Illustrating Harmony with ArtsSmarts

Illustrating Harmony with ArtsSmarts group

Illustrating Harmony project: demonstrating a rainbow roll.


ArtsSmarts is a Canadian art education organization that promotes innovative approaches to learning through the arts.  It creates partnerships with teachers and artists to collaborate on special projects.  Learning engagement, student involvement, inquisitive and active participation are the key elements of ArtsSmart’s philosophy.



Rachel Thompson, Talleen Hacikyan, Sarah Tremblay


This year I am participating in an ArtsSmarts project for the first time.  Rachel Thompson, who teaches art and French at Vincent Massey Collegiate, in Rosemont, Montreal, invited me to collaborate with her.  I had already given monotype workshops to her high school students over the past two years through the Culture in the Schools program and it is a pleasure to return.  Rachel conceived the idea of a linocut printing project celebrating the theme of social harmony.  Once ArtsSmarts accepted the proposal, I met with her and Sarah Tremblay, her student teacher, to develop the project.  Together we designed the Harmonie en action / Illustrating Harmony project.



Linocut print by student.



Linocut prints by students.



Linocut print by student.


Students are creating original linocut cards based on our theme and writing messages of appreciation, love and good will inside.  They are making envelopes out of recycled paper and mailing three cards– one to a family member, one to a member of their community and another to a person of their choice.



Invitation designed by Sarah Tremblay


Three grade eight groups are participating.  I meet each group ten to twelve times, over three months. The project will culminate with a group exhibition featuring cards, prints, original plates, tools of the trade, and a slide show.  The exhibition will be held at Vincent Massey Collegiate on April 9 and it will be a chance for the students to show their prints to parents, fellow students, teachers and friends.



Looking at a dry point print with the copper plate.


For the Illustrating Harmony project I briefed students on the history of printmaking, showed them original prints and explained the different printmaking techniques.





I introduced them to the field of illustration and we discussed how illustrators develop and perfect concepts, through the techniques of brainstorming, research and making thumbnail sketches, methods that the students put to good use.



Carving, inking, retouching plate after test print.


Students made final sketches, transferred them onto linoleum and patiently carved their plates.  They participated enthusiastically and persevered in their work.  After their first test prints, they continued carving, adding textures and enhancing lines while creating interesting effects with positive and negative space.



Linocut prints by students.


My collaboration with Rachel and Sarah has been wonderful.  In between my visits, they worked with the students on projects that complemented my workshops.  For example, the students made mandalas with erasers that they carved and stamped onto paper.  This was a fabulous way to introduce the concept of  printmaking, design and texture before working on linoleum.



Inking linoleum plates.


Our two printing sessions were filled with joy, discovery, and the irresistible scent of ink.  The classroom was abuzz with vibrant energy and beaming smiles as students rolled their linocuts with water based ink and printed them with spoons.  The images they had been working on for weeks finally appeared before their eyes in the form of a print.



Linocut print by student.


Transmitting my knowledge of printmaking is satisfying.  Witnessing the happiness it creates in these young people’s hearts fills me with delight. In the true tradition of the popular print, the role of which was to propagate ideas, the students will spread their images and messages of peace, love and harmony and perhaps use the mailbox for the first time!


Talleen Hacikyan

Thank you Rachel Thompson, Sarah Tremblay, Julie Hobbs, Program Advisory Committee Chair of ArtsSmarts, and to all the students who participated this project.

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