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Radial Symmetry Prints | Arts & Activities
Oct 2015

Radial Symmetry Prints

Radial Symmetry Prints

When I do printmaking with students, I typically teach the familiar form of relief prints, such as using foam plates and making rubber stamps. I wanted to expand my students’ previous knowledge of printmaking and introduce the concept of literally printing on their artwork. This lesson was a simple way to execute the idea, and every piece is unique.

To begin, we discussed what we already knew about printmaking: Where have we seen it? Where do we see it today? When have we done it? As expected, my students remembered when we drew into foam plates, rolled ink, and pressed their prints onto paper.

I heightened their interest by showing examples of the range of art that printmaking can produce—a children’s book, newspaper, rubber stamps, even a silk-screened T-shirt. I think kids often don’t realize that the smaller-scale processes we learn in the art room translate largely in the world they live in today.


LEFT: While the background isn’t painted in a specific radially symmetrical pattern, there is balance. RIGHT: The repeated fork print adds vibrancy and movement to this student’s piece.

I explained we would be doing a simple form of printmaking, which was making actual prints onto their artwork in a repetitive manner similar to stamping. We then discussed and viewed examples of symmetry, asymmetry and radial symmetry they see around them every day—buildings, furniture, cars, flowers, and more.

Their task was to create a radially symmetrical print using found objects, while designing a balanced composition. To start, students folded their paper in half vertically, horizontally, and across both diagonals. They then had eight triangles, which were used as guidelines to keep everything symmetrical.

I gave a demonstration of how to ink an object and the proper way to print, emphasizing that all they needed to do was take a little dip in the paint and then print on the paper. If their hands were getting messy, they were using too much paint, I said, and it’s easier to add paint and reprint than it is to try to take away excess. When one object was printed in one triangle, it should then be repeated in each triangle or, using the guidelines, radially symmetrical throughout the paper. The students were asked to do at least 100 “prints.”


RIGHT: This student took full advantage of the printing process, leaving very little negative space untouched. LEFT: The final presentation of this piece is clean and demonstrates great craftsmanship.

After the paint dried, we painted the negative space in with watercolor, reviewing how more paint and less water results in darker, richer color, and more water and less paint would achieve a lighter tint. We wanted to preserve our prints as best as possible and, if we used tempera, I feared students might accidentally paint over their marks. Using watercolor was a good solution because of its inherent transparency.

Unexpectedly, though, some of the black paint did smear, even after drying. I initially thought this project wouldn’t work out because of that, but I actually like the results of the smearing! I think it works well with the watercolor because the paint strokes from the brushes are visible, which really highlights each artist’s unique and personal touch.

I much prefer the students’ work to mine! My exemplar was so “perfect,” it almost appeared to be a graphic print with no variation in the color. Some of the students’ work is “messy” and unrefined, but I think they’re much more visually appealing. They present depth, texture and movement—an added result I was pleasantly surprised to see.

Even though we used the same materials, I love that my students kept on thinking of different ways to print with them. With all the happy accidents we found along the way, every piece turned out to be a success, and they made for a beautiful display.

Upper-elementary students will …
define and differentiate between symmetry, asymmetry and radial symmetry.
compare and contrast various forms of printmaking.
create a radially symmetrical print using found objects.
design a balanced composition.

CREATING: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
PRESENTING: Interpreting and sharing artistic work.
CONNECTING: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.

12″ x 12″ drawing paper
Watercolor paint
Black tempera paint
Miscellaneous objects for printing (e.g. corrugated cardboard scraps, forks, corks, bottle caps, etc.)

Hannah Mazzuto is a teacher with the West Valley Central School District in West Valley, N.Y.


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