Gardener's Bounty

"I began making woodcut prints in 1968 in a small room in my home.... From the beginning, I was determined to make my work depict the landscape surrounding my home on our hill farm in Vermont and the work (and play) that are required to sustain a rural life." ~ Mary Azarian

Mary Azarian, known for her woodblock prints that celebrate the beauty of gardens, draws her inspiration and the subject matter for her books from her native Vermont landscape and her life on a farm. Woodcut or woodblock printing is a mass-production relief printing technique process from the pre-industrial age. An artist carves an image into the surface of a block of wood. The areas where the image will be white are chiseled away. The areas to be printed a particular color are left raised. The raised image is covered in printing ink and then pressed on to the paper. Different blocks are made for each color and used again to make copies.

Vegetable printing is a great way to introduce students to printmaking and illustrations which are done using this technique.


Based on:

A Gardener's Alphabet illustrated by Mary Azarian

Materials:

  • Potatoes
  • Cookies cutters
  • Plastic knives
  • Paint of your choice (Tempera paint, watercolors or ink)
  • Brushes
  • Paper plate palettes

Instructions

Objective
Introduce printmaking

Going About Your Artwork
Cut the potatoes in half. Wipe off the moisture on one-half with some paper towel. Press a cookie cutter onto the end of the potato. Use the plastic knife to take away the potato from the outside edges of the cookie cutter. You now have a stamp. Apply tempera paint to the stamp with a paintbrush and stamp away! The image in the banner was made by stamping lemons and oranges!

Extension Activities

  • You can use any other vegetables (than those mentioned above) to make your print- carrots, celery, okra, onions, and even bell peppers to make your prints. Make cards, gift wrapping paper, tote bags, or take your creation to your household items, walls and clothing!
  • Did you know the earliest known woodblock prints are nearly 2,000 years old, dating back to 220 CE and found in China? Amazingly, the process of making a woodblock print is the same today as it was then! Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai, is said to have revolutionized Japanese art in the 1800s. He drew landscapes and ordinary life in the countryside and strived for realism, perspective, and movement in his woodblock prints. He is most known for his color print The Great Wave off Kanagawa. NCCIL artist Eric Rohmann has some beautiful block and relief print illustrations in his acclaimed book, Oh, No! and his Caldecott Award-winning book My Friend Rabbit. Students can undertake a study of both these illustrators.
  • Printmaking can be a great way to introduce art and design elements such as perspective, movement and rhythm to students of all ages.