September 26, 2014

Good Children's Fantasy Block Prints

        As reported a couple of months ago, this summer I taught two week-long relief printing classes for children in grades 5-9.  I bewailed the fact that a concatenation of camera catastrophes deprived me of most of the photos I had taken of the kids’ wonderful work, so I haven’t been able to do most of the posts I was planning on various projects and themes.  However, I see that I do have a decent selection of fantasy-themed work to share with you.
        Classes, like individual children, develop their own personalities, and in the second week the particular mix of students inspired and encouraged each 
other to do mythical creatures, which was fun to see.  For some of these pieces, such as the unicorn and the Tardis, the kids used photos for reference, while others, such as the chimera and large dragon, were designed wholly from scratch (or at least with any references provided only by the kids’ memory.)

        You can see in all these pieces that students at this level tend to think first in terms of outlines or shapes, with very little work on texture.  I think this is partly because that’s a level of  complexity they aren’t ready to consider when this whole idea of carving is still pretty new and takes a lot of concentration.  I think it’s also partly because they’re impatient and don’t want to take so long on fiddly little details before declaring that they’re ready to ink and see what they’ve got!  Using lines instead of solid white or solid ink on something as straightforward as the hair of the unicorn’s mane and tail is about as far as they go at this stage.  I hope some of them will continue to do block printing in the future and eventually they can start pushing themselves further.

        Still, I was very proud of the work these kids did in one week, and there are elements of each of these pieces that are quite delightful.  Perhaps my favorite is the orange dragon with its fierce energy.  The carving of the chimera, by contrast, is impressively controlled and smooth, and it has an expression of charming benevolence.  (Two expressions, in fact.)  The Tardis makes strong use of black and white, while the unicorn is made especially magical by its rainbow inking.  The series of three small creatures were designed to be mixed and matched in various combinations.  So, five different students, five different takes on portraying fantasy themes, five different styles and approaches to carving…  I’m sorry I don’t have pictures of all the kids’ work so I could show you a few more examples (I remember a sea serpent and at least one more quite different unicorn, for example) but I hope these give you a taste of the skills and imaginations of these up-and-coming block print artists.

[Pictures: Dragon, rubber block print by AF, 2014;
Chimera, rubber block print by ME, 2014;
Tardis, rubber block print by AM, 2014;
Unicorn, rubber block print by AV, 2014;
Unicorn, Dragon, and Griffin, rubber block prints by TPN, 2014.]

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