April 11, 2015

Kindergarten Art: Modified Pochoir Printmaking

In March, I attended a workshop for educators, learning about pochoir printmaking. The class learned about traditional pochoir and practiced the technique using styrofoam sheets, stencils, paint, ink, and printmaking tools. It's pretty cool what you can do with basic materials, but the method would need some modification to work with a class of 20+ kindergarteners.

Below, is an example of what I made during the workshop. Using sharp tools, I quickly carved out the design and created a stencil for where I'd like color to appear under the print. Water-based ink and a brayer both led to a pretty smooth and even result, but not likely practical for the classroom on a budget.

It's a process-in-progress, but here is Modified Pochoir for Kindergarten:

Step #1: Lesson & Demo
After a quick project overview, pass out examples of etched designs for the students to both look at and feel. Point out the texture and the depth of the etching. Demonstrate how to etch a design using a dull pencil. Colored pencil allows the students to see what they're drawing a little better than graphite.

Emphasize that it's okay to use a lot of pressure, to push hard to create strong, deep lines in the styrofoam.

Step #2: Drawing & Etching
Ask the students to draw a picture or design using lots of lines and shapes. I asked the students to practice drawing ideas in their sketchbooks first, then passed out styrofoam sheets. Some students may need inspiration, so reading an interesting story or talking about space, robots, or flowers may help ideas come to mind.

Step #3: Background Painting
Depending on class size, there's two approaches that may work for the painting step. With a small class, bring 2-3 students over at a time and have them use watercolor paints to create a background design on white paper. I used rectangular sheets just large enough for two prints (one for the student to take home and one for hanging in the hallway).

If your class is large, bringing small groups together for painting will take too long, so plan this as a whole class activity either before or after making the styrofoam etchings.

Painting and etching will probably take up an entire class period, so save the printmaking step for another day.

Step #4: Printmaking
The printmaking step is best done one-on-one, more like a demonstration, when working with kindergarteners. Older students will be able to do this step more autonomously. Plan an activity that allows students to work independently for most of class while you work with students individually on printmaking.

If you're like me and you don't have ink and a brayer, just grab some craft acrylics and a paintbrush. It's trickier to get a good print, but at this level, I look at this as a basic introduction, something to get the children interested in a different way to express their ideas. Working with older students, you may want to bring in the traditional materials so they can learn the right way to do pochoir.

Apply a think coat of paint, I prefer black, but any contrasting color will do. Make sure the styrofoam is coated enough that all the paint is wet but not so thick that it will smear when applied the the paper. The nice thing about making two prints per student is you get two chances to get a clear print.

Use your hand to gently rub the back of the styrofoam, then slowly pull it off the paper. Apply more paint and repeat for the second print.

Once dry, cut the prints and have students may mount them on black paper.

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