Illustrating Nursery Rhymes

Article excerpt

Printmaking has been around for a long time. The Chinese were some of the first people to make prints. In 1438, when the printing press was invented, block prints were used to make book illustrations.

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) was a German who did intricate woodcuts. He did a series of 15 prints illustrating scenes from the Bible. As a class, we looked at slides of a few of these. I wanted my students to see that printmaking could be used in various ways, so we also looked at prints that had been used to design wrapping paper and note cards.

My students had previously made a stamped print where they carved an eraser, inked it and printed it repeatedly. For this current unit of study I challenged them to illustrate a nursery rhyme using the same relief printing, but this time we would use linoleum instead of erasers.

First, each student was to decide which nursery rhyme he or she wanted to illustrate. It was my hope that each student would do a different nursery rhyme, but a few students chose the same rhymes. This proved to be interesting, to see how they interpreted the rhyme differently.

The students drew their illustrations on 6" x 6" white paper. When they were done, they were asked to shade in the parts they wanted to receive the ink and print (the positive areas, which would stand up off the linoleum when carved), and leave white the areas they would cut out and would not receive ink (the areas that would be cut away and be negative). Students were reminded to draw letters or numbers in reverse so they would read correctly when the print was pulled.


With the positive/negative areas marked, the students were ready to transfer the drawing to the linoleum's surface. The students turned the drawing over and blackened the back of the drawing with their graphite pencils. The drawing was then taped face up to the linoleum's surface, and the line drawing was traced with a pen, transferring the drawing to the linoleum's surface.

The drawing was lifted from the linoleum and laid next to it to use as a reference for cutting. The students used gouges to cut away anything that was left white on the original drawing. …