Category Archives: color

Sponge Roller Painting

Materials: Small sponge roller, large heavy-weight paper, tempera paint

When we printed with scratch foam and then with hot glue plates, G seemed to most enjoy rolling out the ink. So the next time I was at the craft store, I picked up a sponge paint roller just for her. Meanwhile, when she and I went to the art store so I could get some papers for bookbinding, she asked for a sheet of charcoal grey paper. The paper and the roller seemed perfect for each other!

I suggested red, blue, and yellow paint on purpose but without making too big a deal of it. “Let’s use primaries today,” I said, and G replied, “Yay! Primaries!” She likes to dab the roller in each color before rolling it onto the paper. The colors mixed along the edges.

Before too long G began to experiment with the roller, scraping the circular edge into the paint (although she never dabbed it onto the paper to make prints) and touching it–first with a finger, then delightedly squeezing it with her whole hand.

“Paint on my hand,” she observed. I suggested if she wanted to, she could make handprints on the paper.

After each handprint she made the most satisfied sound of approval, so pleased with her work. She stretched out to reach the empty bits of paper.

I think G was satisfied with how she decided to fill her big piece of paper!

***

As the season turns towards summer, we’ve been getting outside as much as we can to explore, search for yard critters, go on special excursions, and enjoy the weather. It seems like it’s been quite a while since just G and I were downstairs to paint–all part of the rhythm of our year, though.

Squeeze Bottle Paint

Materials: Squeeze bottles, salt, water, flour (we used rice flour because I have celiac; it worked fine), food coloring, card stock

Not too long ago, G fingerpainted with some Crayola fingerpaint in tubes, but what she seemed to like most about the whole process was squeezing more (and more and more) paint out of the tube. So I figured we needed to do some more squeezing activities. First, I needed some squeeze bottles–I picked up these small travel-sized ones at Joann’s because that’s where I saw some–and then I needed something to put in the bottles. I saw this over at Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning, and we were good to go!

We started by mixing 1/2 cup each rice flour, salt, and water in a bowl.

I separated the mixture into two separate bowls so G could add food coloring. Here she decided to mix yellow and red. “Orange!”

We needed to make some more to fill our third bottle, so we mixed our ingredients again, using only half as much. Here are our three bottles of green, orange, and blue paint.

(The green is in a green bottle, which may have affected G’s color choice. But she really wanted a green bottle in the store!)

These bottles don’t have a flat bottom, so I had to put them in something so they were right-side up, so she could go from color to color without having to close them in between. If I were to do this with a group of kids, I’d make an effort to get condiment-style squeeze bottles, but these worked fine for just us. Once the paint was in the bottles (this required a funnel), she began squeezing.

The colors blended really beautifully. G began putting one color onto another color quite deliberately, and this fuzzy mixture thing began to happen.

After a while, she said, “Me mix up with my hand,” sort of checking in if that would be okay. “Absolutely,” I said.

“Handprint.”

Since this is basically a more watery version of salt play dough, I put the leftovers in the fridge for another day. It washed right off her hands, too. This activity was about process, exploration, and being a part of the preparation. Plus, G loves those squeeze bottles.

**

Earlier in the day, G was able to help finish making a set of beanbags for us to play with. Although it was a dismal, rainy day, we had lots to keep us occupied!

If You Give a Girl a Spray Bottle

Materials: Spray bottle filled with colored water (I used watered-down liquid watercolor); sense of humor

If you give a girl a spray bottle…

…she’s going to have a hard time staying on the paper.

It’s just so irresistible.

So you go outside, of course!

She’ll realize the blue doesn’t show up so well on concrete…

…but the white garage makes a fine canvas.

It’s hard to see the blue water on the blue chair…

…but when she sprays the red chair, she’ll shout, “Purple!!”

You can’t see the blue on the grass, but the painted step shows it nicely.

If you give a girl a spray bottle, you’re in for an adventure!

