Explore Modern Artists: Print Like Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly Printing Activity | Tinkerlab.com

Today we’re joined by illustrator and art educator Amanda E. Gross, who’s here to share another fun episode of Explore Modern Artists! 

Explore Modern Artists with Kids : series of projects on Tinkerlab

In the spirit of modern artist, Ellsworth Kelly,  your child might enjoy exploring nature’s shapes to create a stencil and make a painting!


Ellsworth Kelly (1923 -) is a master print-maker.  His plant drawings and screen-prints of simple shapes in brilliant hues are based on a deep reverence for nature.  Inspired by the Kelly retrospective currently at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, this activity is about noticing details, abstraction, and investigating new ways of expression.  

Ellsworth Kelly Prints

Artists use elements – or ingredients – in different ways, and abstract artists use them to express how they think and feel.

To begin, you might discuss the lines, colors, and shapes in pictures with which your child is familiar.  You could even do a tableaux vivant to physically explore the forms.  Next, you might read a book such as Leo Lionni’s Mathew’s Dream, about art appreciation; the illustrations, in which bright, abstract shapes are used to create representational images, can be a good way to introduce abstract art to children.  You may also want to show your child a few of Kelly’s images and ask such as:

  • What do you see?
  • Do these pictures look like things in real life?  Why or why not?
  • How do they make you feel?  Why?
  • What colors / lines / shapes do you see?
  • How do the colors make you feel?
  • Do the colors seem different when they are right next to each other?

Step 1: Draw

Ellsworth Kelly Printing Activity | Tinkerlab.com

Kelly began each image with a drawing.

Set up a still life of plants or fruit, or go findflowers outside.  Because this is an abstract drawing, observe what you see and pick out the basic shapes.

Draw large since you will cut these out.

Step 2: Stencil

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When your child is finished drawing, use scissors to cut out the shapes.

If you have cuts in your stencil that you don’t need, feel free to tape them up.

Step 3: Paint

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Put a piece of paper (or cloth) under your stencil.  Choose a paint color.  So that your painted shape retains the outline of the stencil, try holding it down as you paint inwards from the stencil’s edge (or, you could tape down your paper and stencil instead of holding it).

Step 4: Design

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Use your imagination to experiment with how different colors act when placed next to each other, and explore making symmetrical and asymmetrical designs.

Alternatives

Ellsworth Kelly Printing Activity | Tinkerlab.com

If you’d like to do the project sans water and paint, try cut-and-pasted shapes.  For a new challenge, try screen-printing; to construct your screen, staple a nylon stocking onto a frame. Draw your plant forms onto the back of shelf liner paper, cut out these shapes, and adhere the sticky part to your screen.  (See image above) Paint!

Explore modern artists with kids: Ellsworth KellyResources:

More from Explore Modern Artists with Kids

Paint like Jasper Johns

Painting with Edward Hopper

Ellsworth Kelly Images

Top Row: Grape Leaves III, 1973-74. Lithograph on 300-gram Arches paper, 47¼ x 31½ inches. Edition of 50. © Ellsworth Kelly and Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles. Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. Red White, 1962. 80 1/8 in. x 90 1/4 in. (203.52 cm x 229.24 cm, Acquired 1966. Collection SFMOMA, T. B. Walker Foundation Fund purchase

Bottom Row: Red Blue Green,  1963, 83 5/8 x 135 7/8 inches (212.4 x 345.1 cm), Oil on Canvas, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Jack M. Farris.  Colors on a Grid (close-up), 1976. Screenprint and Lithograph on 350-gram Arches 88 paper, 48¼ x 48¼ inches. Edition of 46. © Ellsworth Kelly and Tyler Graphics Ltd., Bedford, New York. Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer.

Amanda E. Gross_headshotAmanda designs curricula to guide and inspire children, teens, and adults to appreciate art and to create!  She earned a Master’s of Arts in Teaching from The Rhode Island School of Design and is an instructor at Academy of Art University.  Amanda is also an illustrator, painter, DIY crafter, and permaculture enthusiast. Find out more about Amanda here: Art Curricula WebsiteArt Portfolio WebsiteLinkedIn, and Pinterest.

 

Art Tips: Low-cost Stamps made from Cosmetic Wedges

Art tips Series | Tinkerlab

Weekly Art Tips on Tinkerlab.comHave you ever made a stamp from a cosmetic wedge?

A few weeks ago I shared this art tip about how you can salvage paper scraps that are left behind on the art table, and I invited you to let me know here and on Facebook if this was a series worth exploring. Enough of you said “yes,” that I thought I’d launch this new series and give it a whirl.

