Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Jacob Lawrence

 Jacob Lawrence was an African-American artist who was famous for his paintings that showed African American life and history. He was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but moved with his family and ended up in Harlem, New York. He lived from 1917 to the year 2000.

Jacob Lawrence moved with his family to New York City when he was 13. His mother put him into art classes in a youth center in Harlem to give him something to do and keep him out of trouble. He liked to copy patterns off of his mother’s carpets. He did very well, and one of his teachers helped him to get a place at an art school, and to get a job as an artist working for the Works Progress Administration, which gave artists jobs during the Depression.

 After World War 1 ended, hundreds of thousands of African Americans moved from the southern states to the north to try to find better lives for themselves and their families. 

They moved from the country into big cities, and many went from working on farms to working in cities and in industry. They had to get used to a whole new way of life in the city. It came to be called the Great Migration, and Jacob Lawrence’s parents were part of it. 

 When he was 23, Jacob Lawrence painted a series of 60 paintings showing what life was like for African Americans during the Great Migration. That set of paintings made him famous, and allowed him to be an artist and art teacher all of his life.

When you look at Jacob Lawrence’s work, you see he liked to use solid shapes of strong colors, instead of using lots of texture and shading.

 He was very good at simplifying a complicated scene into a bold, graphic set of colored shapes, arranged with interesting repeating patterns.


"The community [in Harlem] let me develop...I painted the only way I knew how to paint...I tried to put the images down the way I related to the community...I was being see."
Jacob Lawrence Signature

"My pictures express my life and experiences. I paint the things I know about and the things I have experienced. The things I have experienced extend into my national, racial and class group. So I paint about the American Negro working class."
Jacob Lawrence Signature

"If at times my artworks do not express the conventionally beautiful, there is always an effort to express the universal beauty of man's continuous struggle to life his social position and to add dimension to his spiritual being."
Jacob Lawrence Signature

"I have always liked a certain kind of structure that happens to be geometric. It's clean. To me, it has a cleanness about it, a neatness. Maybe that's it. A certain neatness. I keep my studio, try to keep my studio and home the same way...And in teaching I emphasize this aspect."
Jacob Lawrence Signature

"My work is abstract in the sense of having been designed and composed but it is not abstract in the sense of having no human content."
"I am part of the Black community, so I am the Black community speaking."
Jacob Lawrence Signature

"I like to think I've expanded my interest to include not just the Negro theme but man generally and maybe this speaks through the Negro I think this is valid also...I would like to think of it as dealing with all people, the struggle of man to always better his condition and to move forward..."
Jacob Lawrence Signature

"I never use the term 'protest' in connection with my paintings. They just deal with the social scene...They're how I feel about things."
Jacob Lawrence Signature

"I've always been involved with content...and form, I think form is just as important [as content]."
Jacob Lawrence Signature

                     MORE ART FROM LAWRENCE

Ant and Grasshopper 

Brooklyn Stoop

Great Migration Plate 31

Great Migration Plate 38

Great Migration Plate 58

Great Migration Plate 5

He wrote long descriptive captions to go along with his paintings as was common in magazines and books in the 1930s and 1940s. Additionally, Lawrence used tone down colors in large flat surfaced that had the quality of print graphics. Like newspapers. 

For our art project today, we will be making relief prints with a press. Prints are bold and graphic, like Jacob Lawrence’s paintings.

Templeton Elementary School Art Literacy Program
Jacob Lawrence Printmaking Project

This project will be easier if there is a second adult to help.  All the kids will have to take turns inking and printing their artwork, and there needs to be help and supervision. The ink is water based and washes off hands with water.  But it may get messy.