Printmaking With Hot Glue

Materials: Hot glue gun, acetate (we used this), paper, blockprinting ink, brayer, some sort of palette

Last week, we used Scratch-foam to make prints. The lines we carved into the foam stayed white, while everything else was inked. This week, we were adding to our plate by using hot glue. When the lines of hot glue dried, they were hard and raised, so theoretically the lines would get inked more than the surface.

The first step is to draw on the acetate with the hot glue. The boys and I made a pencil sketch on a piece of paper first, and then placed our sketch under the clear acetate so we could trace.

(The washing machine became our gluing station, so we could keep it separate from the inking and printing area!) It takes a bit of practice to get the feel for how the glue flows from the glue gun. It’s not easy. I suggested we all use simple designs, without a lot of detail, and not expect perfection.

With G, I pressed the trigger and she directed the gun. Here’s her plate.

Once the glue is dry, ink it with the brayer like any other printing plate. We used paper the same size as the acetate sheets, so we lined them up, pressed with our hands, and peeled. Here’s one of N’s. (Click to embiggen; these prints are much lighter than last week’s.)

And one of V’s.

You can see that a lot of the background comes through as well. This isn’t the best technique to use if you want a super clean line print, and V, especially, did not like this aspect. N was quite pleased with his prints. Both boys prefer the scratch-foam, but they agree we should try all the printmaking techniques we can so we know what’s at our disposal.

Here’s one of mine (top) and one of G’s (bottom).

G’s favorite part of printmaking, hands down, is rolling the ink-filled brayer on the plate. Perhaps I need to get her a mini paint roller…

We wondered later if it would have been possible to rub away some of the background ink with a paper towel before making a print, but it might be hard to “clean” the plate that way before the ink dried (water-soluble ink dries faster). When I used this technique with an actual press, the same thing happened with the background, so I don’t think we did anything wrong. It’s simply a different effect–and it’s good to know how to get various effects. The more tools and techniques we explore, the greater the chance that we’ll know just how to realize specific ideas.

One more picture–of the paper that was under the plate N was inking. I like how it looks!

We’re not done with printmaking yet. Stay tuned!

***

Do you have any favorite printmaking techniques?

Printmaking With Scratch-foam

Materials: Scratch-foam, water-soluble block printing inks, brayers, paper, palette of some sort (we used wax paper because I couldn’t find freezer paper, and the acrylic portion of a box frame); items to scratch into the board with

I recently took a two-day printmaking/boookbinding class (blogged about here and here), and while I took it for my own benefit, I of course emerged with all sorts of ideas for things to do with the kids. But I’ve had Scratch-foam on my wish list for quite a while, just waiting for enough other items to jump in the cart to make shipping worthwhile! So this is what we began with–a very simple entryway into printmaking, completely accessible (you could try other paints besides block printing inks), and, like all forms of printmaking I’ve tried, wholly magical and fun.

The Scratch-foam sheets are 9×12, and I cut them in half so we were working with 9×6 plates. This not only doubles the number of scratch-foam sheets we have, it also enabled us to use regular printer/copy paper. I wanted the focus to be on experimenting, not worrying about using up special paper. (And as you’ll see at the end, we used lots of paper!)

I also told the boys they’d get one piece of foam each for today. Why? Because I wanted them to focus on what they could do with printmaking, not draw a picture, make a print, and then repeat the process. One plate = lots of experimentation. So the first thing you do with these, obviously, is draw into the plate.

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V is getting quite involved with his drawing here! We looked around the studio for things to use and found the end of paintbrushes, pencils, the bone folder, a wooden tool that was blunt on one end and sharp on the other (it came in a set of clay tools), even fingernails.

After scratching, ink with the brayer. The ink should be a thin, even coat. Even a toddler can do this once you show her how.

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At one point, N got a bit painterly with his ink application.

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And G, as per usual, requested to use all the colors in turn (which made for some pretty wild and amazing prints!).

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Here, V will show you how simple the process is. Ink your plate, smoothly press your paper over the inked side of your plate using your hands, and then peel the paper away to reveal the print. (As with all photos, click to embiggen.)

steps

Even I got a chance to make some prints.

