Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The last of this school year's art projects through my Artist in Education placements

grade four student painting his low relief study relating to undersea life

I finally collected up and have put together a public display of completed artwork from two classrooms I visited from April/May at St. James Public School here in Thunder Bay. 
This is being hosted by the Waverley Library in our cities northcore business district.

The first display is a collection of 19 mix-media works created by senior kindergarten and grade one students from the classroom of D. Madunic. They used drawing, painting, collage, stamping to explore a regional geographic feature known as the Sleeping Giant. We started by drawing shapes and working out a composition on paper board. 

pencil sketch on board

applying the paint

The next step was to apply colour and texture into the drawing using paint. I asked them to think about animals and plants that might be found around the region and put some of these into the studies. Paper shapes were cut out and glued onto the board. Finally they drew plants and animals into soft foam plates which had been attached to cut squares of cardboard. Water based relief printing ink was rolled onto the foam and these were stamped strategically into areas of their storyboard.

This project worked well as it had them continuously engaged in hands-on activity during each visit.
In expensive all media paper board was used as the surface onto which the artwork was translated onto.
I had originally intended for them to apply some low relief sculpting medium to the boards, but these ended up as a side project since many of these were too heavy to attach onto the boards.

red fox created from air dry sculpting medium and water-based paint

The second project was with the grade 3/4 classroom of teacher 
D. Mayotte. Her students paired mental imagery from a choice of four poems they had recently read with three dimensional low relief paintings on panel.

Students drew sketches in pencil on paper. These papers with drawings were glued onto precut masonite panels. Using air dry sculpting medium they built up shapes on the panel using the sketch as their template. The sculpting medium as bonded to the panel surface using white glue and brushes.

Once these were set acrylic paint was applied to both the low relief shapes and the background. Finally the students wrote short statements to accompany each of their paintings.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Grade 5 + 6 Drypoint Self-portrait Project

During the months of March/April I visited 3 classrooms at St. Elizabeth Catholic Elementary School in Thunder Bay and took on a visual art project (intaglio printmaking + wet media) with over a total of 70 students.
In the fall of 2014 I had presented a six-sided You Cube print project in two other schools. That project used carved relief surfaces to produce multiple images (portraits on paper) in various contrast colour combinations. Those images were pasted onto the sides of a constructed six-sided cardboard cube. I saw an idea in Pinterest titled You Cube and decided to adapt this to using printmaking as the medium since it would create multiple images with greater ease than other mediums.

This time I decided to switch techniques to incorporate intaglio using drypoint on thin acrylic plates as the matrix. Students were asked to create sketches on paper from their self-portraits and then translate these onto the plastic plates using etching needles. Ink was wiped into the scratched line and the plates were printed onto heavy cotton rag paper using a small manually turned etching press that I supplied.

I supplied 25 home-made etching needles. Fortunately it worked out that I had different visits with each class at different times and the needles were brought from one classroom to another so everyone got the opportunity to have a tool to use.

We used Akua carbon black intaglio ink to make the print onto the paper. Prints were attached to the top of each print using green painters tape to attach onto both sides of the large sheets of corrugated cardboard (used to construct their cubes from). The were propped up against walls and allowed several days to dry. 

Then the prints were attached onto plasticore boards again using the green painters tape. Students applied colour to each print with wet media that included watercolour and tempera. 
Colour renderings were accomplished in three approaches, using one of the following for each print

  • realistic flesh tone in watercolour with a background
  • flat even colour in either watercolour or tempera
  • fantasy portrait (they were given a few trays of iridescent and fine glitter watercolour to use if they so chose)

These were trimmed and using liquid white glue were attached to the surface of a their 6 sided cube. An additional panel was created using their initials and a zentangle background in dry media. One side of the box was left unhinged to use as a door or lid.

Two of the teachers decided to have their students incorporate a small painted sculpting clay based figure and place these inside the box.

Two weeks back I picked these up from the school and put up a display at two separate branches of the Thunder Bay Public Library. These will be up for a couple of weeks.

