puzzles : deconstruction…reconstruction

One of my favorite things to do with students is making puzzles. Not only are they designing their own game, but they are experiencing the process of creating something which is then deconstructed in order to be reconstructed. For this puzzle, I decided, for the first time with this group, to use watercolor resist. When I passed out the squares of 4 ply board, one child said, I’m going to make a rainbow. Without responding out loud, the other children immediately began drawing rainbows.

Watercolor resist was new for them, and they loved it. How can anyone not?

The child working on the painting below decided she was not quite happy with the dolphin she had drawn, so she got a new piece of board and created another painting. (Even though I thought the first one was fabulous, I didn’t say so. This young girl always has a strong sense of direction, and a clear vision for what she wants from her work.)

Below are the four completed paintings. (The painting in the lower right was completed by the girl in the photo above. She was pleased with her second attempt.) One by one, I sat with each child to cut up their board, counting the pieces as I cut, and making sure to vary the shapes.

In this photograph one of the children is nearly finished putting her puzzle together. This was not an easy process for her, but she did not give up. With a little help from the girl next to her, she managed to put it all together.

The puzzle below, with it’s repeated pattern of black marks, was very confusing. But when I asked the young artist to remember where she had painted the red circle (the sun), she was able to jump right in and complete it.

Each child was then given a clear plastic box (stacks of which I have from another project) to cover with Sharpie-drawn designs. The puzzle pieces were then easily stored in a custom-designed container. Who needs to buy puzzles?

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monoprinting : a point of departure


Yesterday at the ArtLab, my five year olds drew on styrofoam sheets with wooden styluses to make monoprints. While so many aspects of this process were completely new for all of the students (drawing on foam, rolling with a brayer, pressing the foam onto the paper, burnishing with the back of a spoon), I spent very little time explaining or demonstrating technique. We dove right into the work and the materials.

After the first prints were pressed, the children began asking for more colors beyond the orange we had mixed. And it wasn’t long before they realized that their monoprints were simply paintings they were transferring to another surface. Their focus shifted to the painting of the styrofoam sheet…

…then the addition of more colors…experimenting with different ways of holding the brush…

…investigation into the effect of pressing paint into those carved lines…


…until finally sponge brushes were traded for a carefully selected group of small paintbrushes.

At this point, it seemed clear that they were looking at the styrofoam sheets as “finished works.”

Each of these shifts in focus (refined choices) were initiated by the children, as they moved deeper and deeper into the process of making images by carving, exploring the materials, and coating the monoprint sheets. They themselves opened the doors to so many more projects: textural carved paintings, paintings created with different kinds of brushes, and of course, monoprint sheets that might not then make monoprints.