Mixed Media Nature Collage Prints



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SUMMARY: We began this lesson by creating a series of oil pastel-patterned papers. Working with distinct warm or cool color schemes, the students created a total of four patterned rectangles with different mark-making techniques. We then tore each paper in half and glued it onto a solid piece of colored paper, creating a total of eight collaged papers on which to print. For this portion of the lesson, students had to stick to either a cool or warm color scheme. Next, we created nature-inspired printing plates on thin Styrofoam, which we rolled with various colors of ink and printed repeatedly on the collaged papers.  (The kids were allowed to break free of their warm/cool color scheme at this point!) After several classes of printing, students selected their favorite three or four prints and embellished them with metallic pens, color pencil, and/or glitter glue with the intent of visually tying together their best prints. Students mounted their own prints on black paper, again focusing on how the individual prints could be displayed together to suggest balance and unity.



First students worked on their 6″ by 9″ colored papers, working with warm or cool colors to make a series of four patterned papers.




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Here are the samples and instructions I have posted during this step!




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Next, students tear and collage their patterned papers on to other 6″ by 9″ solid color papers. (They still are sticking to their chosen warm or cool color scheme).




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When this step is done, they have eight beautiful  patterned, collaged papers!





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Next we spend about 4 classes printing. The printing plates are made with Scratch Art brand scratch foam. This thin foam is easily incised with a pencil or ballpoint pen. Students worked out their design on copy paper first, and then taped their drawing to the foam. When they trace over the image with a ballpoint pen, the pressure of the pen creates a faint impression in the foam which can then be deepened to ensure a good printed image. We reinforced the back of the foam with overlapping strips of masking tape for strength—especially important for thin-stemmed flowers and leaves— and then cut the foam out with scissors. This material is a great alternative to linoleum, and is much easier to use for making relief prints! Here are some examples of the finished foam plates, which can be easily washed with warm water and re-used from day to day:




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Here you can see students using Speedball brand water-based block printing ink rolled on to their foam plates to print on their collaged papers.




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Printmaking with Middle Schoolers can be CRAZY! Here’s a video explaining how I manage and set up my classroom on printing days! PRINTMAKING WITH MIDDLE SCHOOLERS!

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90+ kids printing per day makes for a loooooot of work to unload from the drying rack each morning!!!




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After several class periods of printing, the kids have quite a collection of prints. Note: I let them break out of their cool/warm color scheme when it comes time to print!




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Students then select their best three or prints to embellish with their choice of metallic pen, colored pencil, and/or glitter glue. The goal is to visually unify their prints into a pleasant grouping. (This student decided to embellish ALL of her prints!)




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I precut black paper for both 3 and 4-print arrangements, and the students make the ultimate decision of how to mount their best prints. Neat gluing and craftsmanship factor in to their final grade!




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This lesson took a total of about twelve 47 minute classes, which included the nature drawing, making the printing plate, creating the oil pastel patterned papers, printing, embellishing and mounting! Students generally had enough prints to submit one mounted grouping of 3 or 4 prints, as well as one “stand alone” print for extra credit.




5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rowan
    Dec 15, 2020 @ 09:15:23

    Thank you so much for all this wonderful information! Question: in the printing unit, did you have them print with water based ink over oil pastel designs? Did the water based ink stick ok to the oil based medium? CHEERS and THANKS


  2. Jennifer Stewart
    Jul 23, 2021 @ 19:05:48

    Love it! These are BEAUTIFUL! I love print making with my students and can’t wait to try this with my middle schoolers! Do you have issues with kids ruining your metallic markers on the oil pastel portions of the art piece?


  3. Elizabeth Garat
    Oct 14, 2021 @ 18:20:43

    Just finishing this lesson with my 6th grade. I was worried in the beginning about them being able to pull it off, but they have done a great job. I am very appreciative of your sharing of this lesson. I managed to guide my students to find unity just through the collage and printing without further embellishment -though I like your students’ embellishments. My students would have taken too long with another stage….
    I was ready for a new printmaking project and this is striking. Thank you.


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