Monday, May 18, 2015

experimentations with miniature plate prints - various approaches to colour application

Conifers, Moon and Aurora
Drypoint with relief roll
varied edition
plate size: 7 cm square (2.75 inches)
paper size: 11.5 x 14 cm (4.5 x 5.5 inches)

I have been inspired the last couple of days to experiment a little more with a couple of small acrylic plate drypoint prints.

Today I threw all caution to the wind and just decided lets play with various things and see what does and doesn't work.

I decided to try a unique approach using the small organic conifer tree shapes (see my previous post) that I had scratched onto a small 7 cm square plate. That is 2.75 inches for my US friends and yes even some Canadians.

I wiped a bit of Caligo Safe Wash carbon black etching ink into the scratched linework on the plate. Once I had the plate surface clean post wipe with yellow pages I applied Akua Intaglio ink rolled onto the surface with a brayer. This was a bit of Pthalo blue mixed with a drop of blending medium to make it a bit more transparent. I then used another roller with a bit of a lightened green and rolled it across the surface of the plate into the blue. Then using a small brush I worked and blended this. Using a cotton swab I removed ink from the lower section of the plate. I then applied a deep violet of Akua intaglio ink using a small synthetic bristle taklon brush. I placed the plate onto the press bed and put a small piece of damp Canson Edition rag over top.
The press bed felts were placed over top and it was passed under the top roller (tightened earlier).

The black ink came out a bit light however the colour background was kinda nice. I cleaned off the plate, once again applied the carbon black ink to the scratched line and cleaned off the surface by wiping with a bit of coated tissue paper. 
I carefully set the small plate on top of the print (it set into the slight embossing created by during the first passing under the roller earlier). I carefully flipped this over so the plate was facing upward and the print on top, once again I set the felts over top and passed this under the roller. This gave me a deep rich black from the scratched lines which contrast nicely against the colour background. The effect I wanted to achieve was that of aurora borealis. You be the judge?

I did a second version of this but placed a small paper circle from a three hole punch between the trees.

I had a another study of a small tiny 5 white petal flower (skunk currant) and for this one I did two approaches. The plate size was again 7 cm square. The first approach was to scratch lines into the plate surface, then wipe some ink into the scratched areas to reveal the linework in black, Using a lightbox I set a piece of tracing paper over top of the plate and traced the outline of the flower shapes using a 6B pencil . I also marked on the tracing paper where the edges of the plate would be. I flipped the tracing and set it over top of a piece of goldish-green thin oriental gampi paper. I then went over the pencil lines once again with a firm lead pencil. This transferred the 6B lead onto the tissue and I used it as a guide to cut the small shapes out with a triangular blade x-acto knife. I then sprinkled a little wheat paste powder on the surface of the paper. 
I set the same size square piece of gampi with the cut away sections over top of the inked plate. I misted it with a fine spray of atomized water (to moisten and activate the wheat paste powder). A piece of a damp rag paper was set over top and again with felts lowered was passed under the top roller of the press. 
Unfortunately something shifted when I placed the rag paper over top so there was a slight off registration of the collage colour paper background.

The second version was made using a relief roll of green akua ink and the white areas of the petals were created by again using a cotton swab to remove the green ink. I applied a bit of golden yellow to the plate surface on the tip of small brush.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mini print - a mix-media art project for elementary schools

I am commencing a project with a grade 5/6 classroom in a few days time. A few challenges have been presented for this project including the limited amount of time I will have to work with the students and small budget we have for materials.

I proposed an idea to the teacher to have his students create mix-media artwork using a simple intaglio printmaking technique (drypoint) and combining this with collage of thin coloured papers. 

As a multi-discipline visual artist the miniature size is something I have explored in the past and have had a few small prints included in miniature exhibitions both here in Canada and one in Denmark.

hand-coloured photogravure print
plate size: 8 cm
varied open edition

I drew a simple landscape study of organic tree shapes. My idea was to incorporate colours and shapes through the collage application of thin asian colour tissue papers (known as chine-collé). My design is loosely based on a block print I created several years back titled Moon & Forest. 

Moon and Forest
block based relief print
image size: 10 cm x 10 cm

Due to the size of the plate this presented a challenge for incorporating very small pieces of the paper.
However it wasn't impossible and I am pleased with the results I have been getting using this.
Below is a short video I made from the intial simple sketch on paper through the scratching with the result linework in the surface of the plate. You will notice that placing the clear plate against a black background reveals the details rather nicely.


