Sunday, May 22, 2016

Amazing Printed Animal Portraits- EES grade 5

Have you ever asked a group of kids what printing is?

Well, given where we are technologically in this world, this is a pretty good answer, actually. It would be pretty weird and surprising if kids started shouting out terms like "linocut" or "lithography," because this isn't a hundred years ago. All of the above, however, fit into the same category- images that can be reproduced multiple times. All of those prints can be nearly identical, or they can change in positioning and colors.


When you dig into it, though, printing is basically this:
Distilling printmaking down to a handprint is really useful for my students. It helps them understand that anything, really, can be printed, whether it is a leaf or a string or a potato.

Suddenly, (and sadly, just as they are outgrowing being my students) my fifth graders really, really get it. And they are loving printmaking so much that they are begging to stay in at recess to do more. (Disclaimer: I cave easily at this. Who wouldn't indulge kids who want more art in their free time?!)

 This print post needs a shout out and a thank you to Mr. Stoller at Thomas Elementary Art for the amazing lesson idea. This is truly the best styrofoam printmaking lesson that I have ever done with elementary kids, and are definitely on a level to compete head-to-head with carved linoleum or vinyl works (and minus all of the hand-stabbing that comes from sharp cutting tools.)


 These sweet prints began with drawings that the kids made. We discussed portraiture and focused on the head and shoulders of a favorite animal. Students were encouraged to both draw from their imaginations and also use visual resources such as animal encyclopedias.

Pulling a print. Magic!
 After students drew their animals, they printed the outline in a warm color on two papers. We talk about outline basically being the same thing as perimeter, which helps kids grasp what I am asking for. Another way to show outline is to ask kids to think about cookie cutters.

 Next, students added details to their animals, and cut away the background styrofoam.  The animal was printed in a cool color, right on top if the first prints, as you see above.  Here are a few examples of what they looked like at that stage:

Yup, the work looked amazing at this point, but it is the final highlight color that really brought the "wow" effect. Students cut out a part of the animal that they wanted to print in a third color layer, and rolled ink onto it separately from the other pieces, and printed it a final time.

Because putting lots of brains together on an idea yields better results than thinking solo, students proposed that their prints have different highlighted areas on different prints. I loved this idea, and it helped really bring to life the prints as diptychs, like the elephants near the top of this post, and these puffins, below.

Elephants, you might have noticed by now, were a popular theme:


Here, the artist highlighted the spikes in both images, but the change in color is lovely:


Finally, we discussed the format printers (the humans kind, not the machine kind) use to label their artwork.  At the left of each print, artists wrote their series number (print number out of the total, such as the first of two in the edition, written as "1/2"). In the center, artists added a title, and on the right hand side, the work was signed.

These young artists took it very seriously, and felt quite professional when they finished matting their prints on black paper.

You can buy art styrofoam designed for this use, or you can just save a tray from the grocery store, and make your own by cutting off curved sides and using the flat bottom.  Try out some printing magic soon!

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