Morning in the Pine Forest: Co-author a Painting
My favorite childhood chocolate candies, which then were quite expensive, were “The Club Footed Bear”. Then you could only get a couple and only in special gift bags you got at the end of your summer camp stay or for the New Year’s festivities. It was practically impossible to buy them. On top of the blue wrapper there was a picture of several bear cubs climbing trees with their mother bear next to them on the grass, watching them. The scene took place in the morning in a pine forest.
As a young woman I visited the world renowned Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow for the first time. It holds a magnificent collection of famous Russian paintings. There, in one of the halls, I saw lots of beautiful landscapes. The pictures were by the famous Russian landscape painter – Ivan Ivanovivh Shishkin. And to my surprise one of the canvases was familiar to me. It was the same scene that I saw on the wrapper of my favorite childhood candy. But here is was on a large canvas that was hanging on the wall in a gilded frame and mesmerized me not only with its size but with a beautifully and finely depicted bears, who appeared to be the true hosts of the impassable forest. Dawn. The thicket of trees, still partially covered in fog, is lit by the first rays of the rising sun. And I am there peeking at this curious family.
Before this encounter I had no idea that the scene on the wrapper was not just created by a designer of candy wrappers, like many other Russian candies, but is taken from the painting of a famous landscape artist Shishkin. He called the picture “Morning in the Pine Forest.”
This painter was quite famous in Russia specifically as a leading landscape artist, a magnificent depicter of the forest. All his life he studied forests, mostly the northern forests, trees, and Russian nature. Shishkin was a master at portraying nature at any time of year. A field, a forest, a road in a field, ancient oaks surrounding a river or a pond – all of them were the subjects of his paintings.
An interesting fact about this picture is that it actually is co-authored. Shishkin and Savitsky created it together. It was Savitsy who painted the bears, after Shishkin was done with the forest. Originally the signatures of both painters graced the canvas, but later Savitsky removed his signature, this making this picture listed under Shishkin in all art catalogues.
I was standing in front of this canvas for a while and could not make myself leave. I have seen this scene all my life but had no clue that it could be so mesmerizing! As only here, looking at all the elements of it, I could see the painstakingly painted trees, sunlight inching through them and so many details that were created with such love and mastery by the virtuoso painter.
Leaving the hall I thought to myself: how wonderful it was that children were introduced to this gorgeous paining by a talented Russian artist already in their early childhood. As these pine trees and bears and associated with them great chocolate flavor were familiar not only to me but to every child and adult in former USSR.
139 (about 4.5 feet) х 213 (about 7 feet)
This picture is about 4.5 feet tall and about 7 feet wide.
Find a wall and with duct tape paper tape mark the dimensions of the picture on the wall.
The children can help measuring it out and handling the tape measure.
As this picture was created by two authors you can do the same!
Each picture can have two people in charge: one person draws the woods and the other cuts out the bears and places them on the picture of the woods, mimicking the original.
It can be parent-child, two children, teacher-child, etc.
If this is a classroom project – it can be divided into two parts: one day all the children are drawing a forest and the other day all the children are cutting up and gluing the bears. Then just assign pairs and let them place their bears on someone else’s forest.
Have both authors sign the painting.
The forest can be drawn with pencils, tempera, watercolors – depending on the age and their preference.
What you need:
Tempera paint+paint brushes
A printed page with the bears (if you can – print on the brown construction paper, cut it to the size of the printer tray and adjust the paper thickness setting on your printer for best results) – see the printable PDF file
Felt tip pen for bears’ eyes and noses
Step 1: The Forest
You can show the children the pictures on a pine tree vs a Christmas tree vs a birch tree vs a maple tree – all very common in a Russian forest. Talk about needles vs. leaves.
On the computer show the kids the picture Morning in the Pine Forest by Shishkin. Tell them the story of the two authors that collaborated to create it. Let them know that that’s what they will be doing.
Show the kids your interpretation of the picture and tell them that they will be interpreting this picture too to creat thie Foreat with bears.
To draw the pine forests try to mimic the picture – several tall trees in the background and one big broken one in the middle/front of the page. Talk about back/front, right/left. Ask the kids to show on the picture where they are. Ask them to identify on their page where they will be.
First draw the tree trunks. Say that the pine tree as other trees has a trunk, branches of different size but instead of the leaves – it has needles. After the trunk, proceed to big branches and then to little ones.
Once the branches are done – use a smaller brush to paint the needles on the trees.
Then add a little water to the leftover green paint and using brush paint the green clearing where the bears will be.
Using lighter colors (yellow, orange, white) paint the sunlight coming through the trees.
Step 2: The Bears
Cut the four bears out of the brown construction paper. Draw the eyes and noses with the black felt tip pen. If doing the project with younger kids you might either enlarge the bears for easier cutting or allow for a less precise cutting.
Step 3: The Switch