Art tip:  Upcycle cosmetic wedges as inexpensive stamps

Today’s art tip

Upcycle make-up sponges into easy, homemade stamps.

If you don’t have any cosmetic sponges in your home, they’re easily found in most dollar stores or the make-up aisle of the pharmacy. The wedges have a spongy texture that’s dense enough to hold ink or paint. I spotted this bag of 100 cosmetic wedges on Amazon for about $7.00, which is another option.

Because the wedges have a triangle shape there are only so many things you can do with them, but we found that they’re great for snipping up a heart-shaped stamp. One point of the triangle becomes the bottom of the heart, and then a few simple snips of the scissors will give you a nicely shaped heart.

All of mine came out a little wobbly, but this gives them handmade character.

Art tips: Make-up Sponge Printing

For a more archival picture or card, you can roll out some water-based printing ink like we did, but the cosmetic sponge stamps will work well dipped in a thin pool of tempera or acrylic paint. Washable tempera is more finicky, but great for messy, little hands. Acrylic paint isn’t washable, but it’s a good alternative to printing ink for painting on fabric or something more archival.

So, do you have any cosmetic wedges that are itching to be turned into a stamp? Would you try this?

A question for you

Are there any areas of art-making that you wonder about or struggle with? What other art tips would you like to see covered here?

 

Styrofoam Prints and Baby “Painting”

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Printmaking is one of my passions, so we invariably make a lot of prints in my house. I was about to recycle a styrofoam tray (I think it was from a pack of corn) when N asked if we could print with it. Why yes, we can! We’ve printed with these before (Abstract Recycled Prints) and the technique is the same except this time we printed the pattern found on the tray instead of creating our own design.

I like this project because it’s inexpensive, helps children look to their surrounding for inspiration, and utilizes the pattern found in the tray.

We cut the tray into a flat piece.

My daughter squeezed tempera paint onto a cookie sheet, rolled it with a brayer, and then rolled it onto the styrofoam tray. She chose a red + white paint combo.

N moved the tray (or “plate”) onto a clean sheet of paper, covered it with another piece of paper, and then pressed it to transfer the paint.

Checking the print. Yay — it looks good.

Carefully peeling the print off the plate.

Meanwhile, Baby R, who now stands and walks along the furniture (i.e. cannot be contained with a happy basket of blocks) was desperate to join the fun and made a nuisance of herself, grabbing papers and reaching for paint . While she made the printing difficult, we wanted her to join us and came up with this alternative:

Baby Painting!

I scooped some yogurt onto her highchair tray and added a few drops of red food coloring to match our paint color. (The food coloring, India Tree Liquid Natural Decorating Colors, is made from plants and completely natural. I love that I can feel safe giving this to my kids).

While N continued to pull prints (without the distraction of baby sister grabbing her papers), R happily stirred her paint and ate away.

Prints, and most art projects for that matter, often get turned into other projects. N decided this one should be glued to a card.

And Baby R continued to enjoy the activity until is was gone.

Have you tried printmaking, and have you “painted” with yogurt?

This post is shared with It’s Playtime.

Cookie Sheet Monoprints

drawing patterns on ink for monoprint


When I discovered printmaking after college, I learned how to make everything from intaglio prints to screen prints. I simply adore working in this medium!! Children and printmaking haven’t been an easy combination for me — the inks can be toxic and the materials can take over a space, but I’ve been taking every opportunity I can to bring printmaking down to my child’s level, and each of our printing sessions has been engaging for both of us. There’s so much magic in pulling prints — if you haven’t tried it yet, I encourage you to give it a go. I’ll add links to our other printmaking projects at the bottom of this post.

Monoprinting is a lovely combination of printing and painting. Printmaking is usually defined as a images made in multiples, and monoprints are the exception as each “print” is one-of-a-kind (“mono” meaning “one”). These prints are ridiculously easy to make — you just need a little bit of table or floor space to store the drying prints.

To make these prints, we started with:

N chose a green and blue paint combination. I squeezed a little bit onto the cookie sheet (you can always add more if it’s needed) and she moved it around with the brayer.

I placed a cup of Q-tips on the table for easy access.

Then she used a Q-tip to make marks in the paint. I’m interested in giving my daughter full control of her art-making experiences, and would only step in to smooth the paint or help remove/add paper. I believe that taking on the role of facilitator encourages her creative confidence.

She pressed paper down to pick up the print.

And peeled it back to reveal some printing magic!

So many patterns and shapes were explored.

