A NEW SPIN CDs as Printing Plates

By Gamble, Harriet | Arts & Activities, November 2000 | Go to article overview

A NEW SPIN CDs as Printing Plates


Gamble, Harriet, Arts & Activities


The students in Dave Kaemmings' beginning drawing class at Whitmer High School in Toledo, Ohio, had the opportunity to experience a fun and unique printing project that incorporated drypoint etching on old, recycled compact discs.

"The idea for this project was developed by Matt Squibb--my student teacher at the time and now a full-time art teacher at Whitmer," said Dave. "Whitmer doesn't offer printmaking classes because of a concern about the toxicity of conventional oil-based printing inks. We had done a monoprint lesson using a nontoxic, heat-drying paint earlier that was very successful, so we decided to try using this medium to do drypoint prints with our class."

Matt has his bachelor of fine arts degree in printmaking and conceived this project while working in his studio. According to Matt, "I had some compact discs laying around that were scratched up and thought that they would make a good drypoint surface. I was attracted to the idea of working in a circular format. When I shared my ideas with Dave, we decided that this would be an excellent project for this class of 10th, 11th and 12th graders."

The students in the class were of mixed drawing ability. They all had taken a class called "Art Foundations," which is a basic class in simple drawing skills and color theory, with some work in design. The teachers knew that combining music and art would be very enticing to these students. "We could expose them to a new technique using a very safe medium with a subject matter that interests all students of that age," said Matt.

The teachers talked to students about the correlation between visual art and music. In particular, they looked at the work of Wassily Kandinsky and how he visually portrayed music and sound. Students were presented with the problem of creating a visual depiction of lyrics and music.

Because compact discs were being used as the printing plate, the teachers wanted students to use a musical theme in their images. Some of the ideas offered to students were: musical instruments, written music/notes, a musical genre or band the students liked, lines (heavy and/or delicate) suggested by the music, abstract representation of a certain piece of music, an illustration of a song that tells a story and song lyrics.

The students were instructed to choose music that was clean and appropriate for school, to be original and not copy the cover of an album or an existing work of art, and not to use the print to pay homage to a favorite rock star. Many students brought in their own music to listen to during class, as well as old CDs to recycle for the project.

Drypoint is a process of engraving in which line images are carved into a plate using a hard needle tool. The burr raised by the carving is allowed to remain, not polished away, producing a soft, velvety effect.

Matt explained, "In printmaking the image is drawn into the plate backwards so that when it is printed the image is correct. Drawing (carving) in reverse is a challenge that the students had to plan for. Additionally, because compact discs are round, they had to design images that worked on a circular format."

Dave explained the benefits of using a heat-set paint as the printing ink. "The heat-set paint is easy to apply and wipe from the plate and is not affected by damp paper. It can be cleaned up with soap and water and there are so many colors from which the students can choose. It is totally nontoxic and odorless, which is very important in a school setting."

"The students pulled a variety of studio proofs and were encouraged to try different combinations of colors," Dave continued. …

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