My plate is made from a flexible type of clear thin acrylic plastic that is used in the packaging industry. I was able to place my pencil sketch underneath and view it through the plastic. Using a sharp needle point tool I basically traced my sketch into the surface using scratching strokes.
Akua intaglio carbon black ink was wiped into the scratch marks and then using wiping fabric (a thin web-type material I sourced from a local fabric shop) I removed excess ink from the surface of the plate. A piece of thin paper (old yellow pages from a phone book) was pressed and rubbed using a circular motion to remove additional surface ink. This is the same process many printmakers use when inking a plate (etching) in preparation for printing.

First I made one test print on rag paper using just the black ink to show me how the scratch line would reproduce. Akua intaglio ink was used and I added a little bit of mag-mix (magnesium carbonate powder) to thicken the rather runny ink (which is vegetable oil based).

I used the plate edges as a guide to trim the small pieces of asian paper to the same dimensions as the plate. The tricky part was then to determine where each piece would be placed. I put the plate (ink side) facing upwards on the press bed. I carefully placed the tissue thin paper on top and moved it into place using the point of an x-acto blade. A fine mist of water was sprayed onto the plate surface to slightly dampen the tissue. A fine dusting of wheat paste powder (strained through cheesecloth stretched over the opening of the jar it was in) was applied. 
Finally I set a slightly moist piece of  250 gm rag printmaking paper over top.
A piece of newsprint was put over top and then the three layers of wool felts were carefully lowered over top of everything, I manually turned the press handles and passed the plate, papers and blankets underneath the top roller which I had set earlier to produce a fairly tight squeeze. 

The pressure forced both the tissue thin asian paper on top of the plate and the rag down into the areas holding the ink. This left the ink on the surface of the colour papers and the pressure fused these with the fine layer of adhesive onto the rag paper. It allowed me to incorporate colour and texture through the simple application of collage. So far I have produced 3 test prints. Two of these use the collage application. You will notice in one I carefully cut out a circular shape to allow me to have a moon behind the tree.

This artistic endeavour in the classroom should prove to be both exciting and challenging for the grade five and six students. I will follow up on this post soon with photos of what they have been producing.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Junior primary classroom art activities - monoprints and mix media

Recently I engaged a grade one/two split class at Hyde Park public school here in Thunder Bay in a two part activity that began with the students making basic monoprints onto paper.
A Monoprint is a one of a kind image that is transferred from one surface onto another. 

Wikipedia defines the form as: 
  1. Monoprinting is a form of printmaking that has images or lines that can only be made once, unlike most printmaking, where there are multiple originals. There are many techniques of monoprinting. Examples of standard printmaking techniques which can be used to make monoprints include lithography, woodcut, and etching.
However this activity became more of a mix media project since the use of a paper mask to create negative shapes was implemented. Drawing, colour introduced using markers, pencil crayon and collage (cut/paste) were additional stages that added embellishment to the prints.

To begin students were asked to create shapes from construction paper and cut these out. These would serve as a masks placed over top of paintings to block out shapes that would be left as negative space from the white paper area left without paint covering it. 

painting the modified pigments onto the freezer paper plates and placing cut paper shapes over top

The next phase had each student paint modified acrylic and tempera paint onto a piece of plastic coated freezer paper.
A small amount of Createx monoprinting medium was mixed into the water based pigments and it was painted with brushes onto the plastic barrier surface.

The cut paper shapes were then placed on top of the wet paint. Heavier smooth surface 250 gm rag paper was placed over top and taped down to hold it steady. Students used both soft brayers to roll across the top and gentle pressing using the palms of their hands.

The paper was carefully lifted away from the painted sub-sheet with the paint and was allowed to dry.

For the next stage the students then worked into the open negative space areas with markers to add in elements that included animals, figures, etc.. Some of the young artists were even more adventurous and added in subtle elements of collage using glue and cut paper shapes or transparent tissues.

Teacher Susan Lieske assisting a young artist with his monoprint