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.
After lunch we focused on bookmaking. One of the projects was to make a four-page accordion book that was attached to a four-page accordion of paper doll cut-outs. Some stayed with the paper doll motif; the first child to diverge was the “heart-girl” who made connecting hearts.
This inspired other students to try different shapes. What genuinely surprised me, however, was how difficult it was for the children to grasp the concept of the need to leave a connection on the edges of the paper so their cut-outs would stay connected. This is the first time I have asked a group of students to do this. I am looking forward to doing it again. Maybe this summer with the local Lunch ‘n Learn group…..
We also made some books with shaped covers and googlie eyes.