July 21, 2017

Student White Line Prints

        Last summer I did a couple of posts about the Provincetown white-line style of block prints, because I was planning to have my students give it a try in my summer printmaking class.  You can refresh your memory in the post about the style, and the post on my own attempts at the technique.  But I never did post any student work because that year’s class were meticulous workers and ran out of time before we got to the project.  But this year’s group got to try it, and they did a great job with it.
        The work I’ve posted here today was done by kids going into fifth and seventh grade (although the whole class had students going into 5-9).  I explained that they needed to think about making a design like a coloring book: just outlines around areas, with no areas too big or too tiny, and no need to think about black and white or texture.  Although this was a bit of an adjustment from how I’d been trying to get them to think about all their other block print designs all week, it is a fairly natural, easy way for them to think of designs, so in the end they probably did better with it than I do!
        Like the one sample I had done last summer, these designs were carved into rubber and colored with markers, which works reasonably well.  I encouraged the kids to try a few different color schemes, which some of them really took to, as you can see with the crazy-colored cows.  I also encouraged them not to leave too large a plain background, and you can see in the bird an example of a student who had more plain background than I wanted them to aim for - but it still works out pretty well.
        From a teacher’s perspective, this is a good project for the end of the class because it doesn’t use printing ink.  That means a) the cleaning of ink plates and brayers can begin a little sooner, and b) more importantly, there aren’t any prints at the end of the class with ink still tacky, making it easier to stack up all the art and get it home without a mess.  For more detail about the step-by-step, check out the previous post on the technique.  Some additional tips for success with students are:
   1. Pre-cut each block with an extra half inch of rubber on one side, and draw a line to mark the extra area.  This is the place where they will tack their paper to keep it registered while coloring and printing.
   2. Pre-cut paper to exactly the size of the finished image and give it to students to draw their designs.  That way you don’t have to worry that they’ll get confused and put carving in the extra area.  When they transfer their designs to the rubber, just show them to line it up even with the outside edge, and their paper should end at the line drawn on their rubber.
   3.  Fold each sheet of printing paper along one edge.  Then when a student is ready to print, you can line up the crease of the paper just outside their carved area and tack it down with thumbtacks onto the extra rubber.  The fold makes it clear to them how the paper folds back so they can color an area, and folds down so they can press it.
        From the students’ perspective, this project made a nice variety from the other printmaking projects, was quite quick and simple to carve, and was a lot of fun.

[Pictures: House and Waterfall, block print by EA, 2017;
Cow, block prints by AA, 2017;
Bird, block print by ELZ, 2017;
Dragon, block print by EZ, 2017.]

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