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Easy Printmaking Techniques for the Classroom Part 1

Easy Printmaking Techniques for the Classroom

Welcome back for another free art lesson from Golden Road Arts. Last time we were here we talked about easy types of painting for children.

In this next video from Golden Road Arts, we’re looking back at the OAEA 2021 Fall Conference. Here, Barbara Mason delivered a lesson on the basics of printmaking in the classroom. If you’re curious about the origins of printmaking and how the processes have evolved, make sure to watch Barbara’s lesson.

An Introduction to Printmaking in the Classroom Video

Learn about the various types of materials used in printmaking, including a rubber fish that is the perfect tool to get kids started with creating art.

Materials Needed for Printmaking in the Classroom

  • Water-based or monotype ink
  • Rubber fish
  • Paper plates
  • Paintbrush
  • Plastic
  • Sumi-e paper

Scroll down the page to see an image from the OAEA 2021 Fall Conference.

Discover Simple Fish Printmaking Techniques With Golden Road Arts

Read along using the video transcript to learn about early printmaking and the art materials you need to get started.

OK let’s go, so I’m Barbara Mason and welcome to the Oregon Art Educators Association Conference, we’re doing a printmaking workshop geared for kids from kindergarten through 5th grade, but really anybody could do this. You just step it up if you’re doing more complicated, if you have older students you just do more complicated imagery the processes really don’t change that much.

So the first thing I want to talk about is printmaking itself. You know we always think about when did printmaking start, and I really think it was a caveman who put his hand in the mud and put his hand on the wall. You know, that was probably the very first print, somebody’s handprint, or maybe footprint. And it’s just grown from there and all through history people were making prints. They were putting ink or paint on something and transferring it to something else. They were carving a ring and transferring it to wax to make a seal, so all the way through history printmaking has been a big part of it. And then, of course, when people started to duplicate writing where they could make something and make a picture that everybody could read or they could finally do words and duplicate those so everybody could read it and it’s just gone from there. Now we have printmaking where you can run it through your computer, print it out, transfer it to something, and then print it and make a million copies.

One of the things that printmaking is always really been good for is what they call the dissemination of information. So specifically, in political situations, where somebody wanted to have a little printing press in their basement, and they would print up a bunch of fliers you know, saying their guy was better than the other guy, take them out and distribute them, and then move the press so nobody could find them, and that type of political printmaking has been going on probably for the last 500 years, maybe longer.

So, printmaking is, I think it’s just the best thing since sliced bread, but that’s my personal opinion. I took a printmaking class – gosh, I must have been I don’t want to age myself here, I was younger – I took a printmaking class when my kids were in middle school. And I took a class at the OSAC, which then was OCAC, and then now it’s nothing. But when I took this class – it was a monoprint class, and I had no idea what it was but it just sounded interesting – I thought well you know weekend class; and I took the class and I came home and told my husband “This is what I want to do, I’m so excited about this” and he said “OK”, and thousands of dollars later and lots and lots of classes, I can say I’m a printmaker. So I did really wanna do it and I’m really glad I did.

So, the first thing we’re gonna talk about is the materials, and so there are a lot of different kinds of ink that you can use. There’s an awful lot of water-based ink now (let me try to find it it’s not disgustingly dirty here). This is an ink that’s a recent ink, this ink started as a liquid in 19, probably 1990-1991. They’ve just been developing it, they’ve just been developing it for the last done 25 years, 30 years. They’ve just been developing it and it just gets better and better. And a few years ago they sold it to Speedball. it’s called Akua, and they sold it to Speedball. They just got tired of running a company, which I can understand. So, they sold it to Speedball, went to work for Speedball, and I think that worked out very well for them. So it’s a water-based ink and it originally was honey-based and now it is, I think, soy-based. It cleans up with water but you if you mix the water with it, it just doesn’t work, but it will never ever dry on your slab, absolutely never. It’ll get stiffer but it’ll never dry. It dries through absorption into the paper, so sometimes if you have lots of layers, it’ll never dry on the paper either.

