The Blog

Engaging Minds Through Art @ Home

May 13, 2020


Every semester Arthur Ross Gallery invites 4th – 6th grade students and their teachers for our Engaging Minds through Art program. At each session, our amazing artist-educator leads a tour and discussion of the exhibition followed by a hands-on art making activity. We are looking forward to sharing art with visitors of all ages in person again. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to share this program online and hope you enjoy this print-making activity at home.

Styrofoam Prints

During the recent Frankenthaler on Paper exhibition, artist educator Sarah Wagner-Bloom led tours and discussions of the exhibition. Students learned about printmaking processes, discussed their reactions to Frankenthaler’s work, and expressed their own ideas about line, shape, color and process in print.

Here’s Sarah Wagner-Bloom!

After looking at some of Frankenthaler’s work, we discussed the artworks and gave definitions of Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting. We talked about how color plays the role of the subject in her artwork, and how that portrays a feeling or emotion. When planning and creating your own print, try to convey a feeling or emotion through color. At the gallery, each student used their printing plate to create two different compositions representing different emotions through color.

What is a Print?

A print is a work of art that is made in a specific way. First, an artist puts ink, paint or pigment on a surface like wood, metal, or Styrofoam. This surface is called a matrix or base. Next, they press fabric or paper to the surface of the print to soak up the ink. When they pull the paper or fabric up, they have a print.

We will use a style called relief printing for this project. The print we make will be similar to a woodcut, where lines are carved out of wood to create the positive space. Instead of carving wood, we will use a pencil to make indentations in Styrofoam.

Helen Frankenthaler developed her prints with professional print studios over months and years, but you don’t need a lot of time or special equipment to get started.

You can sketch, plan, and proof a print with materials that you might have around the house: Styrofoam, paper, markers or paint and water. You can use an old washcloth or regular paper towels at home.

The key to choosing your printing plate material is making sure that the material doesn’t absorb water so you can easily transfer markers or paint to paper. Things that would work perfectly as a plate are Styrofoam egg carton tops or take out containers.

The materials you will need are:

The first step of this project is to get inspired by Helen Frankenthaler’s prints and paintings from the exhibit, Frankenthaler on Paper! This exhibit is a unique view of the artist’s work since it showcases original pieces by the artist. Frankenthaler was known for large scale paintings and prints, but these are smaller and show a more painterly style. Look at “Freefall” and “Sunshine after Rain”. Notice how she combined colors and materials, and you can too at home.

Helen Frankenthaler, Freefall, 1993
28-color woodcut on paper
Tyler Graphics Ltd, Mount Kisco, NY
Artwork © 2019 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Tyler Graphics Ltd., Mount Kisco, New York