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(My husband served as photographer for this art-making session, which is why I had so many photos from which to choose!)

By the time we were done, we’d made lots and lots of prints.

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G didn’t always cover her entire plate, but her color combinations were fantastic.

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V also mixed colors to get a series of really nice prints. (I got the starter set of block printing ink, so we had blue, yellow, red, black, white, and gold.)

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N was having some trouble with inking, pressing, and fingerprints–and perhaps a busy plate.

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I think that one is probably a ghost print (when you make a second print off the plate without re-inking). He was happy with the process, though, and with many of his prints. I like his painterly ones, too.

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One of my prints:

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That’s one of the ones I made using up some leftover ink on somebody’s palette. (Moms do that.)

The water-soluble block printing inks clean up super easily, although I don’t know if they wash out of clothing. (Amazingly, I won’t find out, either, because none of the kids got any on their clothes.) It rinsed off the brayers, acrylic palette, and plates with just water, and it wiped right off the table and hands (and forehead, in G’s case), too.

About halfway through, V said, “This is the best project! Usually I’m done by now.” There is just something about printmaking–the way you can use the plate over and over yet get different results, the freedom to experiment without worrying you’ll mess something up (you’ll still have the plate), the immediate gratification of peeling off that paper–it’s so exciting and engaging. And, as you can see, it can be as simple as scratching into some foam.

Cardboard Box Challenge

PhotobucketRachelle at TinkerLab invited us to join her one-year blog party by participating in her cardboard box challenge. What could my kids do with a cardboard box? I asked the boys if they’d like to participate, and I’m glad they said yes. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person actively pursuing open-ended, process-oriented art with elementary-aged kids, but I haven’t yet been able to find anyone else blogging about it. So I’m happy to be part of this project with older kids. (And because all three of my kids participated, this is a longish post.)

So. We had about a week to do this, which means I had to accomplish the bulk of it last weekend, because school takes up so darn much time. At first, V (age 9) wanted to put all the boxes together and make one great big box that we could walk into, but the boxes we had on hand–three lunchbox-sized boxes and one larger one that had held three bags of cereal (all of which, serendipitously, arrived in the mail last Friday)–weren’t large enough for that plan. We talked about whether we could use a cardboard box to make tall paintings, but figured even with gesso, the cardboard wouldn’t hold up. Plus, I didn’t have any gesso on hand.

Given that my husband was also away this past week and procurement of further supplies on short notice would be difficult, the challenge became this: Pick one of the boxes we have. Given the supplies we have on hand (which is still a generous amount!), what can you do with it? Three kids. Three boxes. Three very different ideas.

The boxes before they got started.

Everybody at work in the studio.

The Toddler

G wanted her box taped shut again, and then she wanted to paint it, over the course of several sessions. She hasn’t done much painting on a 3-D surface or, now that I think of it, on cardboard, so while simply painting the box seems, well, simple, it’s new to her. When all the paint was dry, she asked for the colored masking tape so she could add some. A few hours after I took this photo, she began peeling it off. G’s box is obviously a dynamic piece.

The Nine-Year-Old

V also painted his box, after (sadly, I think) abandoning his idea to make a Super Box. However, first we took his apart so that he could paint it flat. He painted two base coats of blue tempera, followed by designs with liquid acrylics, so this also took place over several sessions, to allow for drying.

When the box is glued back together, it looks completely different; also different than a box that was painted while still a box. It allows for some interesting developments, don’t you think? Plus we all think it looks really cool.

The Almost-Seven-Year-Old

N chose the largest box and began turning it onto a corner, trying to figure out how he could turn a box into a pyramid. He has a couple of the small Pharaoh’s Quest Lego sets, and apparently he wanted a pyramid to go with them. So we talked about the shapes we were working with. A box is made up of squares and rectangles, and a pyramid is made up of triangles. If he wanted to turn his box into a pyramid, we were going to have to do some cutting. (And Mama was going to have to do some algebra, which I’ve included at the very end for anyone who’s interested.) We realized the original box didn’t have enough cardboard for a pyramid as large as he wanted, so we used the original box for the square base and for inspiration, and we used another piece of cardboard–it’s been leaning against the studio wall for months just waiting for a purpose–for the triangles.