And of course, no painting activity is complete without the requisite hands-in-the-paint experience!

I often get asked “what do you do with all that art after your child makes it?” If only we could keep every piece! But my house is small and I can’t keep a lot of stuff around for very long. A lot of it gets recycled, a few key pieces are saved in our archive box, most of it is photographed, a few pieces make their way onto our fridge or walls, and the rest gets turned into gift wrap, presents, or cards. Because we used thin paper to make these, they were perfect for cutting up and glueing onto thank-you cards with a glue stick.

More printmaking projects on TinkerLab

Bubble Wrap Prints

Sweet Potato Prints

Abstract Prints using Foam Trays

Sink Mat Prints

Printmaking around the Web

Nature Prints in Sculpey: The Artful Parent 

Leaf Print Garden Flags: Paint Cut Paste

Printmaking with Toys: Childhood 101 

Pool Noodle Printing: The Chocolate Muffin Tree

Watercolor, Leaves, and Saran Wrap: A new way to Make Leaf Prints: The Artful Parent

Glue Prints: The Chocolate Muffin Tree 

This post is shared with It’s Playtime 

Abstract Recycled Prints

prints

Back between my careers as a movie costumer and middle school art teacher, I was once a printmaker. Anyone else have a circuitous career path like that? In any case, I have an enormous passion for making all sorts of prints. While my daughter and I have made handprints galore, we’ve printed from sink mats, and stamps are a staple of our art table, this was her first foray into real printing with a brayer. If you’re new to printmaking, brayers are simply the rolling tools that help get the ink onto the plate (printing surface), and they’re easily found for about $8 at any art supply store. And once you have one, your kids will find all sorts of fun uses for it at the art table.

A print that I pulled (left) and one that my daughter pulled (right)

Materials

  • Meat/Veggie tray or Styrofoam plate. You can also buy a 12-pack of scratch-foam for about $6.
  • Ball point pen or sharpened pencil — for engraving
  • Scissors
  • Brayer, like this one
  • Water-based printing ink. I like Speedball inks. While you can use tempera or acrylic paint, printing ink has a desirable tack to it that keeps the ink from seeping into the cracks and holes of your design. The ink is permanent, so be sure to wear a smock and cover the table well.
  • Paper to print onto
  • Paper to cover the table
  • Tray or plate to squeeze the ink onto

We started by cutting a rectangle shape from the bottom of a meat tray.

And then drawing right onto the foam with a ballpoint pen. I didn’t give my daughter any direction except to make some marks. She began by drawing some long lines and then enjoyed poking holes all over the place. Lots of little dots. It was beautifully abstract and I couldn’t wait to see how it would print.

We moved to the art table I offered her two colors of ink. White or silver. She chose both, which is probably what I would do if I were almost three. I squeezed a small amount of ink near the top of a tray and then evenly coated the brayer. After demonstrating the technique once, it was all in her hands.

The ink makes a nice tacky noise that we both enjoyed.

She inked up the plate (her foam design), and was ready to print.

She chose a green piece of paper for the first print, and I showed her how we could press our weight on the plate to push it down on the paper. She had a better idea and found her rolling pin. Kids can be so resourceful!

When we pulled the print, she remarked that it looked like grapes. I quite agree! We printed one of these on some nice frame-worthy paper and sent it off to grandma for her birthday. And she loved it!

This post is shared on Childhood 101, Skip to My Lou, ABC and 123, It’s Playtime

What kind of prints do your kids like to make?

Spring Sink Mat Prints

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I spend a lot of time at the hardware store. And last week I spotted this flower mat — the Blumz Sink Mat! — I love that exclamation point! — It’s an exciting sink mat! — and it looked like something that could be fun to print with!

In honor of Spring’s inevitable arrival (yes, it WILL get warmer) and St. Patty’s Day (I married a “Doorley”, after all), we used green and yellow paint. The green is Biocolor and the yellow is tempera, for no other reason than that’s what was handy. Oh, and wait ’til you see the Leprechaun at the end of the post…

I also found a bag of ten foam brushes for one buck, so the luck of the Irish was clearly with me. I covered the work space and then my daughter painted the mat with our fresh Spring palette.

And then we added a sheet of paper, pressed it down with the palms of our hands, and pulled our first print.

Ooooooooh!! This was an experiment that worked!

We pulled three prints, which frankly was more than I had bargained for, and then the real fun began! If you followed our Jello experiment, you’ll recognize a common thread here…

And maybe you picked up on the addition of an apron. I love that focused expression.

There’s a leprechaun in my house!

