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Tried & true tips for Art Teachers: Printmaking.

Printmaking is one of my favorite areas of teaching art; there are so many ways to create a print that neither you nor your students will be bored with the many choices of technique. Your students may learn just a few of the ways one can make a print, but they'll also gain an understanding of the vocabulary that goes along with the various types of prints.

Printmaking is a wonderful, viable way to collect the art of others, so the understanding and knowledge you impart to them may go beyond creating their own prints--to becoming savvy art collectors!

The vocabulary is wonderful: the term printmaking itself is an oxymoron, in that it means multiple original! Original means one of a kind, and a multiple is more than one, hence the oxymoron, and kids are never too young to learn what that fun sounding word means! Plate, edition, artist proof (AP), limited edition, plate mark, intaglio, serigraph (silkscreen), litho matter what level you teach, is to talk about where we see prints (or even imprints). As a female teacher, I would apply fresh lipstick before class and make a kiss print on a piece of paper to show the kids. Later, they would be able to identify this as a relief print, like linoleum, stamping tools, wood cut and so on. Then, I'd take a small pad of paper and write the word "print" on the paper graph (litho), wood cut, lino (linoleum), monoprint, monotype, etching, engraving, brayer, etc.--are all great terminology, too.

TIP #1

EXAMPLES ARE OUT THERE So many artists create prints that you can easily find great examples to show your class for each technique: Albrecht Durer (etching, engraving), whose work, Melancholia I, is this month's Clip & Save Art Print (see pages 25-28); Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein (silkscreen/serigraphy); M.C. Escher (wood engravings, woodcuts), the most revered artist by mathematicians; Rembrandt; Degas; Gauguin; and the list goes on.

You can teach your students the difference between fine art prints and poster art. Poster art might be called color lithography, but it is mass produced and often signed on top of the "printed" signature by the artist, and isn't considered a fine art print.

TIP #2

PUT ON SOME LIPSTICK! A fun way to start your printmaking assignment, no with enough pressure to make an impression. Once the top sheet of the tablet was removed, I'd drag graphite broadside over the impression and let the kids see that the darkened paper revealed the word "print" in white (like an engraving, intaglio or etching).

Our U.S. paper currency is a great example of engravings, and sharing this fact always encourages a good discussion on papers, inks, techniques, symbolism (this year's Clip & Save Art Print theme) and, yes, counterfeiting.

TIP #3

MONO IS CONTAGIOUS Printmaking is alive with choices for many techniques, and has almost as many contradictions, too. There's the monoprint and the monotype: "mono" meaning one--yet, it's a print! Small budget? Monoprints are simple and inexpensive to do. A self-portrait can be drawn on square mirror tiles (tape the corners and edges with duct tape or protective tape). Using Vis-a-vis markers (or other markers used for overhead projectors), have your students draw themselves looking into the mirror, incorporating what they see around them (the back ground of the room, ceiling, fellow students, etc.). Have them close one eye while drawing their own features, then open both eyes to focus on the whole composition.

Evenly spray rice paper, inexpensive drawing paper or copier paper with water to dampen it slightly. Then, place it on top of the mirror drawing, gently rub the back of the paper with the hand or a baren, and pull the print. This is an easy technique and students will get terrific results. The marker colors often turn unusual, unexpected shades, making this a great segue into the world of printmaking. You'll find your students making quite a few of these prints because the technique is so fun and effective. If some of the prints don't turn out, students can use watercolors, pastels, colored pencils or felt-tip markers to fix and embellish them when they're dry.

From elementary school art teachers, I've learned that using the plastic-foam meat and bakery trays as your "plate" will give a very satisfactory print. The kids can lightly carve into the foam using dull pencils, skewers or craft sticks. The plate is then inked using a small brayer, paper is placed on it, and then rubbed to transfer the ink. Finally, the paper is pulled up and off of the plate. Voile, you have a great print!

Younger children can also color into the print if it warrants extra treatment. And, it's never too early to begin "collecting" art by trading prints with classmates or making more so everyone can have one of their prints. If time permits, have your students make print books containing a print by everyone in the class that they can keep.

TIP #4

THE PROOF OF THE PRINT IS IN THE PULLING I usually would have my students create an edition of six prints. The first print is the "AP" (artist proof). Depending on the technique used, at this point a student can correct a part of their plate, if desired or necessary. With intaglio/drypoint, they can add more crosshatching to create darker areas of mass, for example. Unfortunately, with woodcuts and other relief techniques, if too much from an area has been removed, no fixing can be done. After the desired changes are made on

the plate, students pull another five prints in their edition, numbering them consecutively: 1/5, 2/5, 3/5 and so on. They then handed in their editions for grading, but each kept an extra print that they could trade.

Many students were so into this that they would spend extra time making prints on their own to create larger editions. This was particularly true with intaglio prints using Plexiglas plates, a tabletop printing press and oil-based inks. I called this technique the "60-second excitement." Boy, when students pulled that print and saw it for the first time--wow!

TIP #5

Z BOARDS ARE ZEE THING If you're fortunate enough to be able to afford wood for making woodcuts, or you're using linoleum for relief prints, I recommend yon consider protecting your students (and the desks) from injury from an errant tool by either buying or having your school's woodshop class make what I call "Z boards" (see diagram below).


Z boards, which stack nicely for storing, have a 1/2" x 1/2" slat of wood on top of the base board (1/2-inch thick plywood, measuring approximately 12" x 12") and a 1/'2" x 1/2" slat of wood on the bottom underside of the base board (opposite end). This board lies flat on the desk as one of the end slats braces against the lip of the desk. The upper slat holds the plate (linoleum or woodcut board) so students won't be holding the top of the plate with their hands, putting themselves in harm's way for a bad injury from the carving tools!

TIP #6

BODY HEAT If you're using battleship linoleum that is not attached to a block of wood, and your students complain that it's too hard to cut, here's a way to soften it up. Have students lay a paper towel on top of the plate (to protect their clothing, especially if they used pencil or carbon paper to transfer their image to the linoleum) and have them sit on their plates, thus warming them up so cutting is easier! Yes, the kids will think this is quite funny--but it works.

Another good tip is to look at past November issues of Arts & Activities. November is when printmaking is highlighted, so there are lots of great ideas. It's so much fun making prints and there are so many ways to create them that you'll never run out of ideas. Enjoy!

In each issue of Arts & Activities, Contributing Editor Geri Greenman shares experience and wisdom in her "Tried & True Tips for Art Teachers" column. With three decades as an art educator, her aim is to help others in the art-teaching field through this monthly feature. If you have a tip you would like to share, please e-mail it to: triedandtrue@artsandactivities. com.
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Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2006
Previous Article:Mythical mimicry in modeling clay and linoleum.
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