Saturday, November 23, 2013

Challenges of teaching printmaking to very young artists

students making prints off styrofoam

I have learned during my recent placement in a local school as an art educator that there have been a few challenges involved with teaching printmaking to young primary school students.
With grades one and two level they are just beginning to learn about colour.
My first recourse before we are fully engaged in an activity has been to first explain a little bit to them about colour. Using the colour wheel as a visual aid has been the best way to do this. I try to make a little game out of this by telling them terms and then see if they can remember the terms.
Using word and number association is a clever way to help remember. I tell them that the three primary colours them are the first or #1. Mixing of the combinations of the 3 makes secondary colours which become #2. Tertiary or third colours are #3. Showing them the opposite colour in a straight line across the wheel helps them to recognize the complementary colour.

I also am finding that some of the key learning aspects with basic printmaking are shape and texture. Surfaces such as cardboard, modeling clay, craft foam and styrofoam are used as the means by which students can explore both of these.
Drawing skills are of course key to any artistic discipline so we also focus on this. I show them examples of line and related ie. dots, cross hatching, spacing of linear elements, weight of line, etc...
I also talk about key concepts such as repetition, pattern, contrast of colours, colour harmony, balance of elements in a composition. These require an explanation in it's simplest form so that the young minds can grasp what I am saying. I achieve this by drawing an example on the chalk board or pointing out a particular concept by showing them a famous work of art and how it illustrates and incorporates this.

I explain to them that what sets printmaking apart from other types of art approaches is the ability to make multiple images from a single source.

Challenges are discovered though the application of ink onto a surface (either too thin or too thick) and determining the correct amount of pressure to apply when printing using hand rubbing or stamping ( not enough yields a spotty print or too much pressure and you get a blob with no details).

My visits have been limited to less than one hour. This has forced me to deliver projects that can be accomplished either in one visit or in stages over several visits. It means I have to set up materials ahead of class and not dwell too much on discussion but give students engagement time to be creative.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Elementary School art - mix media printmaking with primary students

Grade one student with his collage/print (mix media)

The past couple of visits to the classrooms of grades one and two at St. Martin were productive. Students learned a bit about colour theory using the colour wheel for reference.
The object of this particular activity was making impressions from different surfaces. It also explored textural elements.
Phase one had the students draw into or press objects into modeling clay. Water based block printing ink was rolled onto the surface, paper was set over top and an impression was made onto paper using hand rubbing with an object or fingers.

explanation of  how secondary colours can be created from the mix of two of the primary colours
 and this was also used as a visual aid for explaining complementary colours to young students

a student discovers that modeling clay can be rolled and textured
to produce a continuous print on paper 

plastic texture plate was used on modeling clay to make an impression.
Orange block print ink was rolled across the surface

too much application of ink and using too much pressure unfortunately
 smudges the prints as a few students learned during the process

semi circular set up for students to apply inks to clay plates

colour textural impressions set aside to dry

Phase two had the students cut the prints out from the paper and glue (collage) these onto a piece of heavier Bristol board. Foam peel and stick shapes were affixed onto cardboard squares and ink was rolled onto the raised relief shapes. These were stamped over top and into the collage.
Themes explored included underwater and land based environments. Students also incorporated additional drawing and colour applications using marker to the collage prints.

students applying ink to foam shapes on cardboard (stamps) at inking station

grade one student adding elements using marker to the collage and stamp picture

pressing a stamp shape onto paper

different applications of printmaking, collage and drawing create a unique and interesting visual

grade one student work - crocodile on marshy area...quite clever!

Grade One student Isabelle's mix media picture

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Elementary School art - placement as a resident artist (printmaking)

I started a full year placement as a resident artist in a local elementary school last week. Thanks to a grant from the Ontario Arts Council I am able to work with 8 classes at St. Martin Jr. Catholic school here in Thunder Bay.
The grade levels participating are grades one, two, four, five and six.
I have taken on four classroom projects for the fall semester and visit twice a week.

As a kickoff to the junior primary visits I gave them a fun mixed media project that marries a bit of simple printmaking with collage. The theme was "Scary Monsters".
The technique is fairly simple. We used flattened unbleached coffee filters and washable colour markers to create a colourful template. Water is sprayed on these and prints are made by setting white paper over top and then transferring off the filter using a bit of pressure from various types of roller tools.
Once these were dry the students cut out various geometric shapes they had traced onto construction paper and glued these over top of the prints. They then cut out the face.
This activity was ideal for the time frame of one hour visits. Visit #1 saw creation of the colour filters and printing onto paper.
Visit #2 involved the cut and paste.

The grade six class I am currently visiting are going to be undertaking a drypoint on acrylic plate project. It might also include a bit of collage or relief roll. I will post a blog entry relating to the project later on once I have some photos.

