Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Window Wonders: Art Transparencies

orchid transparency
Orchid transparency, marker on organza
Some of you are stay-at-home parents with small children, home-schooling parents or grandparents, or parents/grandparents who help children with their schoolwork. These attractive transparencies are easy to do, made with inexpensive materials, and something you and the children can do together. Suppose your children are learning about flowers, insects, seashells, or airplanes. As an accompanying activity, why not help a child make a transparency of one of the objects he/she has been studying, to illustrate an oral or written report, and to have something to hang in a window afterward. When the child tires of the picture, it can be replaced by one on another topic.

hibiscus sketch
Hibiscus sketch
Before you a do a project with children, however, you might make a transparency of your own. Then you can guide a child through the project (and impress them with your talent). I prefer to work from my own sketches, like this one of a hibiscus flower. I sketch the picture in pencil, putting in all the shading. Then I outline it in permanent marker to make it easier to trace onto parchment or fabric. If you don't feel comfortable doing that, there are always pictures you can trace. Coloring books are a good source of these. Dover Publications, Inc. has dozens of great coloring books on all kinds of subjects ( The illustrations are detailed and accurate. There is no charge for using these illustrations, nor do you need to get permission to use them, so long as you don't use more than ten of them in any one project. Or trace calendar, catalog, or magazine pictures.

Orchid samples
Orchid samples
Start with a simple outline drawing or tracing. Go over the outline with a black permanent marker (I used a Sharpie®). You will need a piece of white organdy, non-woven interfacing, nylon organza (or silk, if you can find it), woven interfacing like buckram, parchment paper, tracing paper or some other sheer material. (Parchment paper is found where baking supplies are sold; it is rolled, so press it lightly with a warm iron to flatten it.) Make sure that the material you use will accept crayon or marker. (If you use interfacing, get the firm kind that is slightly rough on one side and smooth on the other, not the soft kind that feels fuzzy. Don't use iron-on interfacing.) Press the material with the appropriate iron temperature. (If you have not worked with nylon or silk before, be aware that they are slippery; tape the edges to cardboard before you begin coloring especially with crayons.) Protect your work surface so no marker comes through to it. (Marker should not come through parchment; however, you will not get brilliant colors with it.) Trace the outline onto the fabric or paper with a black or dark fine-point marker. Color the picture with permanent markers, washable markers, or rather heavy applications of crayon. Once a picture done in marker is dry, it is ready to be framed.

Butterfly transparency
Butterfly transparency on interfacing
A crayon picture, however, requires an additional step. Place a couple of layers of heavy paper or paper towels on top of a pad of newspaper. Put the picture, face-up, on top of this. Place more layers of white paper or paper towel on top of the picture. Press the whole thing with a dry iron at the heat setting for cotton, being especially careful not to scorch nylon or silk. Press until all the wax from the crayons has been absorbed and only the color remains. Keep checking the layers, changing the paper as needed. You should do this step for the children. If you allow them to watch, stress safety. When no wax remains and the fabric has cooled, your transparency is ready to frame.

Hibiscus transparency
Hibiscus transparency from sketch, crayon on organdy
I like embroidery hoops for framing. The hoop should be a little larger than your picture, but smaller than the parchment or fabric around the picture. Plastic hoops come in many bright colors. The outer half of a wooden hoop can be stained, varnished or left alone. Be sure that any finish is completely dry before you secure the picture in the hoop. Be particularly careful with parchment or tracing paper.. Center the picture over the bottom half of the hoop. Position the upper half so that the adjusting screw is directly above the center of the picture. Press it down over the fabric and pull it as taut as possible. Turn the hoop over and cut away all the excess with scissors. Secure a hanging thread around the adjusting screw. Hang the picture in the window where the light will shine through it with the colored side facing out. If you use plastic fishing line or clear nylon thread to hang it, the hanger will be nearly invisible and the picture will appear to “float” in the air. If you prefer a picture frame, select a light-weight one without backing or glass. Remove any staples from the back. Cover the back edge of the frame with a white glue (like Elmer's). Stretch the parchment or cloth, face-down, over the back of the frame and press it against the glue. Let it dry completely. Cut off all excess. Put a screw eye in the top center of the frame.  

Workspace with markers
Workspace with markers
Older children will probably prefer to work with markers. I use Sharpies®, but Crayola® makes a large variety, including washable ones. You will, at least, need black, brown, dark blue, light blue, yellow, orange, light green, dark green, pink, red, and purple. White areas should not be colored. Protect the working surface. Remind the children to replace the caps on the markers tightly when they are not in use so the pens will not dry out. Make cleaning up and putting away materials an important part of the project.

Workspace with crayons
Workspace with crayons
I encourage young students to peel the paper off the crayons so that they can use sides and blunt ends as well as the points. Crayons are not expensive, but it pays to get good quality, like Crayola®. Parchment paper is not very good for crayon; you would do better to use tracing paper. If it will not mar the work surface, you may want to tape their pieces of paper or fabric down with masking tape before they begin to draw. If they are working on cloth, they will need to press harder to draw lines and to color areas more heavily than they would on paper. They may need some help with this. They may outline parts of their finished pictures with a black or other dark crayon so that it shows clearly. Keep all the crayons even the broken ones because we will be doing some crayon batik later this year.

Enjoy the teachable moments,

Hummingbird transparency
Hummingbird transparency in a 4" embroidery hoop

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