Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Art Camp Sculpture Class at Glen Urquart School

This summer I jumped on board a new art program at the Glen Urquart School. I designed a four week sculpture program that (unfortunately) ran for only one week. But during that one week this July there was some great creative thinking happening.

The unfinished sample project.
 We focused primarily on paper mache as our main project/medium. The students made their supportive forms out of balloons, coffee caddies, newspaper, and masking tape. A warning on balloons: HIDE THE EXTRAS!

You can still make out the balloon form and coffee caddy at this stage.
Once the forms were built up with layers of paper mache (newspaper strips adhered with Elmer's Art Paste), the students added plaster strips for stability. Some pieces only needed a little bit of plaster strips, but others and those that were smaller could be covered entirely.

There were two possibilities for finishing. Students could use paint or collaged tissue paper.

Painted Orange Octopus
Original Troll Head
Tissue paper collage was used for this unique Imaginary Creature

Painted Dragon's Profile
 Paper mache and plaster take a while to dry in the humid summer air, so there were some smaller side projects as well. Students had free choice sculpture materials, such as model magic, beads, feathers, and wire.



 On the last day of the week/class we did some soap carving. I didn't get any pictures of the soap carvings though since a first attempt at carving doesn't really yield an identifiable sculpture. It does lend itself to some good, clean, fun though!

Friday, July 26, 2013

High School Printmaking Unit: Post Thirteen -- Self-Directed FInal Projects

Being asked to give a final in art is really, really difficult because... well... it's art. Art is not like Math or Reading Comprehension or World History. It does not have an exact answer to a multiple choice exam. Art is expressive and invoking. So when I realized I had to have the high school students do something for final exams, I decided that they would use all of the knowledge and skills they had gained to do a project of their own design.

It had some structure, of course. They had to present a written proposal, complete with a time frame for the project to be completed. They had to document and research their work and the work of other artists. And on the day of finals, they had to present their work, research, and process to the class in a power point presentation.

The final projects had a lot of variety. Here is a sampling:

One student created a series of stamp prints, using patterns and colors in interesting ways...

One created a reductive block print inspired by his hometown...

One student made a lino-cut inspired by Art Deco and the Chrysler Building...


One student explored stenciling, creating stencils of objects that reminded her of her town. She talked about how this graphic imagery could be used in merchandising...

One student expressed his obsession with the Stanley Cup though a collograph...

One student explored logos, by making cut out collograph plates and printing them. He used patriotic colors to emphasize America's preoccupation with branding and consumerism...

One student used multiple carved stamps to create a stop-motion image of a girl cartwheeling...

One student combined monoprinting and stamping, using found leaves as stamps...

One student combined a stamped background with a collograph as the foreground image...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

High School Printmaking Unit: Post Twelve -- Stencil Prints

In an ideal situation I would have liked to introduce the students to silk-screen printing, but the room was not set up for using screens. Instead I included hand-cut stencils in the print unit. Students first drew their designs on paper, then transferred them to transparency film. The film, once cut made an ideal stencil material. It could be cleaned off and reused numerous times. This was a very experimental project that I introduced as an extra-credit assignment for students who needed a boost in their studio grade. I did not put any constraints on the project, so students made a mix of abstract and representational images; most used simple shapes.

For color, students used printing inks applied with either a brayer (for more flat coverage) or a bristle brush (for a stippled or tonal appearance).

Here are a few of the prints that were produced:

High School Printmaking Unit: Post Eleven -- Reductive Block Prints (Woodblock Variation)

A more advanced version of the reductive block print project replaces the soft-cut printing blocks with basswood or soft plywood. The carving and printing process remains the same, but the material of the block is more challenging. The wood grain influences the work in two major ways: 1.) It effects the direction students are able to carve - with the grain works best and produces clean lines, against the grain is more difficult and produces rough lines; 2.) The texture and patterns of the wood may also lend themselves to the final print.

I did not have the opportunity to have the students (even the more advanced ones) try out wood block carving, but I did make a sample:

Finished print.
After the first carving.

The first ink color.
Later in the process.
The last ink color.

Monday, July 22, 2013

High School Printmaking Unit: Post Ten -- Reductive Block Prints

After the stamp project, the use of lino-cutting tools for the reductive block print project was the least complicated aspect of what the students set out to accomplish. They faced two new challenges:
  • First they needed to come up with their own design idea. I no longer provided them with a specific subject prompt (like nature in the collographs or abstract symmetry with the stamps). The only guidelines they were given were that they should include pattern if possible, include perspective or depth, use at least three colors (not counting the white of the paper), and make an attempt at visual texture in their mark-making.
  • Once they had the design figured out and transferred to the carving block, the next big challenge was planning out what to carve away first. To achieve the reductive block print using multiple colors, students had to plan out the color areas in advance. White areas get carved away first. Then they work from lightest to darkest color areas. With each color more of the block is carved away, essentially destroying the block by the end of the process.
Students created a series of 6 - 8 prints each. They had to use registration marks to line up their prints each time a new color was inked up. Some students purposely off-set their registrations to allow some of the color layers to show through.  And depending on how much ink was applied, the layers did sometimes bleed through, but usually this added to the prints' quality.

There were so many great prints made that it is difficult to choose only a few, here are the "top ten" as determined by in-class critique:


Sunday, July 21, 2013

High School Printmaking Unit: Post Nine -- Hand Carved Stamps

As the students continued their exploration of printmaking the stamp project was transitional. It acted as the bridge between what they had been doing thus far and the more complex project that lay ahead. The complex project being reductive block prints (which will be featured in the next post). To familiarize the students with the carving tools they would be using and with the the subtractive nature of block printing (pretty much the opposite of collograph plate building), I decided that a simple stamp making project was in order.

To make the stamps, the students used 1" square cut erasers (obtained at the local dollar store). Six stamps could be made using each 3-pack of erasers (the erasers were cut in half). Technically if the students carved both sides, each pack could make 12 stamps.

The concepts the students worked with were symmetry and abstraction. Each carved stamp, when printed had to be a component of a symmetrical design. This will be clearly understood when viewing the finished products. To help the students to understand the concepts, I relied heavily on demonstration and visual aides. Without the demonstration, I feel that students would have surely struggled. Part of the demonstration, of course, included safety and handling of the tools (xacto knives and lino-cutters).

To colorize the stamps the students moved away from printing ink. Instead water-based markers were used. This allowed the students more control in the color patterns, but at the same time they had to work fast because the pigment would dry quickly. If the students took too long to apply the stamp to the paper, the print would not show up very well. Aside from the carving, timing was a big challenge that many students had to work out on their own.

Unlike the other projects, this one only produced one or two finished pieces per student. Here are some of the finished stamp prints:

The artist whose work the students were asked to compare the project with was Escher. The students easily found parallels between their stamp designs and the tessellations created by the artist. They also truly expressed an appreciation for the complexity of the tessellations by reflecting back on the challenges they faced in creating their own symmetrical imagery.