Here are some photos from the Scary Monsters project.

 applying colours onto flat unbleached coffee filters using washable colour markers

student with abstract design...this will become the background or "skin" for the monster face
grade two - teacher Mrs. Hindmann

 transferring the print to paper using a soft rubber brayer

brilliant colour abstract on a coffee filter

this design sort of created itself purely by accident

arranging and applying the cut construction paper shapes with stick glue

 student cuts out face shape after gluing down the construction paper shapes

 interesting shapes were used to make a hideous face

 a fun face creation
grade one - teacher Mrs. Wright

 various faces created by grade one/two students from Mrs. Savioli's class

 scary face created by grade two student

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Video from my recent Artist Residency at Quetico Provincial Park

If anyone is interested in learning more about this program details are available in the website of the Quetico Foundation. Artists from all over the globe are welcome to come and be "Inspired by Quetico". A small studio building is provided for the two week period and you also have the opportunity to venture into the interior of the park if so desired.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Artist in Residence - Quetico Park Northwestern Ontario Canada

misty morning at French Lake

I am presently into week #2 of a 14 day artist in residence placement in Quetico Provincial Park about 2 hours west of Thunder Bay, Ontario just south of Highway 11.
artist studio at French lake

Quetico is the wilderness jewel of parks in Northwestern Ontario and it borders the state of Minnesota at its southern boundary. It is a vast stretch of pristine wilderness that encourages low impact camping and canoeing into the interior. I am doing my residency at Dawson Trail campgrounds in a small one room modern heated studio building on the shores of French Lake. Where I am situated is a bit private and removed from the general mass campground areas of Chippewa and Ojibwe. There are public beaches a little bit down ways on either side but I am separated by thick woods. The studio is accessible by 2 trails. One is called the artists path and runs between the beaches through the woods and allows the public access to the studio should they choose and if the artist feels comfortable having an open studio arrangement. The shorter trail extends down about 10 m (30 ft) from the road up on a rise north of the cabin. Artists from all over N. America have been using this space for several years now.

The program for the artist residency is titled Inspired by Quetico. It provides a waiver of camping and parking fees in exchange for the usage of the artist studio and a small campsite nearby with a large modern tent and fire pit for the artists use. The artist is required to contribute a piece of work to the park in exchange for the two week placement. They also are paid an honorarium of $300 towards cost of materials and framing.

Needless to say the landscape is quite stunning and encountering unique boreal woodland flora and fauna and witnessing incredibly beautiful sunsets makes this very inspiring indeed.

I am finding the solitude of this place very calming and it has put me in touch with nature on a level I don’t often get living in the city. 

Back in 2010 I applied to the program and was accepted. However due to poor health that summer I decided it wasn’t the right time for me to do the residency. Earlier this year I reapplied and was accepted. A few dates were suggested as to when I might like to come to the park and knowing that the weather is generally ideal in early to mid Sept (late summer) I chose this time frame. The biting insects are pretty much over and the days are warm and the nights cool allowing for great star gazing and incredible sunsets.

Some of last weeks highlights included a full day of canoeing with a friend across French Lake and down along the Pickerel River at the south end of the lake. We explored the shore, did a little fishing for pickerel and pike (Walleye to you US folks), and took photos of flora and fauna for source material for new studies.

On Saturday Sept 7 I gave a workshop in drypoint on acrylic plate at the Log Cabin Education centre in the park. Participants were shown a demo and then created their own plates which were printed using Akua intaglio inks onto rag printmaking paper. It was well enjoyed by those who attended.

I am making good use this week of the studio facilities and have set up a small print studio on site. Yesterday was spent producing a quantity of etchings from a study of a canoe on a Quetico lake shore. This is not a new study but I had a solar plate etching from a few years back I thought I would print a few more from as it was an open edition. Once these are dry I will add in colour by hand with water based media such as thinned down acrylic inks or watercolour.


The remaining days this week will see me create brand new work in the form of a relief and plate based studies based on my direct experiences here.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Moon dance - styrofoam plate print addendum

Additional photos to accompany my previous blog post that show the original sketch, the Scratch foam styrofoam plate after being cut apart and how it is reassembled. I have also included photos of some of the brayers that were used, the plastic rubbing stick and a tube of the Graphic Chemical water soluble relief printing ink.

using the piece of Styrofoam plate I marked the corners and inside the area on paper made a pencil sketch of my image.

I traced the image from the sketch onto a sheet of tracing paper. This was set over top of the foam plate and taped to the underside on two sides with masking tape. Using a ball point pen I retraced the lines from the tracing into the foam puncturing the paper and allowing the pens ink to sink down into the foam surface.

Using a xacto knife I cut apart the foam creating the following main shapes to apply various colours mixed from the Graphic Chemical inks. Pieces were carefully reassembled. Slightly misted black Stonehenge paper was set over top. I applied pressure using the smooth round plastic rubbing stick and by rubbing in a circular motion. The paper was carefully lifted and a colour print emerged. After the initial image was printed I was able to more to the print. With a steady hand and a good eye that piece was set inked side down onto the print (matching it exactly to the printed area underneath) and pressure was applied to stamp on more ink highlighting.

Example of the ink, rubbing stick, and various sizes of brayers that were used.