Recycled Art Print Fun
Sling, bounce, blow, and crush recycled items for creative results. If you thought none of these verbs were associated with easy arts and crafts, think again! Better yet, have your kids try them out!
When you’ve got crafty kids eager for something to do, few things compare to an interactive art project that uses recycled items and is simple enough for even the youngest of artists. Printmaking fits this bill and then some. With a certain element of surprise (you never know exactly what each print will look like) and results that are often worthy of framing, printmaking is my family’s favorite painting technique. With this simple method, even a novice can create a beautiful piece of art every time.
The materials for printmaking go way beyond the ordinary. Fortunately, they are also easy to come by. At my house, packing materials, weird fabrics, cardboard, and foam mingle haphazardly alongside the less exotic paints and paintbrushes on the art supply shelves.
By using different paints and papers or by combining several of their favorite techniques, my kids can create artwork that is uniquely their own. The possibilities are endless, offering many opportunities for experimentation.
Highlighted here are three of our favorite printing techniques. My kids love them because they are fun to do and gorgeous results are all but guaranteed. I love them because with very little set up, my kids are artfully occupied for hours. Make sure you have plenty of paper on hand!
Following the premise that what goes up must come down, this bouncy technique harnesses the stretchiness of panty hose to create a one-of-a-kind printing tool. Filled with a variety of household items, the distance between artist and paper will create a random effect as kids paint from afar. The resulting prints will vary as greatly as the materials used to fill the panty hose.
You will need:
- Legs cut from old panty hose
- An old cookie sheet
- An old kitchen towel, dampened
- Paints: any kind works; try glitter paints or liquid watercolors for different effects
- Large sheets of paper for printing on, such as butcher paper (avoid newsprint; it’s too thin)
- Items for filling panty hose: dry beans, pea gravel, rice, broken spaghetti noodles, jute twine, sand, bits of sponge or foam peanuts. The possibilities are endless; experiment with what you have on hand.
Here’s how to make your panty hose prints:
- Cover an 8′ x 8′ area of floor space with newspaper. This oversized space allows kids the freedom to create without worrying about getting paint in the wrong place. Place the butcher paper in the center of your newspaper-covered floor.
- Fill the toe of the panty hose with 1/2 to 1 cup of the chosen filling. Some items may poke through; this shouldn’t interfere with your printing, but if it bothers you, use a double thickness of panty hose.
- Experiment with the elasticity. Your kids should be able to create a yo-yo of sorts, with the filled panty hose bouncing from about their knee level to the floor and back. If you have chosen lightweight items to print with, the panty hose may not be heavy enough. To add weight, pour about 1/2 cup of sand into one corner of a plastic grocery sack and secure with a twist-tie just above the sand. Cut off excess plastic. Drop sand bag into toe of panty hose, making certain that it sits on top of the dry material in the panty hose. This provides the weight necessary to create a sufficiently bouncy printing tool without affecting the pattern of your print.
- Secure the dry materials in place by tying a knot in the panty hose just above the filling.
- Line cookie sheet with the damp kitchen towel. Spread several tablespoons of paint onto the towel-lined cookie sheet. If the paint is too thick, thin it a bit with water. The paint soaked towel will act as a stamp pad and help to control the amount of paint picked up by the printing tool. It takes very little paint to create a nice print. Too much paint will result in splattering; a nice technique, but one better suited to an outdoor art day.
- From a standing position, have your kids bounce the panty hose onto the paint tray and then repeatedly onto their paper.
Floral Foam Prints
If two-for-one bargains catch your eye, take a look at this technique. By combining two fun activities—carving and painting—you set up only once but your kids will have double the fun. The secret is floral foam. It’s soft enough for kids to safely and easily carve, makes great prints, and is available for just a few dollars at craft stores or florist shops.
You will need:
- Blocks of green floral foam
- Dull pencil or chopstick
- Tempera paints
- A disposable shallow tray with a smooth bottom (such as a take-out salad container)
- Small, soft paintbrush
- Paper to print on: this works on all but the flimsiest of papers. Try cardstock to create custom note cards.
Here’s how to make your floral foam prints:
- Protect your work area with newspaper.
- Using the pencil or chopstick, carve a design into the floral foam. Very fine lines will not print well; carved lines should be about 1/8″ wide and just as deep. Use the paintbrush to gently remove any foam that gets stuck in the carved lines.
- Once the carving is complete, cover the bottom of the disposable tray with a very thin layer of tempera paint. The paint should completely cover the bottom of the tray, yet be shallow enough that it doesn’t settle in the carved lines of the foam block. Too much paint will result in an unclear image. You may need to experiment a bit to get it just right.
- Press the carved side of the foam block into the paint until it is evenly coated. If any part of the design becomes filled with paint, use the pencil tip to clear it. Press the paint-dipped foam block firmly onto the paper, lifting off carefully to avoid smearing. Before changing colors, clear block by repeatedly stamping it onto newspapers.
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