Monday, October 15, 2012

Elementary School art - Styrofoam plate relief printmaking

Tom Thomsons "Sunset" painting reinvented
styrofoam plate relief print on black paper
© 2012

Once again I'm in the midst of an elementary school printmaking project courtesy of a grant I received in 2011 from the Ontario Arts Council. This time around I am working with a total of 48 students from grades five and six in one school and 16 students from another.
The project again explores square image relief prints using thin styrofoam plates (made by Scratchart company in USA). The approach is jigsaw block, where the foam plate is drawn into first then dissected using either scissors or craft knives.
The goal of this project will see all students contribute an image to a large scale mosaic mural composed of squares. Each classs has chosen a theme to explore and have a range of sub-categories as subject matter to choose from that fall under the blanket of each general theme.

The grade six class have chosen the theme of weather. This would include a range of portrayals and one of these could include landscape.
I decided to use a famous landscape painting by noted Canadian artist Tom Thomson as an example that I would interpret as a relief print. However the challenge was to create a simplified graphic based on the original artwork. I have made it a bit more of a challenge for the students in that they must try and create their image in no more than ten pieces.

Tom Thomson
National Gallery of Canada

I started first with a sketch in pencil on paper that will match the exact size of the plate (in this case 19 x 19 cm or 7.5 x 7.5 inches). The challenge was to create a design that has several entry points from the outside edge (to allow access with scissors) but that each element internally in the plate would interconnect in some manner.

Once I had determined my 10 main shapes I then added in colour in rough using marker. A number was added to each piece. This will act as a guide for reassembly of the plate after it has been dissected.
A tracing was made for the main colour sketch and then it was flipped over and redrawn into the foam using a ballpoint pen pushed through the thin tissue.

I then darkened the indented lines in the foam surface with the pen point. At this point I was able to add texture into the plate for added effect in the final print.
The plate was cut apart into the ten main shapes and using permanent black marker I marked the corresponding number from the colour sketch onto the reverse side of each piece.

I applied a water based block printing ink onto the non-numbered side of each piece and then carefully reassembled all the pieces onto my registration board. Slightly damp paper was set over top and using hand pressure with rubbing stick was printed. A print was first made onto a piece of white subi paper. I applied more ink to the pieces and printed the plate onto a dark paper. I cropped the print on the dark paper and mounted it onto a white background.

For the black line version I printed the inked plate onto black construction paper and by passing the registration board, plate and paper under the roller of my small etching press. Even though I had added a little white to the ink to make it a bit more opaque some of the black did come through and influence the vibrancy of the colour.

You will notice that I did a little blending of colours on a few pieces during the inking stage. This was achieved by blending two colours of inks together on the brayer before it was transferred onto the styrofoam plate piece.