Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Elementary School Art - Canadian Symbols - Watercolour paintings Grade 5

totem study in landscape

The results of several visits I made during the months of April and May to a grade 5 class at St. Martin Jr. Catholic Elementary school in Thunder Bay. The theme being explored in the paintings is Canadian Symbols.
Students first researched to acquire images which they then translated into pencil sketches. These were transferred onto the 140 lb cold press cotton rag paper that was taped down onto core-plast boards.
They were shown examples of paint application and a few watercolour techniques that included wet into wet, dry brush, bleeding, softening edges, removing paint using sponges and application of highlights and finer details into dried painted areas. The project used Reeves student grade tube watercolours and 2 sizes of synthetic sable brushes.


Maple tree

ice hockey


Mounted Police


Parliament buildings Ottawa

 CN tower Toronto


Black bear

Orca pod


Beaver lodge

Grizzly Bear and salmon

inukshuk and northern lights

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Elementary School Art - Styrofoam jigsaw prints - Grade Four

jigsaw relief prints hanging to dry in the classroom

I just completed a styrofoam relief plate printmaking project with 23 grade four students. The theme explored was Medieval times.
Students were challenged throughout the project and had to move through several stages.
These included: 

  • research of subject matter and sketches
  • transfer of sketch to a soft polystyrene plate using tracing paper using ball point pen
  • incorporation of textural elements
  • disassembly of the plate into separate sections
  • application of inks
  • reassembly of individual pieces
  • transferring ink to the paper using hand burnishing techniques
  • printing more than one copy from the same plate surface

clever use of ink application by small tip brush for small intricate areas 

after the plate is cut apart the students to had to reassemble it. Individual pieces were removed one a time and water based block printing ink was rolled onto each piece using a soft rubber brayer.

printing set up. Table for ink application with cookie sheets, ink, non-slip pieces of material to set pieces onto to apply the ink and metal handle soft rubber brayers

 assembling plate with inked pieces 

This project used the following materials:

  • scratch foam plates
  • ball point pens
  • xacto craft knives and scissors
  • black kozo paper
  • Graphic Chemical water based relief printing inks
  • soft synthetic rubber brayers
  • rubbing sticks, spoons
  • tracing paper, layout paper                         

assembly of inked pieces

plate inked and reassembled for printing

placing black paper over the plate and using a brayer to facilitate ink transfer


 mythical unicorn


harlequin suited court jester



 flag with crest

another dragon

prints pinned onto a strip of cork just above the chalkboard

Monday, May 5, 2014

Collagraph study - polygonum (knotweed)

Polygonom - Quetico 

I recently printed a few black and white proofs from a collagraph plate that I had constructed by in February. It is titled Polygonum (the botanical classification of this species of aquatic weed.) It is also known as knotweed or smartweed and is actually a member of the buckwheat family. This is one of a number of studies that examines flora/fauna found here in Northwestern Ontario. My new works project is being funded by a grant from the Northern Arts program through the Ontario Arts Council.

Using a photo I had taken in Quetico Provincial park in September of 2013 as reference I drew the composition first onto a thin matboard plate in pencil. A variety of materials were used to construct the low relief including paper, modeling paste, rice kernels, old man's beard moss and liquid PVC glue. I also marked into the plate surface with the sharp blade of a craft knife. When everything was glued down and dry I coated the plate on both the front and back and sides with 3 applications of shellac.

various materials were attached using glue 
as low relief elements on the plate.

top layer of the mat board is cut and peel away to create areas 
that will print as darker shadows and shapes in the print.

I applied black vegetable oil base ink to the plate surface with a soft bristle tooth brush and then wiped the plate with tartalan cloth bundled up into a ball. I then carefully removed areas of inks for lighter highlights using the end of cotton swab sticks.

The print was made onto slightly damp Magnani revere 250 gm white rag and printed with medium pressure on my table top Blick etching press.

When the ink had dried to the touch I taped the print down onto a plastic core board and applied thin layers of watercolour and liquid acrylic inks to add in the colour.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Elementary School art - Collagraph with hand colour application

Food by Ariel
Grade 6
Teacher: Mr. Van Hatten
St. Martin Catholic Jr. Elementary School
Thunder Bay, ON

This post features some process description and a few photo examples from a collagraph plate printmaking project I undertook recently with the same Grade six class that were also featured in my last post (drypoint and wet media application).
The class chose the theme of Social Responsibility and through research and development of rough sketches ideas came to light as low relief collage plates. Various materials including string, glue, cut out paper shapes, organic and man-made fibers were used and adhered onto a thin card plate surface using modge podge adhesive. 

Once again I began the session by giving a viewing of short duration instructional videos courtesy of You Tube on the technique. I brought along a few examples of some of my own work that married collagraph print imagery with colour applied using washes of watercolour and/or acrylic inks.

Students made pencil drawings on the thin card plates and these were used as their guides to apply the various materials that would ultimately create the final print on paper.

application of small cut paper shapes to create a tile roof 

materials included wood shavings, plastic mesh, paper, bark among other things

a study the examines the importance of food in the scheme of social issues. Notice that the student wrote her words in reverse (although the L in milk was incorrect...but she corrected this before proceeding)

Students applied Caligo Safewash etching ink to the plates using soft bristle tooth brushes and sponge foam brushes. Ink was also applied to the higher relief areas using finger tips and brayers. Plates were printed onto 250 gm white cotton rag paper using medium pressure when passed under the top roller of my small table top etching press. I added a bit of magnesium carbonate as a drier for the ink and in about a weeks time we were able to add the watercolour to the prints when the ink had dried enough not to create a blending problem.

this plate became the print at the beginning of this post

collagraph printed with oil based black etching ink

application of watercolour to the print

prints were affixed to pre-cut scrap core-plast boards with masking tape 
before the wet media application was made..