July 12, 2013

New Printmakers

        This morning was my last session of the Relief Printmaking class I taught this week.  I had 13 kids entering grades 5 - 8, 12 girls and one quietly intrepid boy.  We did seven projects over the course of five mornings, and concluded with a short open house for parents and other friends to come in and admire all the work.  I had a wonderful time, and I think all the kids enjoyed it, too.  So today I want to share some of the beautiful work of these emerging printmakers.
        Some of the projects worked better than others - the collagraphs, for example, were somewhat disappointing due to their fragility and the difficulty of inking and printing satisfactorily.  On the other hand, everyone mastered the difficult task of carving out letters for the bookplate/name tag project.  Of course the rubber blocks were the most popular printmaking medium.
It's my favorite, too, so I'm not surprised.
        There are two things about teaching art that I find the hardest.  The first is logistical.  Children work at such different speeds that it's always a real challenge to satisfy the quicker workers with plenty of new projects to keep them busy, while allowing the slower workers an opportunity to complete their work before the class moves on.  (The zentangle-style styrofoam prints were one of these extra projects I added for the speed-demons, and it turned out to be a lot of fun.)

        The other difficult thing is more philosophical, and it's that children at this age are so self-critical.  Developmentally, there's a point when a child's aesthetic ability to judge artwork outstrips her physical ability to create what she envisions.  This point usually hits right around middle school, and it's the point when a lot of kids decide
they "can't do art" and stop trying.  When I worked in schools and could build up relationships with children over months and years, they trusted me enough to believe me when I told them if they kept working they could improve, and they trusted me enough to believe me when I told them a piece they were struggling with was actually much better than they were giving it credit for.  With only one week for the kids in this summer class to get to know me, they didn't always believe me when I tried to convince them not to dismiss a piece just because it didn't conform to their stereotypical middle school idea of what Good Art should be!  Some pieces got abandoned that should have been much more admired.  Still, I think even the most self-critical came away with at least three pieces they were really pleased with, and that's not too bad for a week's work.

[Pictures: Jaguar, rubber block print by SK, 2013;
Dragonfly, collagraph by AM, 2013;
Bookplate, rubber block print by BW, 2013;
Abstract, styrofoam block print by TN, 2013;
Wading Bird, rubber block print by VM, 2013;
Starfish, rubber block print by IJ, 2013;
Antonio the Disco Man, rubber block print by ME, 2013;
Tree, rubber block print by MV, 2013;
Cat, rubber block print by JD, 2013;]

(I'm sorry I don't have room to include a piece from each of my students - or maybe two each.  I've crammed in as many as I could, and I assure you that you're missing some really stupendous work in the pieces you can't see, including a couple of magnificent hawks and a toucan, some lovely beach scenes, cute bear cub and dogs, and much more…)

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