Monday, March 2, 2015

Printmaking with Picture Books

With snow, sleet and rain still in the forecast, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that spring will ever arrive. One way to brighten up the classroom is to work on some springtime art and writing activities with your students, even though it may be a month or more till we see some green.

A project that is always big hit with my students (and one that produces successful results), is printmaking. When talking about and explaining how different types of prints are made, I will often use one or more picture books where the illustrations were created with prints (as opposed to painting, drawing, or digital art) to show as examples.

The artwork created by Caldecott winning artist Mary Azarian, is a great way to introduce students to the art of printmaking. In her one of many books, A Gardener’s Alphabet, Mary highlights her own garden filled with beautiful flowers. The illustrations are created with woodblock prints, which would be too hazardous a technique for little hands.  For making prints in the classroom, I use the simpler and safer technique below. Using this technique, have children illustrate some flowers in a vase or a garden scene as depicted in the picture book. Simpler lines and shapes produce better results as opposed to a lot of detail. Students could also write a short paragraph about their own garden, one in their community, or one they have visited. Ask them to describe the garden using details like smells, colors, and textures.

Making a Styrofoam Print
*Using inexpensive Styrofoam printing plates (purchased from art supply stores), or carefully washed, recycled meatpacking trays, have students draw with a pencil directly on to the plate, using firm pressure.

*Go over lines on the plate one more time, making sure the lines indented are thick and deep (without going all the way through the plate).

*Roll out some water-soluble printing ink or some heavy body acrylic paint with a brayer. If a brayer is not available, brush on paint with an inexpensive foam brush. Be careful to not fill the lines up with paint. If this happens, simply swipe out the excess paint from the lines with a pencil.

*Place a sheet of printing or other smooth paper on top of the inked plate, and firmly rub your hands over the paper using some pressure.

* Pull off the paper to reveal the print! The plate can be rinsed with soap and water, dried, and used again with different or multiple colors.

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