Friday, June 28, 2013

Winslow Homer and Wood Block Printing for Kids

I really like the paintings of Winslow Homer, so we took a day to learn about his life and study some of his art. My favorites are the paintings he did later in life, like these:

But during the Civil War, he worked as an artist for magazines and newspapers, sending home scenes from the front lines. He's well-known for his wood engravings during this time, like this one:

So I thought we would learn about the process of wood-block printing, and make some wood-block prints of our own. You could also do this with potatoes---there's not much room for detail on a potato, but we didn't get too complicated with our designs even in the wood, since I mostly wanted the children to understand the process itself.

I bought some odd-sized pieces of balsa wood (very soft) at the craft store.
Taking our inspiration from here, we gathered a bunch of random household objects (keys, allen wrenches, etc.) and secured them lightly to our wood with packing tape. Then I had the children hammer the objects down into the wood until the impressions were pretty deep.

The older boys also used pens and screwdrivers to chisel/carve other designs into the wood.

We painted a light coating of black paint on top of each piece of wood. You have to be careful not to get globs of paint into the grooves of the design you just made. A sponge brush works pretty well for this.

Then we placed a clean sheet of paper on top of the painted side of the wood, and rolled along the opposite side of the paper with this toy rolling pin. You can make a couple of prints with the same wood block before adding more paint. Sometimes the second print is better because the paint isn't quite so thick! I like it when you can see the grain of the wood in your print.

We talked about how this style of printing made the widespread distribution of art possible, by allowing one painting to be copied many times with very little trouble or expense. We also talked about the skill it would have taken to make such detailed engravings, even if you were just copying art someone else had created!
I really liked how these turned out---each print really had its own character!

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