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>Aztec Suns.

There is a large population of students from Mexico in my school district. I wanted to come up with a project that touched on their culture.


While doing research, I discovered a revered Mexican artifact called the Aztec Sun Stone (see Sept. 2006 Clip & Save Art Print). It is said to be perhaps the most famous symbol of Mexico, besides its flag. The stone measures about 12 feet in diameter, 4 feet in thickness and weighs 24 tons.

The original basalt version is currently on display at the National Museum of Anthropology and History in Chapultepec Park outside of Mexico City. It primarily depicts the four great disasters that led to the migration of the Mexica people to modern-day Mexico City. (One of the ancient Mesoamerican people, the Mexica gave the name to the land called Mexico today.) The Aztec Sun Stone also contains pictographs depicting the way the Mexica measured time, and was primarily a religious artifact.

Armed with this information, I wanted to have my sixth-grade students create their own imaginative suns. Besides the Aztec Sun Stone, with the help of the Internet I was able to come up with more examples of fanciful suns found in art and artifacts.

The Aztec Sun was carved out of stone and my art room is not equipped for stone carving, yet I wanted to give students carving experience with the materials I was equipped for. It turns out this project worked nicely using scratchboard, where the student gets the experience of carving or scratching the surface to create their artwork. Block printing was also a logical choice because the students actually do use carving tools in creating their project.

The students sketched their ideas out on what I like to call circular graph paper. I handed out a 4" x 4" piece of square paper with a series of concentric circles in the middle about a half-inch apart--like a bull's-eye. Of course, this circular graph helps the students keep their drawing into a circle shape. I stressed to the students to add as much detail to their suns as they could. I knew they could not make them as detailed as the Aztec Sun because of the size of their drawing, yet giving attention to drawing different types of sunrays, designs and face details, plus the many samples to reference, should be enough to stimulate their thinking.

Once their drawings were finished, we transferred them to a scratchboard or a linoleum block. Students used pencil and scribbled a dark layer on the back of their drawing--this acted like carbon paper. After the pencil was scribbled on the back, the students placed their drawings onto their scratchboard paper or linoleum block, and used a ballpoint pen to redraw their picture. Now the students were ready to finish their prints or scratchboards.

I had my class print four prints on warm-colored paper, which better represents the sun. Both the scratchboard and prints were mounted on colored paper or tag board to frame them.

"Aztec Suns" is a fine lesson for teaching scratchboard or block print, and a bit of Mexican culture.


Middle-school students will ...

* learn about Mexican art and history.

* create an imaginative sun.

* become familiar with scratchboard techniques.

* become familiar with linoleum block printing techniques.



* Pencils and erasers

* Drawing paper

* Scratchboard and tools

* Warm-colored construction paper

* Tagboard

* Linoleum block and tools

* Glue

Hugh Petersen teaches at Phoenix Middle School in the Delavan-Darien School District of Wisconsin.
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Author:Petersen, Hugh
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 30, 2010
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