by Nicola Bessell-Browne
Here are some simple activities that you can do with your kids at home as an introduction to Printmaking.
You don’t need any special artistic abilities to do printmaking, or to achieve very impressive results. The key to success with both methods is having the right consistency of the paint/ink, and applying the right amount of pressure. With print making you can practice until you get it right, without ruining your block or plate.
Firstly, we will start with Block Printing, the easiest way to do this is using the humble Potato! Remember doing potato prints in kindergarten back in the sixties? This has been an easy and popular way to create a repetitive block print for many years. The point of doing this is to create a decorative repetitive pattern in the simplest, and least time consuming way.
In the past I have used potatoes carved into a star, moon and a heart and printed them randomly onto brown paper for Christmas wrapping paper.
- To start, you need a large potato, preferably an old floury potato, with less moisture in the flesh, cut in half through the middle.
- Pat the potato dry with paper towel, then draw on it a simple shape that you would like to reproduce.
- Use a sharp blade to cut deeply around the shape that you have drawn. Remember, you may have to do this depending on the age of the child!
- Now etch a circle around the potato, 5mm from the edge.
- Use the blade to remove the excess around the shape, leaving a raised relief pattern. You now have an effective block shape for Printing.
- Dry the potato again, then dip it in the paint. You can use screen printing inks, or acrylics, or gouache, or any paint that has the consistency of honey,
Thinner than this, the paint may not stick to the potato.
- Do a test print of the block onto some scrap paper. From this you can ascertain the amount of paint that you need on the block.
- Once you are happy with the consistency of the print you can start on your wrapping paper, or possibly a tea-towel or pillowcase.
- Decide if you would like to print in a random fashion, or to follow a planned design.
- Let dry, stand back, and admire the results!
The next method to try is Intaglio Printing. You are probably familiar with this type of print making from viewing etchings. These are created by etching a pattern into a steel or copper plate, inking up the plate, and using pressure to transfer the image onto paper. The easiest way to do this is with the re-used polystyrene trays on which supermarket market meat is packaged, thoroughly washed and dried, of course!
- Start by drawing your selected image onto a flat piece of used polystyrene tray, the curved edges must be removed first. Remember that simpler often
looks better. Use a ball point pen or a pencil to etch the image
- Use a rubber roller to transfer the ink onto the etching plate, (polystyrene tray!) making sure it is evenly spread, then remove excess ink from the plate. You want it mainly to be in the etched lines, with only a very light film on the surround, to create the background.
- Press the inked tray upside down onto a test piece of paper, hold the tray still, and press down firmly, this will rely on trial and error to use the right pressure. Don’t worry about any unexpected results, sometimes the most creative artworks are made as a mistake!
Printmaking activities, properly supervised, can be a really fun and inexpensive way to inspire creativity in your children.
You never know, you could reveal an inner Artistic genius.