Hannah's Art Club

creative art projects for kindergarten and beyond

Great Waves: Inspired by Hokusai (June 2013)

This was a drawing project for 4-6 year olds, inspired by the 19th century Japanese master printmaker, Hokusai. His most iconic work is the woodblock print, Under the great wave off Kanagawa, which dates from around 1832 (pictured below).

Hokusai Great Wave MMA

Each child was given a copy of the print to refer to, and we started the session by looking closely at the shapes of Hokusai’s waves, the way he depicts the white foam, and the boats almost hidden within the surf. Several children noticed the mountain at the centre of the picture – Mount Fuji – which looks tiny compared to the crashing waves. One of Hokusai’s waves is similar in shape to the mountain, making a direct reference to its colossal size. I also pointed out the stripes of light and dark blue underneath the waves, which help to show the dynamic movement of the water.

DSCF5425 DCThe children used black pens to draw their own waves, and then added boats and people in the water. If you look closely at their drawings, there are boats riding the tops of the waves, surfers, and people being thrown out of their vessels or jumping out with smiles on their faces!


Colour was added using oil pastels in just three colours – white, blue (a range of shades) and yellowish-brown  – which reflect Hokusai’s palette.


I encouraged the kids to try and recreate the energy and movement of the waves swelling and crashing by drawing with lots of energy and movement!


Peter Lanyon, Lost Mine, 1959, Oil on canvas (Tate, London)

Some of the drawings ended up looking really abstract, such as the one pictured above.

This child’s drawing reminds me of the prominent British mid-twentieth century painter, Peter Lanyon (1918-1964), whose gestural, abstract paintings referred to the sea, the sky and the weather around the Cornish coast where he lived.

Pictured to the right is Peter Lanyon’s 1959 oil painting on canvas, Lost Mine, which is in the collection of the Tate in London.


To finish off, some of the children signed their names in a vertical line, to emulate the Japanese characters of Hokusai’s signature.



Watch the slideshow below to see all of the children’s Great Waves:

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16 comments on “Great Waves: Inspired by Hokusai (June 2013)

  1. elsamora470315165
    June 28, 2013

    Dear Hannah, this is so beautiful! Each one of your projects is unique. May I blog about this on http://www.ArtisaWay.com ? I will link to this post. Thank you so much for what you do. Everything is so inspiring. Now I feel like painting waves and signing my name like this:



    • hannahsartclub
      June 28, 2013

      I’m glad you like this one. I was very proud of the children when they produced these lively artworks. I love Hokusai’s print, but his waves look so static and stylised in comparison with the expressive energy found in the children’s interpretations of the same subject! Of course you may write about the project – the kids will be delighted to know that their art is becoming so famous!
      And now I want to sign like Hokusai too!

  2. elsamora470315165
    June 28, 2013


  3. mamacormier
    June 29, 2013

    Hannah I also love the idea of doing this with my kindergarten class next year. I’m pinning this to my Pinterest so I can access it when I need it.

  4. hannahsartclub
    June 29, 2013

    I hope your class enjoy it Carol. Mine loved adding their own imaginative details!

  5. Pingback: Katsushika Hokusai: Beauty | Micheline's Blog

    • hannahsartclub
      July 1, 2013

      Thank you for adding my link to your fascinating post about Hokusai. It seems Hokusai has lost none of his power to inspire and enthrall!

  6. I am really amazed at what 4 to 6 year olds can come up with..Amazing

    • hannahsartclub
      July 1, 2013

      At the end of every art project, I look at what the children have made and think exactly the same thing!

  7. miativity
    July 1, 2013

    Such a lovely project with beautiful results. 4 to 6 year olds? Amazing!
    You might be THE best art teacher I have ever come into contact with! Bravo!!

    • hannahsartclub
      July 1, 2013

      You are very kind. I’m sure I’m not, but I do love doing what I do!

  8. septfondesetoiles
    July 2, 2013

    superbe! bravo aux artistes! j’adore!

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  10. Esther
    October 23, 2013

    Hi Hannah,

    I loved this project!!
    My students (6/7 years old) did too… you can see the result:

    Love from Holland!

  11. hannahsartclub
    October 23, 2013

    Thank you for the link Esther, your children’s drawings are wonderful! And I love your very atmospheric presentation of the pictures with the sound of waves crashing in the background. Thank you very much for sharing them with me and the world!

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This entry was posted on June 28, 2013 by in Artists, Drawing, Nature, World Art and tagged , , , , , , .
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