In Austria the traditional Easter markets are a feast for the eyes. Every stall is stacked high with beautiful hand-painted eggs and there is a vast range of decorative styles and motifs on offer to suit every taste.
Some of my favourites are the eggs with monochromatic designs that are created using a technique called Sgraffito – whereby a surface layer of flat colour (paint, plaster or slip) is scratched away to reveal a contrasting colourful ground underneath.
Art Club children aged between three and six recreated this effect by creating their own ‘scratch art’ eggs using oil pastels. This is a really easy and effective technique for young children, although children under four may need a little help in order to ensure even coverage when applying the layers of oil pastel colours.
I started the session by showing the children photos of different sgraffito eggs, and discussing the types of patterns and decoration that are possible with this technique. Then they spent a few minutes drawing pencil sketches of their design ideas, some of them incorporating elements they had seen in the photographs.
Then it was time to start creating the sgraffito ground. Each child was given an egg shape cut from white cardboard, and asked to cover the surface with light, bright oil pastel colours. I explained that it is not important that the colours are applied in stripes or patches, as long as there is a thick, even layer of colour with no bare white card showing through. Then they chose a black or dark blue oil pastel and went over the entire surface again, completely obliterating the colourful ground.
Then the children used a pointed plastic tool (a wooden toothpick, skewer or the end of a paintbrush would also work) to draw a design into the dark surface, each line revealing the pretty colours beneath.
The children of all ages enjoyed this technique. The five and six year olds created very elaborate patterns as well as natural motifs like flowers and butterflies, and the youngest children (aged three) simply enjoyed experimenting with a completely new method of mark-making.
The result was a variety of stunning decorated eggs, which I strung with some wool so that the children could take them home and perhaps add them to their family’s ‘Osterbaum’ (a seasonal decoration popular in Austrian homes comprising pussy willow branches hung with painted eggs) as seen in my earlier post, Easter Tree (Osterbaum): Mixed Media.
Please click through the gallery of images below to see all the children’s sgraffito eggs…