The simplicity and immediacy of the technique allows children to work fast and make a whole series of graphic images that look almost like etchings or engravings.
On this occasion we used it to draw spider webs and other spooky images.
The term ‘monoprint’ is broadly used to describe any printmaking technique where only a single image is produced, unlike most other printmaking methods where it is possible to print the same image several or many times. The particular technique shown here uses oil pastels on paper, but professional artists usually work with a metal printing plate, which is rolled with ink (used to powerful effect by contemporary British artist Tracey Emin, whose monoprints I admire, although their often sexual content makes them unsuitable to show to children!)
To create their own printing ‘plate’ the children coloured all over a small, square sheet of paper, first with chalk and then with a layer of oil pastels – either black all over, or a combination of black and another colour. We found that stripes of black and orange were particularly effective.
When the whole surface was coated with oil pastel, the children could start to create their magic drawings. Taking another sheet of paper, they laid it on top of their ‘printing plate’ and then used a sharp pencil to draw a spider web – starting with straight lines crossing over in the middle, and then completing the web by drawing a spiral. They added a spider and then it was time for the ‘magic’ reveal…
When they turned over their paper they discovered an exact copy of their drawing, but in reverse, and the same colour as the oil pastels!
Where the pencil line had pressed into the layer of oil pastel beneath, the colour transferred to the underside of the paper. When the kids also wrote their name on their drawing, it was fun to see how it looked when reversed! Some of the children didn’t believe me when I said that their name would look correct again if they viewed it in the mirror, so we found a mirror to prove it!
After all the children had made a spider web print, they carried on making new prints on new sheets of paper, many with a spooky theme.
The beauty of this technique is that the ‘printing plate’ can be reused several times, until there is no more oil pastel left on the paper surface, and even then it is possible to ‘re-ink the printing plate’ by simply colouring the paper with oil pastels again!
This project really appealed to my 4-6 year olds, and it would work well for older children too. For another ‘magic’ spider web drawing project, suitable for even younger children, check out my previous post Magic Spider Webs).
Here are more of the children’s spooky monoprints (click through the gallery below) …