Your Support At Work
By Jen Johnson, Art Instructor
The $1000 grant from the Luna Park Arts Foundation allowed artists at Washington Open Elementary School to be introduced to a new art process: printmaking. The funds paid for supplies, tools, and drying racks so that students could begin to explore this exciting art process. In 2015-16, more than 300 students successfully completed a variety of art projects with the support of this grant. In the coming years, printmaking will continue to be part of the art curriculum, and our art program will continue to benefit from the printmaking tools and drying racks purchased with grant funds. We are very grateful that our students were able to become print-makers thanks to this generous grant!
Students in kindergarten experimented with a variety of objects to print patterns and designs, such as corks, empty thread spools, plastic lids, and packing peanuts. These young artists enjoyed applying paint and creating marks as a basic introduction to making prints on paper. Process art is both appropriate and rewarding for very young artists, and these kindergarten artists learned a lot by playing with the process involved. Things these artists learned about would include: testing out how much paint to apply to the object to get a clear print, figuring out how much pressure to place on the object to make different marks, seeing what happens when a different part of the object is used to make a mark, and experimenting with pattern and placement and repetition. The students made a lot of art during this lesson, and thanks to the drying racks, we had plenty of space for everything to dry.
In first and second grade, students learned a monoprinting process, applying paint to acrylic sheets and then pulling prints from the plates. Because it was close to Valentine’s Day, we were inspired by heart shapes. The simplicity of the heart shape allows for a big range of variety in design while also freeing the students from wondering, “What image should I create?” The students had a great time trying out different colors and different techniques for creating images: applying paint with paint brushes, finger painting, and removing paint with q-tips or fingers.
Monoprinting is easy to learn and has quick results, which encourages a large amount of focus on the process. And because the monoprinting process is so quick, it allows for a lot of experimentation and it creates a lot of art in a short amount of time. Those drying racks sure do come in handy! With the monoprinting art lessons, students were also introduced to the important idea that pulling a print from a plate like this creates a reflected image. Understanding this phenomenon is crucial when it comes to more complicated printmaking processes, such as creating printing plates -- a process that these artists will encounter in the years to come. Thanks to this monoprinting project, they not only heard me teach them this concept, but they learned it for themselves quickly and memorably through trial and error. It took this artist only two tries to figure out that letters, for example, must be written backwards on the plate if she wants it to appear correctly on her print.
Third grade artists were ready for the challenge of making a printing plate and pulling multiple prints from that plate. We drafted ideas with paper and pencil and then transferred the final image to foam. Foam is a child-friendly medium for creating printing plates because it can be carved without sharp tools.
Each artist had the opportunity to pull multiple prints in a variety of colors. Students learned how to use brayers, learned how to apply the right amount of ink and pressure, and discovered the importance of cleaning the printing plate between printing different colors.
Fourth grade artists learned about Andy Warhol’s Pop Art and were inspired by their knowledge of his Campbell’s Soup Can art to create their own “Soup Can Reflection Prints.” Students observed actual Campbell’s Soup cans and also looked at reproductions of Warhol’s artwork. This led to some great discussions about what “counts” as art -- and why!
Remembering earlier lessons about drawing geometric solids, they drew cylinder shapes with chalk on half the sheet of paper. Then, they painted the other half of the paper with white paint. Folding it over, they “pulled” a print from the chalk to create the reflection print. There were a lot of “a-ha!” moments in the process, and once again students created many artworks during the single lesson. Thank goodness again for those drying racks.
After the prints had dried, artists embellished their work with colored pencil. They added shading to make the cylinders look more realistic, added wording to the labels, and drew pictures and logos to make their artwork look complete and finished. Some chose a monochromatic color scheme, while others worked with all the colors in the rainbow. All of the students were very proud of their finished results, and they all enjoyed the unique challenges of this particular printmaking project.
Thanks to this grant, the art room at our school is now well-equipped to continue printmaking projects with all our students next year. For next year’s curriculum, I plan to incorporate the projects described above as well as to include some additional printmaking projects which I am researching this summer. Printmaking has definitely become a favorite with my students! It was very rewarding as an art teacher to be able to introduce my students to a variety of printmaking projects, and I’m very grateful for the support of the Luna Park Arts Foundation in making these projects possible.
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