styrofoam jigsaw colour relief print on black paper
The image above is a recent print created as a demonstration piece to use in some of my upcoming classroom based ventures this year. There is more explanation farther down in the post about the technique.
First of I was awarded a Artist in Education grant this past May courtesy of the Ontario Arts Council. This will allow me to deliver a total of 150 hours of visual art projects in up to six elementary grade level schools this coming school year here in the province of Ontario. Since then I took the initiative and shopped my project proposal in the form of a email based document to a host of school boards here in Northwestern Ontario. To date I have received some strong expression of interest from several schools here in the region and currently one school in Atikokan Ontario (2.5 hours west of here) have committed to have me come and deliver 50 hours in their school. It is highly likely I should be able to fill the remaining 100 hours here in schools in the city of Thunder Bay once the school year resumes in early September. The project will have to be completed by next July so I will be approaching principals and teachers once again at the end of August.
This project is designed to teach basic relief printmaking to students from grades four through eight. The end result is a large colorful assemblage (mosaic) of square prints that each school can put on display. The project follows the Ontario Ministry of Education's Curriculum with direct focus on learning expectations as they pertain to visual arts for each of the grade levels I will be working with.
This project will create colour prints using a jigsaw method of dissecting the thin block and then reassembling the inked components into the original block. The blocks will be printed onto paper using both traditional hand burnishing techniques and also students will be given the opportunity to print an additional copy using a small manually turned table top press. Good prints will be made onto quality paper surfaces such as kozo or thin rag papers. Students will also be given the opportunity to develop a feel first using a small practice piece which can be printed onto newsprint in a single colour.
I have designed this project in such a way that two types of surfaces can be used to make prints from. The first option uses a thin peel and stick flexible rubber type material. Students from grades five and up can use this to cut into with linoleum cutting tools. The sheet material can be mounted onto thin card for added support but is thin enough to dissect using scissors or craft knives. It allows students to cut into the surface to dramatically enhance their imagery by exploring positive/negative space and also other things like texture, movement, etc..The second option uses a thin dense styrofoam material (Scratchfoam). I plan to mount this onto a thin card base using a spray adhesive. The students of the lower grade levels can use this method since it doesn't require the use of linocutting tools which might be a safety concern. Instead the surface can be impressed using a ballpoint pen tip, pencil point or any pointed object. They can then dissect the plate with scissors and again with ink rolled on the surface will print them using the same two methods as the flexible plates.
I have opted to use a non-toxic vegetable oil based ink for this project instead of the water soluble Speedball inks that have been used in my past school ventures. At the moment I am experimenting with several inks. There are two in particular that I think would work the best, these are Akua and the other is made my the Rudoph Faust Co. Both of these manufacturers are based in the USA. There is a retailer of Akua here in Canada (Gwartzmans) in Toronto. Faust Aqualine inks are made in New Jersey and can be purchased directly from the company or through Graphic Chemical Co. in Chicago. Not only are both of these non-toxic but have low odour and also clean up easily with soap and water which is a must have for schools in my opinion.
Below is an example of a piece using the styrofoam plate method created a couple of days back. This was to test out how the ink behaved on styrofoam, but I also wanted to create a square format design that I could use as an example piece to demonstrate the technique to the students .
In Fig.1 I made a simple sketch of a sandpiper on tracing paper and traced it through the thin paper using a ballpoint pen. The pressure allowed the pen tip to break through the tracing paper and indent the foam surface. The blue ink also transferred into the grooves and defined the image making it visible. These also would act as my cutting guide lines when I dissected the block. Most importantly this would produce a surface effect much like if I had used linoleum or wood surface and had cut away areas with knives.
The dark navy blue areas you see in the foam are the lower areas created by the pen and are about 1/16 of an inch below the surface. When ink is rolled across the surface with a brayer these will remain blank and produce the negative space of the image when it is printed.
The thin styrofoam was first attached to a thin backing paper (bristol board) that would provide extra stability and keep the foam flat. Using scissors and pointed kraft knife blades I carefully dissected the thin plate. Each piece was inked separately (in this case using Faust relief inks) and then carefully reassembled on a cardboard registration board (fig. 2). I glued down some strips of the same foam material on the side and top so it created a corner into which the reassembled block could be braced. Tweezers and bamboo skewers were used and I was able to piece the block back together.
Fig. 3 (image at the top of this post) shows the print (a reverse image) that was made onto black paper. This allowed me to use the paper to define the print and saved me the trouble of having to first roll out and print a square of black ink before printing the main block.