Getting ready

Presenters, first thing, please sign onto the Art Lit cart sign-out sheet on the wall.  That way we know where the art carts are at any time.  Presenters should only be coming in at a time they have officially signed up for.  Next, please check the Art Lit cart for the supplies you will need.  The presentation folders and the tools should all be kept on the carts.  You will need to take a stack of paper sheets and a bag of foam sheets from the counter.  These are the supplies you will need:

On the cart  and if not on cart Take from the counter:

~Presentation folder and art samples
~1 bag of white foam sheets (30)

~Desk protector sheets (30)         
~1 stack of white paper (about 80 sheets)

~Bag of ballpoint pens (30)                        
~Drying rack

~4 ink rollers (brayers)

~4 metal pans for rolling out ink and inking prints

~1 jar of black ink, and 2 jars of colored inks

~Plastic knives for scooping ink from jars

~1 printing press with a felt pad (please keep it in the box when not in     use)

~Cleaning items:  Plastic basin for water, bottle of water, rag, and roll of paper towels

If dry prints are left on the drying rack, please put them into a folder.  The person before you should have set a folder with their teacher’s name by their class’s work so we can tell where it goes.  If you are going to a portable classroom, make sure you have water in the bottle.
In the classroom, each student starts out with a desk protector and a ballpoint pen.  Don’t hand out the foam until you have talked to the kids and they are ready for it. (The foam is easy to break, and we do not have extra for fiddly hands.)

Set up a large table or set of desks as the area for inking and printing.  You need space for the press, and 3 metal trays.  The tray in the center will be where the ink is rolled out, and two kids at a time can ink their projects next to the rolling tray.  When you finish with the black ink, you replace the dirty tray and rollers with the fresh ones.    

Suggested printing set up

Drying rack and pencil    Printing press     Tray for a kid to ink on   Tray for rolling out ink    Tray for second kid to ink on

Set up a separate area to wash off the print plates in between colors.  If you are in a K-2 class, use the sink.  If you are in a portable, set up the basin with a little water and the rag in it, and the paper towels next to it.  If the class has a paper towel dispenser, try to use those.  If not, try to use the towels we have sparingly.

The Project

(Things you might want to say to the kids are in purple.)  

Try to think of questions to ask the kids as you go along.   Present Jacob Lawrence’s work to the kids, then show them the samples of our project.  Put the page of city street pictures on the docucam.

There is also a 2-page set of illustrated instructions, which may make this more clear if you didn’t see it in person at the training.

Part 1 – The Black and White Print

Today we are going to learn to make relief prints.   “Relief” means a surface that has a design cut into it.  We are going to use thin sheets of foam as our printing plates.  You will draw your design on the foam with ballpoint pens, and the pens will press a line into the foam.  Then we will  roll ink onto the foam.  The ink will cover the high spots and will not go into the lines you have drawn.  Then we’ll print them onto paper in a press. 
The places you draw lines will come out white, because the printing ink doesn’t go into the lines, and the places you don’t make marks on will come out black.  The picture will also come out in reverse.

Step 1 – Hand out the foam sheets.  

The foam is not very strong, so don’t bend it or tear it, because it will break.  You could still print a torn one, but it will be better if it’s in one piece.  We are going to think about the subjects Jacob Lawrence liked to paint.  The theme of this project is The City.  You can draw buildings, streets, people, cars, streetlights, a park – anything you’d find in a city.  You can look at these pictures (the ones on the docucam) for ideas, but draw what you want to draw.  You need to draw carefully, because your lines need to indent into the foam to make a print, but if you press too hard it can tear.

Step 2

 When the kids have their pictures indented into their foam sheets, get the ink ready, and explain what you are doing so the kids get an idea of how it works. 

Now we are going to print your pictures.  First we take some ink and spread it on the inking plate.  

Use the knife to scoop a small amount of ink onto the tray.  It won’t work with too much.  When you spread it with the brayer, if the brayer slides around, it is too much.  It should feel a bit tacky as you roll it out. 

We use the brayer to spread the ink into a thin, sticky layer.  It needs to be just enough ink that when you roll it across the picture, it covers the flat areas, but not too much, or it will get into the lines and the picture will not show up when we print it. 
When the ink looks good, you put your picture down on the inking pan, and roll the brayer across it.  You can go back and forth a few times to get it covered.  The flat parts should look solid black.
When the picture is inked, you put a piece of paper into the press, then carefully lay your inked picture upside down on the paper.  Try to get it centered.  Don’t move it around once it is on the paper, or you will get a smudged print.  Now lay the felt pad on top of the foam sheet, and press the print.  Watch out for your fingers.  Press the handle down firmly, but not too hard.  You don’t have to put all your weight on it.  We don’t want to break the press.
After pressing the print, take off the felt pad, and take out the print.  Carefully peel the printed paper off the foam.  Your print is done!  Write your name at the bottom in pencil, and put it on the drying rack. 
After a few prints are rolled, more ink will need to be added to maintain enough for the kids to get a solid roll. 