Once he had his four triangles and the base square for the floor, which I cut out using a utility knife and straight edge (not a 6yo’s job), he painted both sides brown, then added sponge prints of yellow on the side he’d chosen to face outside (the more corrugated side; we thought the lines might just mimic bricks of sand). So again, the painting took place over several sessions, with drying time in between. Then he described the kind of door he wanted, showed me where it should go, and I cut that out too, just scoring along the hinged side so it opens and shuts. We taped the triangles together on the inside, but left it so the pyramid comes off the base. That way he can set up a scene inside and put the pyramid over it. (Otherwise, you never know what the Lego guys will get up to in there.)

Thanks, Rachelle, for inviting us to participate!

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***

THE MATH

A pyramid is made up of equilateral triangles, that is, triangles in which all three angles are the same (60 degrees, to add up to 180) and all three sides are the same length. N wanted his pyramid about a foot tall. I didn’t do that–I didn’t figure out the full math until the next day, but we didn’t have enough cardboard for such large triangles anyway! His is about 9 1/2 inches tall which, he told me, is plenty big enough for Lego guys. However, I used the 12 inches as a starting point to figure out how big I should make the triangles. If the height of an equilateral triangle is 12 inches, the sides should each be about 14 inches long. Why?

Remember Pythagoras? In a right triangle, that is, one with a right angle (90 degrees), a2 + b2 = c2, with c being the hypotenuse, or side across from the right angle. So I realized if I cut my equilateral triangle in half by drawing a line from the middle of one angle to the center of the opposite side, I’d have a right triangle. The hypotenuse would be twice the length of the shorter side, and if I wanted a height of 12, then I know the value of the third side.

So the Pythagorean equation becomes
122 + x2 = (2x)2
or
144 = 4x2-x2
or
144 = 3x2
or
48 = x2
so x = 6.928, which is close enough to 7 for me. Remember x represents only half a side of the final triangle, so I wanted triangles with 14-inch sides.

(I suppose I could have just gotten a protractor and gone by angles. It probably would have been easier, but far less satisfying than conquering the math.)

The next day, I tried to think through how to start with the height of the finished pyramid and work back to the triangles that form it. The interior height at the apex can be seen as one side of a triangle, with the floor forming the second side and the third side formed by the height of one of the side triangles, leaning in towards the center. (And as you know from above, once you have that measurement, you know how big your triangles are.)

When I did all the math, I reduced it to this:

(desired interior height)2 + x2 = 3x2

So for an interior height of 12 inches, I would have wanted triangles with sides that were roughly 17 inches long and a height of about 14.5 inches. If anyone wants that broken down… let me know. :)

Watercolor Tape Resist

Materials: Watercolor paper, liquid watercolors, painter’s tape; my original tape resist post is here, and another version is on Kidoinfo here

Over break, V wanted to make another tape resist, but we had no canvases. No problem! He used watercolor paper and liquid watercolors. The method is the same.

Apply the tape:

Paint. V chose the colors he wanted:

When the paint is dry, peel off the tape to reveal the finished piece:

Easy peasey, and very adaptable to what we had on hand. My boys seem fascinated with resist methods of all sorts, so I’ll be looking for more methods. If you have some ideas, please share them in the comments!

Painting Stars

Materials: Watercolor paper, liquid watercolors

After painting hearts and snowflakes, my two youngest naturally wanted to paint stars next, but on watercolor paper this time. I cut out the stars for them. A slight digression: N gets frustrated trying to draw stars. They’re hard! I agree with him. Then one night last week, as I opened one of his choices for before-bed stories, Eric Carle’s Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me, this is what we saw on the endpaper:

Take a good look at those stars–click to make the picture larger if you need to. They’re not perfect, either. They’re lopsided and uneven and unique. I pointed out to N, These are stars created by an adult and a famous illustrator and artist. His stars aren’t perfect either! And thank goodness for that. See how they seem to dance along the page? They’re so vibrant. Try to picture uniform, perfect stars instead. Not the same at all, is it?

