The children and I worked on a rather large project, designing koi pond collages. Koi originated in Eastern Asia and China, where black koi were kept in the rice paddies to provide food during the winter months. Sometimes mutations in the color of the fish occurred and they were bred to create more aesthetically pleasing fish. They were brought nearer to homes and kept in small ponds, making them easier to farm and used as a decorative element. Eventually these practices made their way to Japan and became very popular there, as well as around the world. In Japan, it is said that koi bring a serenity and calm. The water in which they live is a world of dreams. The better the environment you create for your koi, the more beautiful and healthy they become.
Our first step was to create the water for the pond. We used white cray pas to create waves and ripples. Then a watercolor wash was added using a combination of blue, green, and purple. The last option was sprinkling coarse salt onto the wash, which would absorb some of the pigment to give the water some sparkle. When dry, we cut our ponds into interesting shapes and mounted them onto 12x18 black construction paper.
On white paper, we drew and used tempera paint to create koi for our ponds (2 to 4 fish were suggested.) Black, yellow, orange, and red paint were offered, as well as palettes, to create new shades of gold, red, and orange. I like to encourage color mixing, to give each project a little more originality.
We then used sponges and shades of gray tempera on gray construction paper to create the appearance of stone. The paper was cut when dry into rock shapes to place in and around the ponds. Finally, I gave each child rectangles and strips of green paper to create lily pads and grasses. They embellished them with green shades of cray pas. A final option was to add tissue paper lilies to the lily pads.
After adding our fish to the pond we glued our stones and plants. These elements make the pond beautiful, but also protect the koi. Brightly colored fish are easy targets for animals like raccoons and herons. The lily pads give the koi a place to hide, and the stones around the edge make it harder for land animals to reach in to grab them. I think the children did a great job with all of the prep work involved, and in integrating all of the elements together. The fish really appear to be swimming around in their world of dreams!