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Rockwell Paper Scissors: DIY Monoprints

This Rockwell Paper Scissors project is available at the KIDS ROCKWELL Art Lab on June 3 from 1p.m. – 3 p.m. (while supplies last). Visit us in person or follow along at home with these simple DIY instructions to make your own colorful monoprint with art materials from around your home.

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This month, we were inspired by two new prints in the Rockwell collection. Artists Ethel Mars and Maude Hunt Squire lived in Provincetown, Massachusetts with many other printmakers and painters in the 1930s. The women of the Provincetown Printmakers did not have professional printing presses. They made do with simple materials like wood blocks and carving tools. Instead of expensive printmaking inks, they used watercolor paint to create colorful images.

The Provincetown Printmakers carved their drawings into a wood block, painted sections of the block with paint, and pressed their paper on top with their hands. They painted and printed each section of the image separately, carefully lining their paper up with the block each time. This method creates monoprints. Monoprints are prints that are each unique. Even if you use the same block to create a new print, it will be a little different each time.

The Provincetown Printmakers show us that you don’t need special tools to get started in printmaking! Many artists are resourceful and invent new ways to use everyday objects to make their art. Let’s explore how to make monoprints using materials you have at home. We suggest using plastic bags for this project. You can also experiment with other materials that won’t absorb the paint. With an adult’s permission, play around with aluminum foil, parchment or wax paper, a metal baking sheet, or even the bottom of a glass storage container.

What You’ll Need:

  • Plastic storage bag (like Zip-Lock) or other sturdy, flexible plastic sheet – you can reuse lots of types of plastic bags or packaging from around your house for this project!
  • Tempera or acrylic paints; finger paints work, too. Prep ahead if you use non-washable paints!
  • A paintbrush
  • Q-tips, sponge brushes, a pencil eraser, or your finger to wipe away paint!
  • Paper—white construction paper is best, but you can experiment with different types and colors of paper

Plastic Bag Monoprints Instructions:

  1. Choose your colors and squeeze a small amount onto a plate or work surface.
  2. Use your paintbrush to cover the plastic bag with paint. Make the paint nice and thick so that it doesn’t dry quickly. Use as many colors as you like!
  3. Take a q-tip, pencil eraser, or your finger and draw designs in the wet paint. When you print your design on paper, it will be the reverse of what you are drawing! This is important to remember if you decide to include words in your art.
  4. Line your paper up over your plastic bag and press it down. Take the heel of your hand and rub all over the back of your paper. Apply even pressure across the paper. Be careful not to rub the paper so that it moves around – this will smudge your design.
  5. Carefully peel the paper and plastic bag apart to reveal your print. Repeat these steps as many times as you would like on the same sheet of paper to experiment with layering different colors and designs!

    Tip: if your paint is drying too fast to make a print, try getting your paper wet first. Carefully dip your paper in water so that it is wet all over. Keep it flat and be gentle so it doesn’t tear. After it is wet, line it up with your painted design and let it sit on top for several minutes. Blot it with a paper towel, and carefully peel it away from the plastic bag to reveal your print.

Rockwell Paper Scissors is a new blog series featuring easily recreate-able art projects that you can do at home! Each installment will feature a materials list, step by step guide with photos, and Rockwell artwork connection.

Share your project with us! Tag your project with #RockwellPaperScissors, or tag The Rockwell on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter with your creation.

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