Jennifer from Small Hands Big Art is back! She is sharing this GORGEOUS collagraph printmaking project that she did with her students. They used big wooden blocks and designed these absolutely stunning quilts using warm and cool colors. Can we just call Jennifer the queen of color, please? Let’s find out how she made this all happen!
(And check out Jennifer’s layered abstract paintings which also used warm and cool colors and was the most popular post last summer!)
Here is Jennifer…
We love a good printmaking project! This no-fail process involves the perfect mix of pattern, shape, repetition, color theory, composition and movement.
At a glance, you might think this is a “block printing” project because we literally used blocks. But don’t be fooled! With real block printing (usually using linoleum) the negative space gets carved out with tools. The technique we used here is actually called collagraph printmaking because we created a raised design by applying foam shapes to the surface of the wood.
When we do a printmaking project, we always start by introducing the definition of printmaking at a level that the kids can understand (i.e. “making a stamp”). For this project, the printed squares joined together in a grid pattern that reminded us of a fabric quilt, so we took a moment to talk about quilting and why the repeating patterns of a quilt are so visually pleasing.
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Supplies for Collagraph Printmaking with Blocks:
~ Large format paper (we used a heavy weight 90# sulphite drawing paper, pre-cut to accommodate full rows & columns of squares with a little space in between)
~ Self-adhesive foam (we pre-cut a variety of shapes, but kids could cut their own shapes if time permitted)
~ Black archival ink pad (big enough to accommodate blocks)
Steps to Making Collagraph prints:
1. Tape the paper down to the table or floor to keep it from wiggling.
2. Choose a color palette of either warm or cool colors, and stick to it throughout the process.
3. Paint one side of of the block, and then transfer the paint onto the paper. We set up a painting table and a printmaking table, so there was a lot of movement for this project!
4. Apply paint again using a different color from the same family on top of the same side that was just painted. We applied paint over and over again on a single side of the block for a number of reasons. The block gets too slippery if all the sides are painted (also the foam sticker shapes won’t adhere if the block is wet). And by layering the paints, the print is so much more vibrant because you can see several colors mingling together!
5. Repeat the process of printing one square at a time until the full quilt is completed.
The kids work at really different paces on this project. Some fill a giant sheet of paper fairly quickly; others are more meticulous and only print a few rows & columns. In those cases, we just simply trim the excess paper when they reach a good stopping point.
6. Next, each student begins assembling patterns using self-adhesive foam shapes. (If the blocks are super wet, take a quick minute to dry them off with a paper towel.) We challenged them to design a repeating pattern on one side of the block. Thinking through repetition, visual balance, and visual interest, each student makes two to four unique patterns.
7. Press the block firmly on a black ink pad to pick up a lot of color. Select squares that are mostly dry to apply the print. We coached them to spread the stamped designs randomly on their squares (little ones will want to just do them all side by side).
This part is fun and very physical as it takes all of their strength (and sometimes full body weight) to transfer the stamped print.
We just love the way the paint captures the grain of the wood in the print!
This would be an awesome project to make on fabric, by the way! Just take an old sheet and tear it into a square and use acrylic paint instead of tempera paint.
We loved these so much, we kept their printing blocks so we could turn them into another project. So keep an eye out for those!
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A little about Jennifer:
As the founder of small hands big art, Jennifer learned at an early age the power that art and creative (albeit deviant) thinking can have. Other than that one time she strategically scrawled “Jenny is a Pig!” on her bedroom door & let her brother take the blame, some of her fondest childhood memories involve creating art.
A college art scholarship naturally led to a 17 year career in financial services compliance, where she memorized SEC regulations and honed invaluable skills implementing out-of-the box enterprise deliverables & driving for consensus. (huh??) After stepping on that little shelf thingy on the top of the corporate ladder labeled “Not a Step,” she’s spent the last nine years simply enjoying what inspires her most: Children & art.
Jennifer opened her studio 2009 to provide fine art enrichment programs for children & young adults up to age 14, through age and developmentally appropriate classes, parties, camps and workshops.
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