I created a large amount of gelatin plates for some workshops I ran for the North Vancouver Community Arts Council and Canuck Place that I wanted to utilize in all the Spring Break camps I ran this season. So I had the kids create monoprint birds for the "Birds of a Feather" camp I ran through North Vancouver Community Arts Council.
6 year old, Crane
Using a limited palette of printing ink, each child created a hand painted bird on the gelatin plate. Each small gelatin plate was placed on a piece of plexiglass that I keep in my personal studio for a variety of art projects, including printmaking. They have been one of the best resources I added to my supplies and well worth the time it took to cut and sand over five years ago.
6 year old, baby duck
7 year old, robin
There are so many different printmaking projects you can do with gelatin plates and they are easy to make yourself, saving lots of money rather than buying the ones online. I make them in a cookie sheet and then cut them into 1/8th's in order to make it cost effective for large classes. Here is a recipe if you want to try it, I strongly recommend adding the glycerine as my plates last for up to a year making the upfront investment very cost effective. I use them for a variety of printmaking projects and you can find lots of ideas online or on my Pinterest board.
7 year old, blue bird
Each child placed a reference picture under the plexiglass to start the project. I asked them to roughly sketch in their bird with the ink, pulling out the reference picture when they could no longer see the bird.
Then each child spent their time layering the paint and creating their final picture. Some tried to stay true to the reference picture and some did their own thing. I stressed NOT washing out the paintbrush between color so they could get more interesting color combinations.
6 year old, crane
9 year old, flamingo
As they began to complete the painting, I showed each of them how to use the back of the small paintbrush I had given them to gently draw into the picture. GENTLE is the word to stress as you don't want them to scratch the plate of the marks will be permanent on every print afterwards.
7 year old
Once they were happy with their painting, I gave them two pieces of card stock, each cut just a bit bigger than the plate. I spritzed the paper with a bit of water that I then wiped off with a clean sponge prior to them laying it over their drawing. This will reactivate any dry ink. Then I told the kids to give the paper a "nice back rub", not moving the paper at all. You do not want them to press down, just a bit of pressure as they rub in a circular motion across the paper.
8 year old
Then the fun part, pulling the print! Oh their faces the first time they do it, it is so rewarding to watch. For the most part they are pleased as punch with the outcome, sometimes not, and then we go over what went wrong. Usually there is not enough paint (they rushed and just wanted to get to the printing), not enough pressure when rubbing or they did not rub the entire thing. To be honest even when things do not come out as anticipated, they are still wonderful works of art.
The great thing is that they can do multiple pictures, which they want to do anyway, where they can apply what they have learned along the way to create lovely finished pieces.
Printmaking is always one of the highlights of camp and this project was no exception. It is crazy busy for me, but well worth it to see the kids having so much fun.
5 year old
There are some great moments I cannot plan for that happen, that are great learning lessons for everyone. Lessons like not giving up and problem solving. The below print is a great example of that, the child created a blob on the plate and wanted to wash it off at start over. I encouraged him to find the bird within the blob, to add paint over the mess and create something out of it.
6 year old
Pretty amazing, right? Created out of a mess of a black blob. I stopped the class to show them what the little boy had done, first to reaffirm to him that it pays to not give up and work through something and second to show by example why every other child in the room should do the same.
One of the other highlights for the kids was the ghost prints. This is the print pulled with the leftover ink left on the plate after the original print was pulled. I stress to the kids that sometimes you get something really neat and other times really nothing at all. Sometimes the ghost print even ends up being the favorite print!
6 year old ghost print
6 year old ghost print
7 year old ghost print
The kids had so much fun creating these works. There were some beautiful monoprints made in the camp. I took all of them home and remounted them for framing. This is time consuming on my part, but I feel is important in order to honor the work the kids have put into creating the art.
9 year old
I think each child finished this project big fans of printmaking, almost as big a fan as I am of their finished birds.