Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Chinese New Year Dragons: A Lesson in Line and Color

Credit: Deep Space Sparkle

I was recently at Disney's California Adventure where the park was celebrating the Lunar New Year! It was so much fun - lots of culture, amazing food, parades and fun! 

Many countries celebrate December 31st as the start of the New Year. The Lunar New Year begins February 5th and is a long holiday marathon filled with traditions and rituals. Let's learn a little bit more from a Lunar Celebration in New York City!

As you heard, 2019 is the Year of the Pig! 

What does that mean? Every year, there is an animal associated with the Chinese Zodiac. If you were born in 2009, your animal is an Ox. If you were born in 2010, your animal is a Tiger!

There are all sorts of beliefs associated with the animals. Oxes are known for diligence, dependability, strength and determination. Having an honest nature, Oxes are strongly patriotic, have ideals and ambitions for life, and attach importance to family and work. People born in a year of the Tiger are brave, competitive, unpredictable, and confident. They are very charming and well-liked by others!

When I was in Disneyland, this is how the Year of the Pig was represented:

Yep! The Three Little Pigs! 

So what does all this have to do with our art project? I thought it would be fun to create some Chinese Dragons to celebrate the Lunar New Year! We saw lots of dragons at our time in the park, and one of Disney's favorite dragon characters is ...

Mushu from the Disney movie, Mulan! Looking at this picture of Mushu, are his colors more warm or cool? When you think of dragons, do you think of them as predominantly warm or cool? Why?

The Chinese dragon is considered to be the ultimate symbol of good fortune. It possesses noble qualities and magical abilities that exceed those of every day man. The Chinese people believed the dragon would grant them fertile lands and wealth.

Chinese dragons were described as a combination of parts from lots of animals:

  • Belly like a reptile
  • Horns like a deer
  • Head like a camel
  • Eyes and neck like a snake
  • Ears like a cow (although sometimes they are hidden)
  • Scales like a carp 
  • Claws like an eagle 
  • Paws like tiger

For this art project, we are going to do a guided draw. There is no wrong way to draw these dragons, but there are certain things we want to add to each one, so make sure you're following along! 

  • Watercolor Paper
  • Black Oil Pastels
  • Watercolor Pencils
  • Water
  • Paintbrushes
  • Liquid Watercolor (Orange, Yellow, Blue, Green)
  • Wipes
  • Black Construction Paper
  • Please place your sheet of watercolor paper vertically on your desk. Flip it over and write your name on the back.
  • We are going to start with the dragon's face. In the bottom corner, draw a "V" and then outline it again. Then draw the dragon's horn and his eye.

  • Next we are going to outline more of his mouth, adding teeth (you can color these black or leave them white - up to you). Then draw the "frill" around his eye. 
  • Add another horn coming up through his "frill" and add some details around his chin. Fill in the "frill" with lines that look almost like the petals of a flower.

  • Now we are going to draw our dragon's body. Don't draw yet - just observe the samples. Here is what he's going to look like when he's all finished. Do you see that we used the WHOLE paper?

  • Pick a point at the top right of your paper. This will be the dragon's tail. Make a large backwards "S" and bring that line down to meet your dragon's head. Then start at his head and make another curvy line to meet back at the tail!

  • Now we are going to add his legs. Add legs where you see the dotted lines in the picture above (and look at the sample). And then add another leg on the other side at the top. Make sure to add claws!
  • Now we're going to draw one more line for his underbelly. Start at the dragon's head and make another line leading up to his tail.

  • Now add some spikes (triangles) along your dragon's back, and lines on his belly.

  • The last thing we are going to do is to add his scales. These should fill up his entire body. DO NOT make these too small (otherwise you're not going to be able to see the rich colors when you paint). You should do 3 - 4 semi-circles as you work up the dragon's body to the tail (see above and samples). Or you can leave some spaces in between - it's up to you! But every dragon does need scales, so get to work adding those to his body!

  • Now we are ready to paint. We will be using watercolor pencils. These are so cool (we've used them before, but not in awhile). You will color in your dragon, just like you would with regular colored pencils, but when you're done coloring, we will use water over the top and the pencil work will turn to watercolor!

  • You can choose to do a "warm" colored dragon or a "cool" colored dragon. If you are doing a "warm" colored dragon, please come up and choose red, yellow, orange pencils and ONE cool color (blue, green OR purple).

  • If you are choosing to do a "cool" colored dragon, please come up and choose blue, green, purple pencils and ONE warm color (red, yellow OR orange).

  • Using your cool color (if you are doing a warm dragon) or your warm color (if you are doing a cool dragon), color in bits of his face (eye, horns, lips). Go ahead and put that color away.
  • Now choose your favorite color out of your warm or cool colors, and color your dragon's mouth, legs, belly and spikes. 
  • Now it's time for the scales on his body. Alternating with the colors you have left, color all of the scales on his body. Try not to have to same two colors next to each other.

  • When you color, make sure that you're doing it kind of dark - then when you go over it with water, the color will really pop through!
  • When you are done coloring, we will come around with water and a paintbrush. Carefully paint over your watercolor pencil, making sure to use enough water to blend all of the colors together.

  • Finally, we are going to take some liquid watercolor (like we used last month) and paint around the outside of the dragon. One of our volunteers will come around and add a small drop of a contrasting color (yellow or orange if you have a cool dragon and/or blue or purple if you have a warm dragon). We are also going to add a drop or two of gold watercolor paint. This makes the background sparkle!
  • Clean your brush and use lots of water to move the paint around on your background. Do not go right up to your dragon, but around the outside (leaving some white around the edges). Cover up all of your pastel smudge marks!

  • Once the dragons are dry, please mount them on black construction paper to display.
  • Clean up your desks and we can watch a parade from the Lunar New Year celebration at Disney's California Adventure!