Archive mensuelle de avril 2012

Teaching with Culture in the Schools

It’s been 19 years since I gave my first printmaking workshop in a school with the Culture in the Schools program.  It still thrills me to walk into a classroom of new students and reveal the magic of printmaking.  Through the years I have visited elemenary and high schools across Quebec, from Saint Jerome in the Laurentians, to Lac Megantic in the Eastern Townships, to  Thedford Mines in Chadière-Appalaches.  My main playground these days, however, is Montreal’s West Island.


Teaching with Culture in the Schools  1.pinned-up


This week I visited École Dollard-des-Ormeaux.  I gave 12 workshops to 240 students over 4 days.  It was Semaine des Arts.  The spotlight was on Africa.  A musician gave percussion workshops while my students created prints inspired by African masks.



Kindergarden student


After showing my early series of woodcut prints, I demonstrated how to hand print a linocut with a spoon.  The younger the audience, the louder the oohs and aahs.  Often as I lift the printed image from the inked plates before many pairs of incredulous eyes, I am treated to a hearty round of applause.  After observing images of African masks, each student engraves a styrofoam plate and creates a print inspired by our theme.



Inking styrofoam plates


Through the years I have streamlined the elementary school workshop to adapt it perfectly to the 60 minute format.  I pride myself on keeping entire groups stimulated, curious and busy up to the last second before the bell rings, never going overtime.



Signing and numbering prints


Interacting with students is a joy.  I asked a grade three class if they have artwork on the walls at home.  One boy told me about a painting of horses galloping in fields, with flowers and a barn.  “One horse is white and the other is black,” he added.  A girl told me that her family has a big painting of the Red Square hanging in the living room.  The teacher told us about her limited edition Norman Rockwell print, a winter scene bought at an auction.  Everyone described these images with fondness and pride, demonstrating how strongly we identify with art.



Kindergarden and Grade two students


When a new  group walks into  my class, I scan the unknown faces, watch them settle at their tables and try to guess who will produce original work.  240 students tend to become a bit of a blur and in the halls it is they who recognize me.  I get spontaneous hellos, waves, smiles and even leg-level hugs from very little girls.




The children who manage to stand out in my mind are those who break the mold…and sometimes my patience!  One grade two boy was chock-a-block with questions, never related to the present situation, always in anticipation of what lay ahead.  He was also the student who persisted the longest at his print, paying attention to detail and texture, just as I required.  As he observed his print, he said, “I think there’s an artist in me!”  When I saw him in the hall on my last day, his blue eyes gleamed behind his glasses and he said,  “I so much want to make another one!”  At that point I knew my mission was accomplished.


Talleen Hacikyan

Teaching at the Printmaking Center of New Jersey

Teaching at the Printmaking Center of New Jersey me


I saw the charming building that houses the Printmaking Center of New Jersey (PCNJ) for the first time on Friday the 13th of April, 2012.  After a pleasant morning drive through quaint villages and rolling green hills, Irena Pejovic pulled her car into the parking lot of 440 River Road in Branchurg and announced, “Here we are!” I felt lucky to be there, about to teach in this award-winning center that has been encouraging the fine art of printmaking through exhibitions, education and open working studios for the past forty years.




I discovered PCNJ last winter when Irena contacted me after having read my blog, Printmaking Studios in New York. She prints at PCNJ and serves on the board of directors.  When I visited the center’s website I was struck by their involvement with the community. I was particularly impressed with the Combat Paper Program, where veterans transform military uniforms into handmade paper and then into healing works of art.

PCNJ’s education department also grabbed my attention when I saw the vast selection of interesting workshops offered to adults and children.  Little did I know that a few months later, the list of adult classes would include Introduction to Collagraph with Talleen Hacikyan.




I taught my intensive two-day workshop to a group of five women in PCNJ’s sun drenched etching studio.  This functional space is well organized and pleasant to work in. I especially enjoyed working with their Charles Brand etching presses, that operate with a hand-cranks that turn like butter.  It was a bonus to have Irena in the class, who was my efficient assistant, setting up presses, making registration templates and showing me where to find things.




Students worked intensely.  On Friday they made small plates where they explored many collagraph techniques: drypoint, carving, ripping, collage, carborundum and creating textures with acrylic gel and plaster.  Before the end of the day everyone printed one black and white print and was able to leave with a concrete idea of their day’s work.


Carborundum plate by Irena Pejovic



Collagraph with aluminum foil textures by Linda Bishara



Collagraph with plaster textures


Saturday was printing day. Students had plenty of plates with which to practice the inking and wiping techniques I showed them.  One student came to class with a pile collagraph plates she worked on at home until midnight the previous night. “I want to get my money’s worth!” she told me with a beaming smile. After students printed some black and white proofs, I explained the basics of color printing, and everyone started playing with rich hues, blending them together on their heated plates with tarlatan.





Irena Pejovic with her collagraph proof


The class ended with a tabletop exhibit of everyone’s work.  After a round of constructive and encouraging comments, I left them with one of my favorite tricks passed on to me from a master printer.  I showed how to “erase” undesirable ink marks from the margins of a wet print with a damp sponge.




Linda Helm Krapf, executive director of PCNJ, stepped into the positive energy that filled the studio as we enjoyed the displayed prints.  She looked at everyone’s artwork and exclaimed, “Collagraph rocks!” Linda marveled at how the direct, uncomplicated  methods of collagraphy yield such alluring results.




After the workshop I went upstairs to the gallery for the opening reception of  The Best of Experimental Printmaking Institute. I admired the striking prints and outstanding artist’s books from EPI at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.  This unexpected treat was the perfect way to end my visit to the Printmaking Center of New Jersey.


Talleen Hacikyan

Thank you Linda and Irena for making this visit possible.   



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