I have been meeting , weekly, with Saratoga Springs second graders, creating design elements to use on pages in an alphabet book . The different letters of the alphabet refer to places in Saratoga. Under the guidance of their teachers, students wrote exquisite poems to go along with their landmarks. My work with the students included making small watercolor washes , which many students used to frame the “illuminated letters” that we made. Students drew pictures of their landmarks and made colorful corners to frame their poems. Since this is an alphabet book, I asked students to make decorative borders, I spoke to students about using the shapes of letters as a starting point.
Here’s a sampling of their borders. I was pleased to see the individualized results of their work.
We still have a bit of a way to go before we are done. Yesterday Cora, at Paper Dolls of Saratoga printed out four copies of each of the alphabet pages. Next time I meet with students they will be handed these copies. You may have noticed a big blank space on the pages? Here, students will insert either folded card mounted on a paper spring, a simple accordion placed inside of an origami pocket, or an expanding square. On these interactive elements will be facts about Saratoga landmarks. These facts were researched and written by students with the help of their parents, then transfered to computer and laid out by graphic designer and mother Ann Frankowski. When the students finish the handwork, the pages will be ready to bind.
For a couple of years now Stacy Gates has been putting together Vacation Arts Camps for youngsters at the Southern Vermont Arts Center. Teaching one-day multi-age workshops is a bit out of my school residency rhythm, but now, having worked three times with Stacy I find that we are developing a rhythm of our own. Six hours with one group of children, which includes an hour for lunch, requires attention to pacing and sequence. What seems to work is to start the day with the most active and messy projects.
This is good for the students, because their energy levels are higher earlier in the day, and it works for me because I have far more energy for cleaning up at lunchtime than I do at the end of the day. During the first half of the day, we did a variety of paper decorating techniques; one priority was that these decorated papers to be dry by lunchtime. What I want to highlight here is the monoprinting.
For paint we mixed tempera with liquid starch. Liquid starch, which can be found in the clothing detergent aisle of grocery stores, is a great medium, as it helps the to paint flow well, is economical, cleans up easily, and dries quickly.
Using brushes, students apply paint to pieces of smooth Plexiglas. Sponges were provided for wiping paint away and make changes. Laying the paper over the paint, smoothing it down, then pulling it away creates one print. The results were nearly always surprising. Most students started off by creating abstract prints, which eventually gave way to recognizable images.
Some children chose to embellish, define and add details, with paints and embossing powder, to their dried prints. Faces, outer space, and shoes graced their papers. One six-year old, who missed her mommy, created an impressive opus of hearts.
Another student (5 and 3/4 years old), finally became uncomfortable with the unpredictability of the medium, so after a time he opted out and did some drawing; I have found that, when working with children, it is infinitely wise to have paper, crayons, markers, and pencils available.
This past week I worked with four classes of enthusastic and creative first graders (about 80 students). We celebrated their emerging writing skills by making books for their work.
We started with a 23 inch x 17 1/2 inch piece of paper, then folded and cut our way into an origami pamphlet with a window. They liked the window. The window starts out looking like a page that has a bite taken out of it: a gentle tug on the side pages opens the window to reveal the “secret room, ” where the book’s illustration resides. This illustration can be drawn directly onto the paper of the book, but, since the papers I used were brightly colored, we drew on a separate piece of 9″ x 7″ white paper, which was then glued into the book.
The classroom teachers worked with students on their writing pieces before I arrived. These writing pieces were framed on brightly colored papers which were then glued into the books. On the last page there was room for “Author Notes,” and a cut-out tracing of the child’s hand, which was attached on to the book with a paper spring. The hand, therefore, waves.
Some of the books were made out of black paper. For these, I supplied the students with Gel Markers, made by Crayola. Although the color choice is limited, these markers show up well on the black paper; this makes working with them quite exciting.
This past week I gave two classes of 7 and 8 year olds a lesson about illuminated letters. Before the class began I visited the school library: the wonderful librarian there was able to promptly direct me to books had examples of illuminated letters, which I then showed the students. We talked about how, during the Middle Ages, all books were handwritten, and about the care that the scribes took in producing manuscripts.
The students seemed genuinely intrigued by the notion that a letter can be a work of art. I then gave them outlines of letters (Font: Boulder, Size: 242 Points) printed on colored papers, Using Gel Markers and Prismacolor pencils, every child did a wonderful job of illuminating their letters. They were very pleased to be told that they could color outside the lines, as the letters would be cut out. I did the cutting.