Thursday, January 6, 2011

Art class in Ulsan: Comics

When I signed up to teach English in Korea, I thought I was putting my dreams of teaching art on hold. I thought there was simply no way I could combine teaching art and travelling without a teaching certificate in art education.

Amazingly, due to the astonishing Korean ability of inferring what will make you happy (I believe they are just as good at the opposite), I was given the opportunity to have an art class during winter break. The class meets three times a week, for one hour each class, and so far, it has been a blast. Hilarious. Challenging. Fulfilling ... and sooo much fun!

To give the students some footing, because I planned to have them paint quite a bit, our first project was a simple color wheel. Our classroom is at the end of the hall, the furthest classroom from the sink in the bathroom, so when it was time to change the water, I pictured a fiasco. In order to avoid this, I took all four boys, as a group, with their dirty paintbrushes and dirty water in hand and showed them the ropes. How to clean a paintbrush. How to not make a giant mess in the bathroom. And surprisingly, after the first week, I haven't had complaints from anyone about the state of our classroom or the bathroom.

Surprising because the boys are … well … boys.

Our classroom

They do seem to be aware of the fact that I am a bit paranoid about messes. It may be because every time I send one of them to go change the dirty water, I send them with, “Now, be verrry careful. Walk slowly.”

Today at the end of class, when I sent a couple students to clean brushes, while the other two helped me clean the classroom, the students who took the brushes and water came back with nothing.

I paused, looked at them, and asked, “Where are the brushes?”

They looked at me and giggled.

That made me smile, but worry a bit about the state of the bathroom.

I looked at them again, with a half-smile, arms akimbo and said, “What did you do? Where are the brushes?”

Finally, they achieved their goal. They got the other boys, and me, to go to the bathroom with them. The brushes were fine. The sink was nearly spotless. There was no mess. But when we got there, they headed right back to the classroom. Tricky boys, playing on my fear of a mess to get out of carrying the brushes back to the classroom.

What did it teach me?

A) They probably won’t make a mess.

B) They know that I’m afraid they will make a mess. Perceptive little buggers.

C) This may turn into the story of the boy who cried wolf.


Ok, Ok.


I want to see the art!

After color wheels we worked on a close-up of a comic book frame, inspired by 1950s style comics and a general interest in animation that is expressed by most Korean students. To begin, I showed them black and white print-outs (unfortunately not color) of an action shot of Robin, of a plane crash, and of a close-up by Lichtenstein (my personal inspiration for the project).

Inspiration ... though, keep in mind, without the privilege of a color printer, they only saw them in black and white.

Guidelines: Use bright colors (red, blue, yellow, green, orange). Outline everything in black. And, for action, include a word like "Pow!" "Bang!" "Wham!" "Zing!"

Here are the results:

The finished products

Vincent - Bullet (or torpedo) in the side

Jacob - Fire!

David - Car crash and Zombies

Aidan did not want to pose with his painting, but it is my absolute favorite.


  1. I love the asymmetrical color wheels...and the comic strip lesson was a great choice! The boys did an awesome job!

  2. I love the color wheels as well :) Aidan's (on the far right in the picture above) ... is again, my favorite. He's got some talent!