the origins and evolution of the Chinese written word, often de-evolving from a modern simplified system to standardized Chinese text and finally to ancient Chinese pictographs. His method is similar to that of a metamorphosis.

Essential Questions:

  • In what ways may you interpret characteristics from the Chinese written language that is relevant to you?
  • In what ways may you interpret the artwork of artist Xu Bing to help inspire your own ideas while maintaining visual connections to the characteristics of Chinese written language?
  • In what ways may you evolve or devolve those characteristics to create a pictograph design of your own in a 5-step metamorphosis?

Exemplars and Inspirations:

This lesson is inspired by historical examples of the written Chinese language and the artwork of contemporary Chinese artist Xu Bing.

Materials and Techniques:

  • Pencils, sketchbooks or sketch paper
  • Large heavy-weight white paper
  • Sharpie Markers, various tip sizes