I really like to introduce new concepts, and printmaking is one of those really cool, but sometimes hard concept with youngsters—eventhough, little kids are always "making prints" in their daily lives. As a background in simple graphic forms and printmaking, I decided to talk a bit about Pop Art, Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. I showed Haring's red heart series and Warhol's Marilyn Monroe painting. The Haring heart was a great example of simple, two colors and line work mixed with block color. The Warhol was good for the concept of multiple editions of one image.
The hard part is finding a suitable "plate" for having the kids "take away" material that will then print white. Wood, lino and other true printing supplies are expensive, and dangerous for the kids, so I figured I needed a material that was pliable that they could "carve" with apencil or brush handle, with no sharp items needed. I thought of foam core, but quickly decided on a bunch of square foam takeaway food contaniners, that I cut down to 6 inch squares. The kids could then just use a pencil to make lines and dots in the thin foam.
As for ink, you can use offical printmaking ink and brayers and inking trays etc, but who has time or energy for that with 12 kinders and 30 minutes? So I had to use what I had on hand: Crayola markers and poster paint. Don't laugh, but the markers do a decent job, especially if you get a good color that will bead up on the foam and if you really press the print to soak up the marker. I used the markers as a "warmup" while I finished getting the paint ready. Marker is also less messy while they experiment. But it tends to work better for smaller stamps and more graphic images.
Another lesson I learned was the fewer the colors the better. One color would be great, but with my background in newspaper design, I knew red and black are two great complimentary colors for printing. They also make nice Valentine-themed works. Since I did this with the 3-4th grade first, they tended to make more complicated images and wanted to use multiple colors, which often made them feel frustrated by the limitations of styrofoam printing. Ironically the K-2nd graders did not question my limited colors and were less judgemental of their work. In the end, I think they ended up happier with the results.
The best images tended to be the simplest, with some texture and freedom. I am really proud of the true fine art that these kids produced!!
KINDERGARTEN, FIRST, SECOND GRADERS: