Left: Heather, grade four. Right: Lindsay, grade five.
Mehndi are temporary works of art created by painting with henna plant extract. Mehndi is
a traditional art form that dates back to
before the twelfth century AD. Henna
stain found on the fingers and toes of
mummified pharaohs has led some
people to believe that mehndi can be
traced back to ancient Egypt.
Indian weddings are not complete
without a mehndi ceremony where the
bride’s hands and feet are adorned with
henna ink. While the bride is being
inked, women enjoy food, drinks, and
performances of traditional Indian
I introduced mehndi art to my fifth
grade students and compared it to
tattoo art and to some of my own permanent marker drawings. We talked
about the similarities and differences
between them. I also showed a video of
a modern mehndi wedding ceremony.
I asked students
to place their
hands (and arms)
paper and have a partner trace them
using pencil. I reminded students to
trace lightly so that the pencil marks
could be erased. I required students to
trace each hand at least once and overlap at least once, but I encouraged them
to add more hands and arms for a more
complete piece. After they erased the
lines that were not necessary, students
traced over their pencil lines using an
ultra-fine-point permanent marker.
I made sure to show several examples of completed mehndi designs
along with images of traditional
mehndi patterns including paisley,
straight lines, scallops, leaves, and
dots. We discussed how the shapes
flow from one to the other, and how
the designs are symmetrical from one
hand to the other.
I showed how combining shapes and
lines and filling in the spaces could
create a mehndi design, and modeled
radial design and building the whole
design from a central starting point. I
encouraged students to work from their
central starting point and finish that
hand and arm before going on to the
next one. After discussing symmetry,
students were able re-create the same
design on the opposite hand.
After all of the hands and arms were
completely filled in with designs, I had
students use a wet-on-dry watercolor
technique around the outside of their
mehndi drawings. They chose one
color and outlined their hands (
making sure not to forget the small spaces
between overlapping fingers), and I
encouraged them to keep the paint on
the outside of the line.
After the outline of color was complete, students rinsed their brushes and
added water to the paper, causing the
outline of color to bleed out and “wash
over” the paper to the edges. I encouraged students to have a heavy concentration of color closest to the lines.
These mehndi creations have never
been anything but successful and absolutely dynamic!
Stacy Sturgell is an art teacher at Cross
Oaks Elementary School in Denton, Texas.
Go to schoolartsonline.
com to read about creating
mehndi designs with henna.