So, the first thing I want to talk about is one of my very favorite kinds of printmaking that I do with kids, and it’s fish printing. So fish printing is (you can buy these rubber fish), you can use real fish. Problem with real fish is sometimes the scales come off and then your fish doesn’t look good. You have to take their eyeballs out which is not my not my favorite; kind of have to put stuff under and prop up their fins, and you know it’s a lot of work to use real fish. And they smell bad, that’s the other thing. But this is a rubber fish; comes from Dick Blick. This particular fish is probably 25 years old still going strong, so they just don’t wear out. This one has gotten a lot of wear – t’s a little sticky – somebody used acrylic paint on it which I don’t recommend. The kind of ink I like to use on it for fish printing (you could use poster paint I think that works just fine) I like this monotype ink, this is called Createx. The problem is it’s only pretty much good for this. I never really liked it much for anything else, but it does do a great job on the fish printing.

(I can’t get it to come out). (Guest off camera says “if you use real fish, do you have a preference of where you go, or you know fish market ?” Barbara answers “Yeah and they might even give you a fish, I don’t know. They might even give you a fish if you’d go and ask them; it’s amazing how you can. I have done it with a real fish in the past, but they do smell bad.”)

And, so one of the things that you do when you have (the rubber fish) you can give him a little spritz of water. This is a great thing for outside too. I’ve done this a lot at outside venues. So, what I do is I use paper plates. I like ink on paper plates and I have a piece of plastic. I put a little piece of plastic under each fish; just a piece of plexiglass when I’m working outside. So, what I do is I have a different color of ink on every plate – and I have like 5 choices of colors – and I just let the kids take the brush, get it in that ink, and paint their fish. And so, it’s pretty easy. They can just put the paint anywhere they want. They can do stripes, polka dots, and they all turn out. There just is no such thing as a bad fish print. Yeah, they just really do all turnout, they just all turn out really well. And sometimes the kids, you know, they’ll just mix all the colors together and they kind of have a big mess – and you think “ugh” – but it’s amazing, they turn out really well, even I f they’re just totally brown. And the kids are so excited when they did it. I did it once on AM Northwest – and the woman’s name is Helen, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen AM Northwest – and so she was painting her fish, and we were talking and then at the end… thing about having it on a piece of plastic, you can just take it off to print it, you don’t have to worry about the table being messy. And when I work with kids I use newsprint. Just rub it to the edges, and if you’re outside and it gets a little dry you can just spray it with a little bit with water before you print it. And then I have him write their name on it and we hang out on our clothesline. We run a clothesline along the edge of the tent or wherever we are. And you just can’t hardly get a bad one.

Then if you want one – I’m going to do this again ’cause I’m gonna show you something else – if you want one; say you wanted one that you’re gonna give it as a gift to somebody; maybe you want to frame it you want it to be really nice paper. You can use Sumi paper. Sumi paper; it’ll really give you a nice print. It’s a little more fragile than newsprint so you have to be a little more careful with it ’cause you can tear it if everything is too wet. But it really does a nice job; really pretty print.

I’m very fond of doing this with kids, you know. Everybody loves it. I did a summer thing at Reedville school this summer – at what do they call it, summer school – and so we had two weeks of making all different kinds of prints. And there are different kinds of, you know, different kinds of stuff; artwork. And I said to the kids (the first day I did the printmaking, this fish printing because it’s so much fun) and so I said to them later, we had one more day – and I said what do you want to do on the last day, you know, do you want to do drawing what do you wanna do? They all wanted to do the fish printing again so we did it a second time.

So this is a piece of Sumi paper. This comes from Dick Blick again, and you print on the smooth side not the rough side. You can see how absorbent it is. You can see the whole fish right through the paper. So you can see that if this was very wet this paper would just tear. But the print it makes is really beautiful. This is sumi paper, yeah. It was pretty astounding. I’ll just lay these over here to dry.

So, this would be, I think this would be a good way to introduce printmaking to kids who have never done it before you know is it so direct and so fast. It’s just so much fun.

Guest off camera says “The immediacy of it is very cool. We’re talking about this, you know, with high school kids doing it, find kids that fish, with lots of kids like to fish, just go outside and just go for it. If it’s a total disaster then it’s something we learned in that disaster.”
Yeah, I had Robert Schlegel – Bill Schlegel used to teach at Sunset when my son was in junior high school – and he – I went was working with his class one year – and he did a fish print for me about this big – must have been a salmon – and just black and white, just as a thank you present and I always treasured that fish print.

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Golden Road Arts hosts art events in schools, libraries and other Oregon community locations. To discuss creating a fun and educational art event with Barbara Mason in the Hillsboro area, call (503) 718-7097.

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Barbara Mason printmaking lesson at OAEA Fall Conference

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