“Ta ta, I’m off to make some collographs.” So fancy, right? While collograph may sound like a fancy art term the process itself is as simple (and gratifying) as can be.
A collograph is simply a print made from a collage of materials. So you’re looking to make a somewhat flat collage that can be rolled with ink or paint and then printed onto paper. In this case we used cardboard and focused on creating simple patterns. Follow along!
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What in the pattern….
I designed this lesson to be used with younger kids but it could easily be elaborated on for any skill level.
There are a couple of components for littles to think about as they work. One is creating a pattern. The other is scissor skills. If you’re kids are older these challenges will be smaller and they can spend their effort developing a more elaborate pattern.
Pattern is something little people talk a lot about in math. An alternating pattern is referred to as ABAB. Or a pattern that repeats three components might be ABCABC. It’s funny how this math patterning doesn’t always naturally transition to thinking about art and shapes. It’s the same thing but often math stays in the math room and art stays in the art room. It is helpful to point out those connections.
Books are a fun way to highlight the idea of pattern. Books are a natural way to bring concepts like this to life. Here are a few of may favorites.
This post on books about the elements of art has many, many books about shapes. Lots of these shape books also talk about pattern and are worth checking out. (Pattern is not an element of art but shape is. Ya’ know, in case you wondered.)
The “collage” part….
The supplies are pretty minimal here. I suggest using cardboard from cereal boxes or something similar for the printing plate itself. My kids eat an obscene amount of cereal so a.) we have it readily available. And, b.) it is the perfect weight to provide some height to your collage while still being easy for little hands to cut.
Each child will need two pieces of cardboard. One to create the collage on and one to cut up to create the pattern pieces. I drew some loosely straight lines with pencil across the box serving as the base so that the kids had some guideline to contain their patterns. If a pattern strays into another lane no big deal but the lines give them a place to start!
The beauty of using a free supply (like cereal boxes) is that it gives kids the freedom to experiment. Cut out a bunch of shapes. Play with them, rearrange them, and see what you like the most.
Plain old Elmer’s glue works great to fix the shapes in place. Leave them and go read a book ’cause the collages must be totally dry and fixed in place for the next step!
Whaddya’ need to print this collograph thing…
So, this is the part where it is helpful to use some actual printmaking supplies. You could try brushing on acrylic paint with a brush and pulling a print but in my experience acrylic and tempera dry too quickly to get a good print.
I used the brayer and black ink from this Speedball beginning printmaking kit that I bought to do lino cutting with my kids. (Check out this intro to lino cutting and this two value portrait done with lino cut printmaking here.) This kit has the brayer and the ink you need plus a linoleum carver with three blades and some easy carve rubber for a little less than the two items above. If your kiddo enjoys printmaking this kit is a steal.
Squirt a dollop of printmaking ink on a paper plate end roll back and forth with a brayer. Switch your plate ninety degrees and roll some more. When it’s adequately spread out and ready you will hear a satisfying “squeak” as you roll.
Roll ink onto your collograph collage and immediately press paper onto ink. Use your hand to smooth paper and make sure all areas of paper are making contact with the printing plate.
Starting at one corner peel print off of printing plate and lay aside to dry.
After pulling the first print ink that printing plate again and print using a new color of paper. That gives a nice variety without the hassle of multiple colors of printing ink. These prints are super colorful and fun as is but we went one more step.
After prints are dry try having students cut out their pattern strips. Use pattern strips to make new patterns as part of a collage. More patterning and more scissor skills.
Pattern, print, and share!
If you’re looking for more printmaking fun try this foil monoprinting method! You don’t even need printing ink for this one!
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