Friday, January 9, 2009

Penguin Printmaking

Well it seems penguins are all the rage at school. Both kindergarten and Grade 1 are doing penguin units....with all the snow we have had I guess its appropriate.
Here is a Penguin Printmaking project. I have seen this on a few other blogs but when I first started doing this my reference was the Usborne "Christmas Activities" book. Usborne has some good art books out there but keep in mind that they tend to repeat projects in other books in their series. I got most of mine thru the kids Scholastic program at school.
Materials Required:
- blue, black, white, and orange paint, we used liquid tempera
- paper
- dollar store sponge
- potatoes
I taped 11x17 white sketch paper to our art boards. I like to take the time to tape for 3 main reasons:
- it holds the sheet down for the kids so it doesn't move while they are painting
- it decreases the amount of rippling in the final product...just keep it taped until fully dry
- it provides a nice mat effect for the final piece
Paint your page completely with the blue paint. We used large brushes. Lee Valley has a brush set that is inexpensive and works great for as a school set.
I took the dollar store sponge and cut some long rectangular pieces.
Dollar store sponges are another terrific painting supply. You can wash them out and use over and over again. I buy packages of 6 for $1.00.
Sponge on the ice and snow with the sponge. I explained to the kids that the penguins needed somewhere to stand. They really used their imagination at this stage. We had igloos, hills, ski jumps. snow slides, and lots of floating icebergs.
Now it's time for the potato prints. We used med sized potatoes. I wanted small and large sized penguins. You need two sizes for each penguin. One for the full body and one for the belly. Following the book's advice I cut little handles into the potato, don't skip that step as it proved to be terrific for those little hands. Cut your potatoes lengthwise and be careful to get a level cut. This will make the printing easier. You can also cut the potato width wise to get that smaller belly sized piece.
I used a foam plate. I know its not the most environmental friendly but it works well. The book suggested paper towel but I feared that would fall apart to easily.
Pour some black paint onto the plate, swirl your potato to make sure bottom is well coated.
Figure out placement and then press down for print. I let the kids do a practice on a paper towel if they wanted.
You need to stress that it is a print and advise them not to slide the potato around. Gentle pressure on the potato before lifting off.
Reload the potato with paint for each print.
When your penguin bodies are all in place you need to paint on your arms or wings.
We used paintbrushes. In hindsight I should of grabbed the smallest brushes we had, as it was they were using size 2 which are a quarter of an inch...we still ended up with some pretty large arms or wings.
I tried to get them to make only one pass of the paintbrush to make their arms and this seemed to work better.
Now let your painting dry especially the penguin bodies. For these tutorial pictures I continued on but you can see it gets a bit messy.
Take your belly sized potato and load with white paint. Make your penguin bellies.
I cut that Dollar store sponge into a triangle shape. Using orange paint make the feet of the penguin.
For the beak I made a smaller triangle shaped sponge.
For the eyes I used some daubers I had as well as a dowel. You can use the ends of paintbrushes as well as the ends of pens or markers for this. I wanted the eyes to come out clean so that is why we didn't use a paint brush. With kindergarten we would have ended up with some very large eyes otherwise as well as some frustrated kids.
Stamp on the larger white circle and then the smaller black center.
You can see in this picture that it got a little messy....your result will be better if you allow the black penguin body to dry fully first.

That's it. I have a large snowflake punch that the kids will use to punch out some white snowflakes and then will glue on with the glue stick. You can make some small paper snowflakes on your own or you could paint some on or you could glue on some snowflake sequins.
Another good option is to have the kids draw some on with white pencil crayon or gel pens. I wouldn't advise chalk as they won't be able to get a fine enough line for the snowflake.
Next week I'll tackle this same project with Grade 1 as well as start dragon puppets with grade 3 for Chinese New Year. I'll post the dragon tutorial next week. I'm planning on a paper mache, glue batik mix.
see you next time


  1. I bet those kids had a ball doing this!

  2. Just when I needed an art project for my kiddos!

  3. I think we can DO this!! Thanks!!

  4. I just did dragons this week in connection with Raphael. You can check out my blog post about it. If you see anything you like feel free to use it.
    PS I used the nativity scene project with great results! Thanks so much.

  5. This looks just great! I have been busy with the kids in my class making winter crafts!
    (if you want, take a quick peek at my blog)

  6. Thanks is quite a doable project.
    Ms. Julie I checked out the dragons, wonderful and I'm glad you tried the nativity project.
    Heleen, I checked out all your winter art have been busy. Love all the penguins and snowmen.
    Thanks again everyone!

  7. You really are...great!
    Have a nice weekend!

  8. Thanks for posting Gail! These are so stunning! I'm going to have to find a way to include penguins in our next Bible story at church! :)

  9. These are SOOOOOOOOOO adorable. I can't wait to make these this winter! Lovely!

  10. Making these tomorrow with my art class! Thank you for the great idea!

  11. Let's see your dragon puppets for the year of the dragon.

  12. do you use masking tape and then peel it off without tearing the art paper?

  13. Hey anonymous, I use green or blue painter's masking tape along the edge of the paper. I tape it to the art board. After the painting and printmaking is done/dry I remove it and get that nice white border. I find regular masking tape too sticky and it will tear the paper but the painter's masking tape works perfectly!

  14. I'm the Editorial Assistant for Fun Family Crafts and I wanted to let you know that we have featured your project! You can see it here:

    Thanks for another great project idea!

  15. Made these yesterday and today with my first graders - they are adorable! Thanks for the great lesson!

  16. so excited to try these with the first grade class I volunteer to teach art with in Bothell, WA.