Friday, July 13, 2012

Fabric Scrolls: Diluting Ink To Show Value

A gentle, swirling motion sets this composition of insect wings, abdomens and antennae apart!  Read on to learn about how we created these gorgeous ink on fabric scrolls!
Ryan D. created a complex composition of insect parts that includes wings and heads as well as environmental textures like leaves and a honeycomb.  He handled the ink very well by using undiluted black india ink for the darkest value, adding water to gradually lighten the ink to make several different gray tones.  
Due to the high interest levels of my students, I decided to add an additional project using ink on fabric.  Unlike the glossy sheen of the satin we used for the last assignment, this time we worked on big pieces (12 x 18) of white cotton.  Once again, I was able to get a large supply of fabric for virtually nothing from the Rhode Island Recycles for Education Center located in Providence.  If you are interested in trying this lesson with your students, any fabric such as cut up white bed sheets would work just fine.
   Students were required to use the books to find a variety of body parts from different insects as well as natural objects from the habitats that the insects would live in.  I asked them to draw a composition that combined these parts in an interesting way that included overlapping and considered how areas of light, medium and dark values would work together. They used a regular pencil to draw their composition and erasing was possible, but not that easy on the fabric.

Many students preferred to use a small brush and undiluted ink to outline areas  before adding diluted ink washes with a larger brush.

If you've been reading my posts, you know that my students were very familiar with how to create value because of the past lessons we worked on this semester.  I would recommend that you have your students complete a simple value scale to practice making a range of grays before they move onto the fabric.  May be you are all about experimentation and you would have your students "learn as they go" and just give a demonstration and let them go for it!
 Either way, each student will have more success if they have at least three plastic cups to vary the amount of water that is used with the ink.  I would also suggest that they start with the darkest, undiluted ink first, then use larger brushes and more diluted ink for lighter areas
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Look closely and you'll see a cocoon, wings, a caterpillar's back, antennae and a dragonfly's abdomen!

You might be wondering why the title mentioned "fabric scrolls" when these look like they are just rectangles .  Well, we use hot glue and added two wooden dowels, one on the top and one on the bottom, so that they stuck out about two inches past the fabric.  Students used a sharpie marker to color the ends black.  I hung the finished scrolls from the clothesline in my classroom and they looked liked amazing insect flags! I have just one more lesson in the insect unit left to post... and it's a sculpture lesson! Here's a hint: This time we proved that bigger isn't always better!


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