Japanese Rimpa Painting

Japanese Rimpa Painting lesson plan

The art of Japanese painter Sakai Hoitsu inspires original decorative paintings of flowers and plants.

  • 1.

    Sakai Hoitsu, a Japanese artist, was born in Edo on August 1, 1761. He painted in the Rimpa style, a decorative form of painting which was often based upon literature and the revision of old classics. He was educated in various schools in Kyoto.

  • 2.

    Traditional decorative Japanese painting is beautifully designed, giving great attention to the composition, or arrangement of spaces. Look closely at Hoitsu's <i>Birds and Flowers, May Irises</i>. The artist focused on the plant life, placing it in the foreground. Although he suggested a background with soft tones crossing the page, the emphasis was on the irises. The plant was arranged so the spaces around it are interesting and varied, which make the composition strong.

  • 3.

    To create your own artwork in the Rimpa style, begin by researching different varieties of flowers. Choose one that you think is visually pleasing, then do a few sketches of the plant from various angles, using Crayola Colored Pencils. Pick your favorite sketch.

  • 4.

    Fold a large sheet of white paper into a narrower rectangle, similar to the shapes on which Hoitsu painted. Use Crayola Scissors to cut along the fold and trim away the excess paper.

  • 5.

    With colored pencils, redraw your favorite sketch on the vertical paper, enlarging the flower so it fits well in the space. Look closely at the spaces around your drawing (negative space), as well as the drawing itself. Vary those spaces, even if you have

  • 6.

    Cover a table with recycled newspaper. Use Crayola Tempera Paint and Paint Brushes to fill in the negative spaces with a single, dark color. Dry.

  • 7.

    Use tempera to paint your plant. Make the colors and shapes as realistic as possible. Air-dry flat.


  • Children examine the paintings of classic Japanese painter Sakai Hoitsu.
  • Students research a variety of flowers and sketch one plant from various angles.
  • Students use basic composition skills to paint a plant in the traditional Rimpa style.


  • Hoitsu's <i>Birds and Flowers, May Irises</i> was one of a series of paintings that were based upon the months of the year. Create a series of paintings showing plants as they appear each month in your area.
  • Use pastels to draw a subtle, soft background for a painting done in the Rimpa style.