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You could tell the children were excited to be told they could paint directly onto the easel. Their eyes just shone a little brighter at the idea of doing something different, that hadn't been done before and it warmed my heart and happy that I get to do this as my job - that I get to encourage a child to view something from their everyday in a new and interesting way.
Printmaking is not new to the preschoolers I work with nor are the painting easels that have been available to them since the beginning of the year. Simple printmaking like this is one of my favourite art techniques and we have done similar several times this year - using tabletops under the verandah or onto large tiles or, only a few weeks ago, using alfoil on the table as our canvas.
I've shown them how to make their own stamps from foam boards before that. I made these robot inspired ones in front of the children and then many of them made their own.
But the idea of printmaking on the easels was new and exciting and for that reason, oh so engaging.
I always find it interesting observing the difference in a child's art work depending on where it is created. A couple of years ago I made a version of these cardboard tabletop easels I'd seen on Teach Preschool and it's always intriguing the difference in the work completed at these easels compared to our free standing ones. There's always more detail in a child's work, they paint for longer and are often inspired by the others painting next to them at the same table.
Last summer I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Story in the Picture: Inquiry and Artmaking with Young Children and I am reminded again of this passage from it:
Free painting at an easel is also a solitary activity. While children need free time by themselves, they also need time to share and learn from their peers and teachers. Learning through art can be a social activity.
Watching the children paint onto the easels and make prints of their work became a very social activity with them each taking a interest in each other's work, commenting on it, experimenting by mixing colours and helping each other position the paper just so in the wind to capture the part of their painting they wanted to keep as a print.
It was a great day at work.