What we used to make it happen:

  • Rubbery plastic sink mat
  • Paint
  • Foam brushes (roller brushes or wide brushes will also work)
  • Paper (I like the 80# sulfite paper from Discount School Supply)
  • Palette (Dinner plate covered with foil)

How are you getting ready for Spring? And have you printed with any unexpected materials lately?

Happily shared with Kids Can Craft, Made by you Mondays, Marvelously Messy

Sweet Potato Heart Prints

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“A life without love is like a year without summer.” – Swedish proverb

Now that our light-up snowman and twinkly lights have finally come down (yes, we’re those people!), we’ve been talking up Valentine’s Day and all things hearts. While I see it as a holiday full of commercial hype and overpriced flowers, I’m reminded that for children it can be full of play and joy and loads of sugar. Mmmmm.

When N developed an addiction to sweet potatoes last week, I bought a five-pound bag of the little beauties only to find out she’s not eating them this week. Of course. So, amidst my plan to freeze a batch of roasted sweet potatoes I realized that they’d also be good for carving up some heart stamps.

So I cut one in half and carved out a couple hearts.

The heart shape rises about 1/2 inch off the potato base to help us get some nice, clean prints.

Materials

  • Potato Stamp/s
  • Tempera Paint. Acrylic works too, but you’ll see why I’m so happy I used washable tempera in just a moment
  • Brayer or Paint roller
  • Smooth, flat surface to squeeze the paint on
  • Paper for printing

I rolled out a little bit of paint so that N could cover the stamp in a mostly uniform fashion. And then she got stamping.

Lately, she’s been interested in figuring out how things work. And then once her curiosity is satisfied, she’ll move on to the next thing. So here she is, done stamping in about three minutes flat and apparently investigating the bottom of the stamp. I had to leave the room for five minutes to change her baby sister’s diaper, and now I see that perhaps she was actually wondering how that black paint would feel all over her hands and the table?

Wow! That was a surprise!

I calmly reminded myself that it’s all about the process. And thanked myself for using washable paints. On our old school table that has seen worse days.

If you try this project, I’ve added a new feature that allows you to leave a picture in the comment section.

Bubble Paint Recipe

Back Camera

The bubble recipe I used in yesterday’s post didn’t live up to my expectations, so I went back to the drawing board (paint and soap laboratory?) and came up with something that creates big, rewarding bubbles that are easy to pull prints off of. While this worked for me, feel free to experiment with your own ratios and solutions. And if you come up with something good, please share it here. Thanks to Amy for suggesting Dawn soap and glycerin in yesterday’s comments. I love getting feedback :)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons tempera paint (liquid, not powdered)
  • 2 tablespoons dish soap. I used Palmolive. Dawn or Joy (or something along these lines should also work, but we had far less luck with all-natural dish soap).
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Straw/s
  • Paper. I cut mine into pieces that matched the size of the bowl’s opening.

Directions

  • Pour ingredients into a small bowl. (If you decide you want more bubbles, stick to the same 2:2:1 ratio and size up).
  • Insert straw into bowl and blow.
  • Place paper on top of bubbles and you have a print!! Voila!

Printed Upcycled Circle Scarf

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I have a stockpile of t-shirts that no longer have a purpose, just waiting to be upcycled into other things. After leafing through Todd Oldham’s Kid Made Modern, I got just the inspiration I needed to pull this activity off. The set-up was a bit involved, but not too crazy. The fabric we used in this project came from a 2nd hand XX-large never-before-worn t-shirt that I picked up for 99 cents. Awesome.

I started by cutting a couple potatoes into diamond

and square shapes.

We chose four colors of paint and spread them thinly on paper plates.

A colorful toddler-selected palette. A trend-setting selection, that’s sure to catch the eye of designers for next season’s fashions.

I cut two bands of fabric from under the arms of the t-shirt, each one about 6″ wide. This is scarf #1, wrapped around a grocery bag so that the paint doesn’t soak onto the backside of the scarf or table.  Let the stamping begin.

Stamping all over.

After experiments with stamping reached their pinnacle, painting on stamps and scarves was underway.

Then the request for fabric markers came in.

And finally, after adding some apple stamps on day 2, it was done!

After N wore this simple no-sew scarf for a bit, I could see that it wants to curl up inside-out, rendering the designs almost invisible. Bummer. So it looks like I may need to add a little stitching and a fabric backing to make it work better. Aesthetics aside, this was a fun activity that made us feel good about repurposing fabric and veggies into art.

Happily shared with The T-Shirt Diaries