Thursday, January 23, 2014

In the Art Room: Floating Chalk Prints

Ya'll might recall the suminagashi or paper marbling technique I recently shared. In that post, I shared the pros and cons of the whole experience. They kinda went like this. 

  • The kids loved it. Just the idea of making paint float, creating a design and then capturing that floating paint on paper was thrilling for them. 
  • The results were usually pretty rad. 
  • Each paper piece was unique, just like the artist.
  • The carrageenan (powderized seaweed) and water mixture had to be blended the night before and left to "rest". Which meant I had to remember to do it before leaving for the day. And me remembering ANYTHING at the end of a school day, other than picking up dinner at the drive thru, is a miracle.
  • The stuff feels like snot. Like super snotty snot.
  • Near the end of a marbling run, the designs were often not as vibrant because of the muddied waters.
Having experienced all that, I shared my love-hate on the aforementioned post and asked your advice. And ya'll delivered! This here floating chalk project was one of the mentioned ideas that I thought I'd share with you. But before I get to that, here are some other great ideas that were suggested: 
  • Ingrid of NorridgeArt wrote: I've used Elmer's art paste, which turns out to be methyl cellulose, which works great and is really comparable in price as far as I can tell, to buying it in bulk. I would second using the tote-trays. After many uses, the remaining acrylic paint sinks to the bottom, and eventually, it does gray the water and dull the transferred colors a little. I haven't done this for years and I think I will crack into this soon! Fun! 
  • Phyl of There's a Dragon in my Art Room said:  Hey, Cassie, I don't know why I didn't think to tell you this before: liquid starch (the inexpensive blue stuff in the bottle) works GREAT for marbling, using watered down acrylic paint just like you did. And we used cheapo plastic forks for marbling. Only when we were done, we used tissues to blot them gently. THAT was the disgusting messy part, but the results looked a lot like yours, brighter than shaving cream marbling. Test it! (She also wrote on my facebook page): Have you done shaving cream marbling? It's easy, it makes your room smell good, and when you are done the shaving cream all over the place cleans the tables!
  • Laura wrote:  Do not be afraid to experiment with India inks. The best color you can get is to use thinned down oil paints but with students it's not the safest method. (I too teach kids in my private studio) I have gotten the best results with kids using air brush paint. The createx brand is the one I have used with good results. My friend told me the best description she could give to how much to thin down the paint it get it to the consistency of whole milk. I found that those plastic utility tubs are perfect for using to put the mixture in- keeps the paint contained better when they are putting it on the moss mixture. I use small paint brushes to put the paint down because they seem to have better control than with the eye droppers.
  • Amazingly awesome author Pam Stephens (of the Dropping In book series) wrote:  I have a never-fail method that Nancy Walkup {editor of SchoolArts} taught me. It's nothing more than a tub of shallow water, Prang Freeart chalk, something to scrape the chalk with (plastic knife works), an old comb or fork (to stir the chalk), and heavy white construction paper. I wear plastic gloves because the chalk stains like the dickens. Just hold the chalk over the water and scrap whatever colors you want. Stir with an old comb or whatever you have to get a nice design. Drop the paper on the chalk. Let it sit for about 30 seconds. Pull the paper off the water and TaDah! Marbled paper. Dries in a jiffy (about half an hours). You can also use colored construction paper depending on the colors of chalk you use. WARNING: This is addicting.
  • Mrs. Walton commented:  Use tote trays instead of cookie sheets. Fill half way with water. Have one sheet of posterboard directly next to the tote tray so you can immediately have a place to put the soaking paper. Use pastels and a cheap pair of scissors to scrape color onto the water and let it float. If they accidentally break the chalk into the water, tell them not to fish it out. The minute you stick your finger in teh water, it breaks the tension on the water and the chalk sprinkles start to sink. Folding (not creasing) so that the ends of the paper are up (think U shape), set the paper in the water center first. Slowly let the edges go onto the water mixture. This keeps water bubbles from forming (as badly) on the paper. Then, I tell the kids to grab the corners closest to them and drag the paper up towards them #1 so that they are dragging more chalk onto the paper as it's lifting, #2 so they can see what they are getting when they lift it, #3 so that the water is still dripping downwards when it's lifting into the tote tray. Then, simply place it onto the posterboard next to it.
Aren't those just the best suggestions?! Thank you, art friends, you're the best. When I ran out of carrageenan the day before my last group of students were to marble, I decided to give Mrs. Walton's idea a go as I had all mentioned supplies on hand. And it was a total success! Here's how we did it.

