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Nature prints.

A project with nature prints can make students aware of the basic compositional principles of art that appear in nature. Students collect leaves, grasses and rocks which reflect these principles and use these natural things to create monoprints. The activity includes elements of discovery and creativity, providing a challenge from beginning to end.

I discovered this process quite by accident when one of my painting students knocked a setup of leaves and wild flowers onto a watercolor demonstration of the wet-on-wet technique. The accident was not discovered until the painting surface had dried. To my surprise, a wonderful effect had occurred. When the natural objects were removed, it was obvious that the watercolor pigment had floated and settled around them, creating suggestions of texture. I decided that even better results might occur if the process were carefully created. The project could allow a teacher to teach composition and design while allowing students to ahieve creative results.

Begin the project with an outdoor excursion. Instruct students to have aware of how natural objects exhibit the basic compositional and design principles of repetition, variation, emphasis, unity, etc. Have them collect nature samples that best reflect these principles.

When the students have returned to the classroom, they should experiment with the placement of their natural objects. Before making an effective layout, have them tape watercolor paper to a flat surface. Next, wet the surface of the papers to allow students to apply watercolor pigments in a wet-on-wet technique. Encourage each student to work quickly and freely so the pigment remains wet. They should place natural objects on the wet, pigmented surface, allowing color to settle and float around the objects. Extra color may be added. As long as the surface is wet, the color will float and settle around the objects to create a monoprint.

When the surface is dry, remove the nature objects. The resulting print is used to suggest the final composition. Instruct the students that the print design should only suggest, nor dictate, content. They must feel free to change or add to any forms that have been suggested. During this final step, the students may use watercolor washes, drybrush watercolor or ink-line drawings. The style and technique should be the choice of each student.

There are many objectives to the project. Students learn the compositional principles of repetition, variation, emphasis and unity. They become aware of the ways in which color, line, space and form affect these principles. Finally and primarily, they experience individual creativity in a directed project.

Nature monoprints, when embellished by each student's unique rendering, yield beautiful and exciting results. Most important, each student has experienced the elements of discovery, surprise and creativity. A teacher's dream!

Myrlan Coleman heads the Department of Art, Wetherford College, Texas.
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Author:Coleman, Myrlan
Publication:School Arts
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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