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Acrobatic snowmen: printmaking in action.

My fourth-graders experimented with gesture drawing using charcoal. Drawing lines quickly and loosely to capture movement, we did gesture drawings of one another.

We focused on the movement of the figure, not on what the person gesturing actually looked like. For example, a person posing would appear to be frozen in action, shooting a basketball or running. Many famous artists have done gesture drawings and then have used them as a basis for a painting, silkscreen, in printmaking or sculptural designs.

My students used their gesture drawings as a basis for knowing how to draw a snowman in action. I asked the students to think of acrobatic acts they've seen either in television or at the circus. Then, they were to envision a snowman as an acrobat or stuntman. How could a snowman's actions be caught in freeze-frame, capturing the movement? Each student sketched at least one snowman using the gesture method of charcoal on paper.

Next we converted these gesture drawings into line drawings of acrobatic snowmen to be used in printmaking. I explained that we'd be making linoleum prints of our snowmen.

Printmaking is about 2,000 years old. Some of the earliest prints that we studied in class were attributed to the Chinese. Many artists throughout history have created great prints. Andy Warhol, Edvard Munch, Albrecht Darer and Pablo Picasso were among those artists whose work we looked at. We discussed the fact that because prints are made in multiples, you can get more than one copy of your art in several different colors, each still being an "original."

The main types of printmaking are screenprinting, lithography, intaglio and relief. We used the relief-printing method to create our acrobatic snowmen prints. A relief print is one in which the image to be printed is raised from a background.

My class had previously completed gadget prints, so they were acquainted with block-printer's ink. They also were aware of positive and negative areas.

We transferred our line drawing of the acrobatic snowmen onto the linoleum's surface by placing a piece of carbon paper on the linoleum, laying our drawing on top, and tracing the lines with a pencil. Then the drawing and carbon paper were removed and the image was now on the linoleum's surface.

I showed the students the gouges with which we would be curing the linoleum. I demonstrated using the gouge to go over the line drawing on the linoleum's surface. At this point I reviewed positive and negative space again. Then, the students began to cut, while I reminded them to cut away from themselves to avoid getting hurt.

After the linoleum was successfully cut, we used water-based block printer's ink to print. We squeezed out ink onto a Plexiglas plate and then rolled it out evenly with a brayer (rubber roller). Paper was placed over the inked surface and then rubbed with our "baren"--a big wooden kitchen spoon.

Then, the print was pulled. The places on the linoleum that were cut were white when printed, while the linoleum that was left raised, received the ink and was printed.

I let the students mix colors of ink to see what the mood of the print would be. Was there a different mood or feeling to a brightly colored print than from a black-and-white print? Why?

The students were really enthused during this unit of study. It allowed them to think "outside the box" and encourage them to look more closely at the movement involved when people are in action.


Students will ...

* define gesture drawing.

* complete a gesture drawing of a classmate and a snowman.

* transform the gesture drawing of a snowman into a line drawing.

* successfully cut the linoleum design.

* successfully print an edition of five prints.

* analyze the mood of the prints.

* name the types of printmaking.

* name at least two artists who created prints.

* define printmaking terms: brayer, block-winter's ink, gouge, edition, positive, negative and pulling a print.


* Charcoal pencils or charcoal

* Paper

* Artists works: Andy Warhol, Edvard Munch, Albrecht Durer (see page 24) and Pablo Picasso

* Linoleum

* Linoleum gouges

* Carbon paper

* Water-based block-printer's ink

* Plexiglas plate

* Baren or other utensil for rubbing the back of print

Karen Skophammer teaches art for the Manson Northwest Webster Schools in Barnum and Manson, Iowa.
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Author:Skophammer, Karen
Publication:Arts & Activities
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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