Just like she mentioned, I filled some tote trays with water. I decided to cut some old plastic lids in half as scrapers and laid out some chunky chalk.
Now, I have to recommend that you not use any ole chalk for this project. I mean you could...but the small stuff will probably just break and side walk chalk is just too lacking in color. I strongly recommend ordering a couple sets of Prang's Freart chalk (I think I ordered mine from Nasco). It's vibrant and big enough for little hands.
Ya'll, the process was so super simple it was kinda ridiculous. The scrapped their chosen colors with the cut lid until their tray looked like this...
(ooooh, pretty.)
Then, holding their star parallel with the surface of the water, they dropped it onto the water while I lowered their paper on top of the star. Together, we "massaged" their paper to capture the chalk. We knew it was working when we saw a faint outline of the star and the colors of the chalk through the back of the paper. Slowly, I lifted the paper out. Sometimes, I would see a white spot where it didn't take at which point I would lower the paper again and attempt to pick up the chalk. Once I lifted the paper out, the student plucked the star from the water. They looked a little like this.
Amazing, right?
I love the layers of vibrant color.
And their stenciled papers looked like this. The kids thought it was Christmas.

Once dry, these were sprayed with fixative (or AquaNet if you live in the 80's) so the chalk wouldn't smear.
So. Would I do this method again? Definitely. It was so much easier and the results were ALWAYS amazing. It was a fun and new printing technique that fascinated the children. 

However, it just wasn't the same as suminagashi. This isn't true paper marbling because you cannot really manipulate the chalk once it's on the surface of the water. For that reason, I will continue to also use the suminagashi technique...even if the stuff feels like super snotty snot.
By the way... I'm so super stoked about this Saturday's conference, you don't even know! I cannot wait to see what other art teachers have to share. Are any of you lovelies attending The Art of Education's online conference this Saturday? If so, just an FYI, my presentation is off the chain goof-ball. Just so's ya know. Looking forward to chatting with you!


  1. Morning Cassie. I will see you at the conference later today. Yay! I attended the AOE conference last summer and learned so much. Loved this post and all the helpful ideas. I am new to teaching art so I ordered the freart chalk and can't wait to use it with my kids. I think we will use hearts for February. How young did you go with this activity? I teach kids from Pre-K to 8th grade. Jan

    1. Hi Jan! The youngest I did this with was 3rd grade...but that was only because my younger students (1st and 2nd) had already done the paper marbling with the carrageenan. The ONLY thing the kids struggled a pinch with was the scraping part. I told them to think of someone peeling a carrot or a potato (although, some of them STILL didn't know what I was talking about, sigh) and shave the chalk AWAY from them. Sometimes they dropped the chalk into the biggie, just set it aside and let it dry out. But I honestly think you could do this with those younger kids. I think the hearts sound like a GREAT idea. They could just dip a sheet of paper and once that dries, cut it into a heart shape? If you do it this way, with the heart acting as a stencil, just be sure to use cardstock for the I think regular paper would curl too much once it hit the water. Geesh, I hope that makes sense! Let me know if it doesn't :) SEE YOU TODAY!

  2. I love the star idea, our school mascot is a star. I use Mrs. Walton's technique too. We created crab shells in summer school using it this summer.

  3. This looks sooo awesome! I can't wait to try it!! my art room when we do sumunigashi we just use plain tap water, dick blick Black cat India ink applied with a toothpick, oil from beside our nose or behind our ear (kinda gross but works great). We make concentric circles with those 2, fan and print onto colored and white paper. It's works great, is super cheap, and has very little set up/prep!

  4. I just did this.... I will have to do a star or something with the kids! As some of my tests were drying I used my finger to smear some lines on some of my test papers. Ooooo la la! Try that too, but not when its soggy. It has to be partially dry not to tear the paper.

  5. Wow! This kind of art sounds so interesting. The beauty of different shades in floating chalk prints is simply eye-striking. Surely, kid's will love to indulge in such kind of art. Thanks for introducing your reader to a marvellous art type.

  6. What an interesting process. Defo will try this! - Becky x

  7. Just tried this in my class - only had Crayola drawing chalk and it worked great! thanks for this easy idea

  8. What kind of paper did you use?

  9. I love this idea! Great how-to pictures. Thank you!

    For suminagashi, I've found that Dick Blick sells the easiest inks to use. No water thickening required! It's a simple enough technique that I use it with Kindergarten on cloth, and cleanup is easy! The results are beautiful.

  10. Anonymous9/02/2016

    I have used milk and acrylic paint-----dishwashing liquid and acrylic paint------and starch with acrylic paint----if you do milk do that in the winter and you can put the milk out on the window sill and keep it cold [since there are no refridgerators in classrooms]

  11. I'm wanting to try the Suminugashi technique and am unsure of the entire process and/or supplies. Could you help me with that?

  12. I'm wanting to try the Suminugashi technique and am unsure of the entire process and/or supplies. Could you help me with that?

  13. Hi, just wanted to let you know I used this technique with people with mental illness yesterday as part of a Recovery Art Journaling course I facilitate. We all loved it. Only thing is here in New Zealand I could only buy cheap chalk so our colours are very muted but still very pretty.

    We had cut out name snowflakes and we floated these and they looked great.

    Also it sparked off a great discussion about how, like our name snowflakes, we are all unique and beautiful... Serendipity

    Thanks for the idea.

    I used cheap hairspray to seal them but think that it isn't going to work very well.


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