I absolutely love to print! It started many years ago when I took my first (and I will admit, only) printmaking class with a very inspirational teacher, Boyd White, at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. My love for printmaking has spilled over into my classroom. I now teach middle school, but even when I was teaching at the elementary level, I always included a printmaking project (or two) in my curriculum throughout the year.
I introduced my middle school students to printmaking (again) during class last year, but I wanted to have them do a little printmaking experimenting with me. They are always up to making art and trying something new, especially printing. I wanted to incorporate image transfers, gel printing plate monoprints, stencils. Did it work? Of course it did! My students even experimented with other techniques too!
To start this printmaking lesson, we looked at the different styles of printmaking from the woodcuts of Ando Hiroshige to the serigraphs of Andy Warhol and, of course, the image transfers of Robert Rauschenberg.
We started by making high-contrast balanced designs using black Sharpie® markers on white paper. Marina (opposite page) covered the entire paper, while Jenessa decided she was going to try and design opposite corners,
Once these were completed, we photocopied them on a laser printer for better results with transferring them to the canvas. The kids loved making their “doodles” and probably could have spent hours just working on these. Next round, we decided we would try it with photos.
The students then got out the gel printing plates, canvas boards, acrylic paint, bubble wrap (and other odd materials for texture), stencils and brayers. Because my students do a lot of printmaking, we saved a lot of time explaining what the materials were and how to use them. Many of my advanced seventh- and eighth-graders have been printing with me since they were in fourth grade!
When doing gel-plate monoprints, I encourage my students to print many layers of color and texture, making sure that some color shows through from every layer. Sometimes this happens and sometimes it doesn’t. Often, they just don’t like their first layer, so they cover it completely and start over—and that’s perfectly acceptable. I always tell them that sometimes their biggest mistakes end up being their best works of art!
Marina, an eighth-grader, decided that because it was easier to do gel prints with paper instead of canvas, she reversed the process. Instead of layering paint on the plate then lifting the paper off of the bubble wrap, she added paint with a brayer to the bubble wrap and printed it on the canvas. It worked beautifully. Some of the students had to reprint some of their colors, because they didn’t press hard enough on the canvas, but after they got the hang of it, they went full force with their mission.
All the kiddos wanted to use stencils! I had purchased about 20 new designs, and they wanted to try all 20 of them! Some worked well, some did not. Even though some stencils didn’t work well, the kids didn’t give up—they added more texture and printed with stencils a second time.
When the canvases were dry, it was time to add the photocopied images. I suggested that they cut out their designs and leave as little white paper as possible. The reason for this is because after the design has dried on the canvas, they will have to rub off all the white paper. Students then painted a thick layer of matte medium on the area of the canvas where their design was going to be placed.
The paper was placed design-side down on the wet medium. Using old gift cards, the students smoothed out the paper and got rid of any air bubbles. (If there are air bubbles, the paper will not adhere correctly and the image/design will be lost.) We let the designs dry overnight, and then it was time to rub off the paper and see the results.
The students wet the paper, let the water soak in for about 30 seconds, and then started to gently rub off the white paper (the backing of the design). This process takes a little while. Caution: If you rub too hard, you run the risk of rubbing off the acrylic paint.
Our experiment worked well and the finished products were all different and beautiful in their own way. I am so fortunate to teach students who are passionate about the arts and are always willing to try new things.
Middle school students will …
• create a black-and-white balanced design.
• use multiple layers of paint to create texture and depth.
• use mixed media to create a visually aesthetic composition.
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• CREATING: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
• PRESENTING: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.
• RESPONDING: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.
• CONNECTING: Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.
• Acrylic matte medium, acrylic paint
• Hard rubber brayers
• 5″ x 7″ canvas panels
• Gel printing plates (we used 5″ x 7″ and 6″ x 6″ Gelli® Arts plates)
• Bubble wrap and other plastic items with which to create textures— bottle caps, yarn, netting, stencils, etc.
• Black permanent markers
• Scanner, laser printer
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Glenda Lubiner (NBCT) teaches art at Franklin Academy Charter School in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
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