Part 2 – The Colored Split Fountain Print

If you have time, you can move on to doing the color prints.  First the kids need to clean their foam print plates, either in the sink or in the basin with some water and the rag.  Remind them to not break the foam plates.  It doesn’t have to be very clean, just the top layer of ink removed.  They should pat them dry-ish with a paper towel.  Please conserve towels as much as possible.

Take away the 2 dirty rollers and the dirty ink rolling pan, and get out the clean ones.  On the clean ink rolling pan, put dabs of the two colored inks about 4 inches apart.  Carefully roll up and down to spread the ink.  You want to go side to side just enough to blend the two colors in the middle, but not so much that the two colors get mixed into one color.  Try to get that across to the kids, or you will quickly have one mixed color to work with.  Tell the kids this is a really cool printmaking effect called a “split fountain”.

Demonstrate for the kids how to roll the color onto the foam printing plate in one direction, so the color stays in two bands.  Print in the press the same as for the first prints.

Afterwards / Clean up

The foam plates can be thrown away after making the prints, unless someone really wants theirs.  Please make sure to collect all the placemats and ballpoint pens before you leave the room.
Stack the dirty trays, rollers, plastic knives and wash basin to take back to the library and wash in the sink.  There should be a scrubber there and paper towels in the dispenser.  Please put items back onto the cart after washing for the next person.  A note about the brayers:  Brayers are not supposed to be stored with the rubber roller resting on a surface, as it can cause flat spots, so please lay them roller-up.  Thanks.

Put your teacher’s name on a folder and set it next to the drying rack so the next person knows what to do with your class’s prints after they are dry. 

 If we are running low on ink, email us!  We have no idea how far the ink will go.  We have some more, but a limited amount.  If the black runs out, you may find blue on the cart instead. 

Thank you!                                                                                                         February 2019
Laura Cox

Art Literacy – Step by Step Instructions for the Printmaking Project

Step 1.  Draw a picture on the Styrofoam printing plate with a ballpoint pen.  Push hard enough to indent, but not so hard you break through the foam sheet.

Step 2.  Use the knife to put a glob of ink onto the metal tray.  Don’t use too much at a time.  Keep adding more after each few prints are rolled.

Step 3.  Roll out the ink with the brayer (roller).  If it slides, you have too   much.  It should be tacky, with the roller sticking to the tray.  You’ll hear and feel it when it is right. 

Step 4.  Place the foam print plate onto the clean metal tray.

Step 5.  Roll the ink onto the print plate.  Get a good layer so all the flat spots are covered.  You don’t want to put it on too thickly, or the ink will fill the lines and ruin the print.

Step 6.  Place a clean sheet of paper onto the bed of the press, at the top edge where the weight will cover it.

Step 7.  Carefully place the inked print plate ink-side-down onto the paper.  Try not to slide or shift it, or the print will come out smudged.

Step 8.  Lay the felt blanket on top of the foam print plate.  (The felt will add pressure.)

Step 9.  Press down the handle on the press to make the print.  Push firmly, but not too hard.  We don’t want to break it. 

Step 10.  Peel the print off the foam plate and see your print.  Kids should write their names on the lower front corner in pencil at this point.  Put prints on the drying rack to dry.

Onward – to split fountain color prints.   

Step 11.  Carefully wash the foam print plate in the sink or the basin with water and a rag, just to remove surface ink. (It will look dirty)

Step 12.  Pat the print plate dry with a paper towel.  They are fragile, so be careful

Step 13.  Use the knife to put dabs of two colored inks on the clean metal tray.  Place them maybe 4 inches apart.

Step 14.  Use the clean roller to roll out the inks, being careful to mostly roll only up and down.  You want the colors to blend at the middle, but not be mixed together completely. 

Step 15.  Roll the split fountain ink onto the foam print plate, being careful to roll straight across it, so the ink colors remain separated, only blending in the middle.

Step 16.  Print just as with black ink, then peel the print off and see how it came out.  Write names, and put on drying rack.

The final step is to wash all the rollers, trays, and whatever else the ink got onto, but it is waterbased, and washes off pretty easily.