During my residency with the second grade at Hannah Gibbons STEM School during the fall 2014 semester, students created collagraphs of the moon, and printed them up in both intaglio and relief to compare the surface changes. We learned the eight lunar phases, and students printed them on circle-shaped accordion pages to create a book in which the moon printing plate later became the cover.
The project was huge in terms of printing scope, and the students quickly became experts at the printing press, and wielding their brayers in the ink. Though I’m mighty proud of their accomplishments and their finished books, my favorite outstanding moments in the class are always the first prints pulled.
Students turn the wheel of the press with both hands, and all of their strength, and the paper is pressed into the plate to receive an inky impression. Yet it never fails, the moment we peel back the print, jaws drop and smiles abound, almost in disbelief of the result.
Printmaking is simple enough to grasp but just magical enough to be full of surprise and awe. The moon prints that the students created are wonderful combinations of embossed texture and rich inky indexes of their moon collagraphs. I hope they forever change the way the students see the big moon in our sky.
When students hear that I am an artist, they often ask me if I can draw a specific thing: a car, a favorite cartoon character, etc. One of the lessons I often wish to impress on my students is that even professional artists use visual references to draw from observation, and that drawing something accurately entails looking at that reference and reproducing the shapes that you see in it.
For my current 1st grade residency at Mound STEM School, we are making chimerae, or “mixed up animals.” To help students get past the fear of the blank page, we began by collaging together pre-printed photos of different animals’ body parts. Students loved choosing the different body parts for their silly mixed up animals!
The next time we met, we figured out different ways of using shapes to help us draw the animals we had designed on a new piece of paper. For instance, an eye might look like a large or a small circle, while an ear might look like a skinny triangle. We used a light artist’s touch to draw our animals in pencil, then traced over them in Sharpie. Finally, we added texture using crayons and texture plates (plastic sheets embossed with a variety of different patterns).
After this, students collaged all over their animals with colorful squares of tissue paper. When we cut out and glue the finished animals into their environments, the bright colors of the tissue paper will draw the viewer’s eye directly to the animal, giving it emphasis in the finished piece.
I’m so pleased with the hard work the students have put into this project, and can’t wait to see it come together in our final sessions!