A second digression: Do you pay attention to the endpapers of the picture books? How about the illustrations? Most of the newer books even tell you how the illustrations were made–look on the title page, with the publishing information. I’m partial to watercolors and collage, myself. Currently I’m reading Flora’s Very Windy Day (over and over) and every time, I find myself admiring the illustrations (ink, watercolors, and pastels). I love the leaves. I also really like Jon J. Muth’s illustrations–he uses watercolors, too. And Leo Lionni, with the collage! I could go on and on.

Back to the stars. As per usual, I let the kids choose the colors of paint they wanted, and N chose primaries, so G did, too.

N was interested in blending the colors in specific ways. G made purple.

They’re hanging in the window now, with the hearts and snowflakes. I don’t see them coming down anytime soon, especially since we’ve still got the crepe paper streamers up from G’s birthday several months ago. (She likes them!) I’ll have to figure it out by the time it’s window-opening weather, though.

***

What children’s book(s) do you especially enjoy because of the illustrations?

More Coffee Filter Painting

When the boys saw our window full of painted hearts, they wanted to make some, too, and G has been asking to paint more every chance she gets. So we all painted some more coffee filter hearts (materials list in the linked post) over the weekend, and the boys cut and painted some snowflakes, too.

(We’ve had the T. Rex forever!)

It’s super duper easy to cut a snowflake from a basket-style coffee filter, because it’s already a circle. Just fold your circle in half, and then in thirds.

Fold the resulting triangle in half again.

Cut along the edges, but don’t completely cut a fold line or it will all fall apart. Paint it, if you want to. We’re having so much fun experimenting with colors, watching them run into each other in sometimes unexpected ways.

And we found the sweetest surprise when we came home around lunchtime the day after hanging all our hearts in the front window:

Heart shadows on the floor!

Open Studio

Yet another partial school day, so I gave the kids some ideas for activities we could do in the studio. And this is what happens when three kids want to do three different things… in retrospect, I should have made myself coffee first, but overall, it went just fine.

A couple of days ago I sliced a large sheet of watercolor paper into small squares. Some are 4″x4″ and some are 2″x2″. V decided he’d like to start with liquid watercolors and the small squares. We brought out some salt, too, to texture it a bit. He thought his art teacher had said to put the salt first, then paint. (They didn’t actually do this in class; he just told them about it.) I thought it went the other way around. So we tried both ways. (In case you’re curious, it had a more sandpapery feel when the salt goes on first, and it was smoother when the salt went on second.)

Meanwhile, N really wanted to cut up some of that textured paper we made and make a design with it. I cut some up, too–that’s my fish in the background (click to embiggen). Notice the big sun?

I tried to get G to help with the collage I was making, but beyond treating the paintbrush we were using for glue really, really badly, she wasn’t too interested. She wanted to get back to the rubber stamps I’d brought out for her the other day.

As you can see, V thought that sounded like a good idea. I thought since he was right next to her, he could help her out a bit, but no. I ended up with a rather ink-stained toddler. This might have been the point at which I realized I should have made the coffee before we started.

When N was done cutting and pasting, he wanted to make some watercolors too. Sprinkling salt was lots of fun for all three of us. Isn’t this a nice assortment of bright colors?

(The flowers are mine. I have a six-foot wall of snow bordering my driveway. A girl needs to cope somehow.) We mostly ended up with backgrounds, although V painted a couple of pictures, too, which aren’t shown here. I plan on stamping “I love you” on those purple ones and slipping the ones for the boys into their lunches on Valentine’s Day–assuming that’s not another snow day, of course.

Materials needed for these activities: Textured paper, glue, scissors, mat board (a heavier surface on which to glue the papers), small squares of watercolor paper, liquid watercolors, salt, rubber stamps and ink pads; the snow day is optional!