Today was one of those days…I had an activity planned for my morning group, and realized at the last minute that I was not prepared with the right materials. With some quick thinking and a quick inventory of the books and materials I had on hand, I decided today would be a monoprinting day.
As described at www.monoprints.com “MONOPRINTING is known as the most painterly method among the printmaking techniques. A monoprint is a non editionable kind of print and is essentially a printed painting. The characteristic of this method is that no two prints are alike. However, images can be similar, but editioning is not possible. The true appeal of the monotype lies in the unique translucency that creates a quality of light very different from a painting on paper or a print, and the beauty of this media is also in its spontaneity and its combination of printmaking, painting and drawing mediums.”
Sounds pretty highfalutin for a bunch of two year olds, doesn’t it?
In reality, it is a delightful medium for young artists rich with possibilities for exploration, learning, and growth.
We used 8″ x 10″ acrylic panels (I have family connections in the plexiglas biz), but an easy, inexpensive alternative is to use those acrylic box frames that you can pick up at your local craft store, like they did over at the Artful Parent.
Toddlers love getting to know new materials, so I always give them time to get acquainted before introducing the next tool or medium. They slide their hands across the smooth hard surface; they hold them up to their faces and explore their transparency: and they press their little noses against them, feeling the resistance of the cool, solid material. Certainly, this will provide a different experience than painting on paper.
They are eager to practice rolling their rollers across the surface of the plastic, so after a few minutes of practice, I then introduce the paint. In this case we used the primary colors, having been inspired by Margaret Wise Brown’s classic The Color Kittens which features the antics of two ambitious cats who set upon the task of mixing “all the colors in the world.” Through the process of sharing red, yellow, and blue, the kids get to see first-hand how all the colors are made.
After applying the paint, the children, who haven’t spontaneously done so already, are shown by example how the paint can then be moved and pushed and changed on the surface of the plastic by using any number of tools, including their own hands. The possibilities are endless, but some we have tried include: paintbrushes, cotton swabs, plastic utensils, popsicle sticks, textured foam rollers, pot scrubbers, bubble wrap, yarn…I’d love to hear more suggestions from you!
Typically, the little ones are so immersed in the process of manipulating the paint in these various ways, that the act of documenting their work along the way by laying down paper over the surface to make a print is secondary for them (but highly rewarding for the proud parents). However, many are delighted when they see the colors and patterns of paint transferred onto paper, and so, repeat the process again and again.
A beautiful thing happened in today’s class, that cannot go without mention. One two and a half year old, who struggles with sensory processing issues and started this class six weeks ago feeling very overwhelmed by the sensory stimulation, had a remarkable experience with this activity. She has historically been very avoidant of touching the paint, and would quickly become upset if she got paint on her hands, and would immediately cry and want to wash it off of her hands. Today, she was seated at a table with two other little girls who simply reveled in the direct contact with the slick, slimy, creamy paint. She watched them quietly and intently, all the while refusing to touch her own roller to the paint on her panel. I assured her caregiver that this was enough. What a wonderful opportunity for her to see others getting messy, in a safe, supportive setting where she felt no pressure to do so herself, but could see that they were doing it, and they were OK. As the majority of the children were winding down after a stimulating session of painting/printing, I noticed a sweet, repetitive humming melody, and turned around to find our little friend sweeping her hand back and forth through the paint on her panel as she sung this soothing tune to herself. She lingered after the others had cleared the table and cleaned up. In her own time, she had arrived.
Today was a GOOD day for monoprinting!