Alexia Makes a Styrofoam Print

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Last Friday, my seven-year old niece, Alexia, had a Ped Day. What better way to spend it than experiencing Auntie Talleen’s printmaking pedagogy? I gave Alexia an extended, private version of the printmaking workshop I do in schools with the program Les Artistes à l’École. For the past 18 years I have been participating in this stimulating program that takes me to elementary and high schools across Quebec to give printmaking workshops. Alexia got a personalized workshop in the comfort of my basement, where our ping pong table regularly doubles as an art table.

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Rolling ink

I started out by showing Alexia some of my woodcuts–early prints of underwater scenes. I showed her a carved wood plate and explained the principle of relief printing. Then I demonstrated how to print a linocut by hand, using the same printing method that she would soon be using herself.

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Printing with a spoon

I let Alexia choose a theme from the packages of subjects I have developed for students over the years–insects, fish, medieval times, Chinese art, Inuit art, etc. She chose the African mask, one of my favorite subjects to work with during my workshops. We looked at photos of African masks, talked about their symbolism, and what type of ceremonies they are used for. I also showed her some real masks I have at home, including an elaborate metal piece I bought in Bolivia and a mask I made out of papier mâché.

At this point, after pumping up her curiosity, something I learned to do when I studied art education, she was more than ready to try her hand at relief printing.

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Lifting the printed image

Alexia carved into Styrofoam plates, using a pencil. This simple and direct technique gives wonderful results. After carving, Alexia inked her plate with a rubber brayer and printed with a spoon. She printed several images, on different colors of paper. She was so thrilled with the magic of the printing process that she made a second print. This time she created a butterfly and gave it the ingenious title, The Budifly.

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The Tiki Mask

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The Budifly

I love transmitting my knowledge and passion for art. Working with Alexia has the added bonus that I get to spend quality time with her and share her world for a few hours. She tells me stories of her experiences at school, with friends and family and she knows how to make me laugh, and put an expression on my face that rivals the the most comical of African masks!

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Talleen Hacikyan

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