Monday, October 31, 2011

ZIA with Potatoes? (It's Halloween! Why not a Pumpkin?)

Hello from a “new kid on the block”...or, to be more precise, a “new tangler on the blog!” My name is Mrs. Broady and I am a mom, an art teacher, and a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT). I love kids, I love art, I love tangling, I love teaching. And I am so happy to share some ideas about art and tangling for kids on this great website.

Today I want to share with you my enthusiasm for an unexpected art material, and how tangle artists of all ages can enjoy making ZIAs (Zentangle Inspired Artworks—not to be confused with ‘za, which is what my kids and I had for dinner) using a simple potato.

This is an activity that I started doing with my kindergarten students, but kids in all the other grades in my school, which goes through 5th grade, were fascinated by it, too. In fact my own son and daughter, who are in middle school, also thought it was pretty cool.

Have you ever done potato printing? It’s pretty simple. All you need is a potato, a good knife, a v-gouge (which is a carving tool), some paint, a paint brush (traditional flat brush or spongebrush), and some paper to print on. If you don’t have a v-gouge, a sharp knife can be used, but I think a v-gouge makes things much easier. Speedball makes a good set of carving tools for printmakers.

Cut the potato in half. Carve a design on the flat end that you just cut. (You might need an adult for that—you have to use some pretty sharp tools!) Brush a thin coat of paint on it, and press it to paper or cloth. Ta-da! A potato print! Press it again—it should print two or three times before you need to apply more paint, though the second and third print will be lighter and lighter. If you apply too much paint to the carved potato, your first print won’t turn out well. Be careful to print with a down-an-up motion, nothing side-to-side, or your image will blur. 

So how does this relate to Zentangle, you might wonder? Well, on the simplest level, it involves repetitive mark-making, just like tangling. You can make patterns with potato stamps. What’s more, you can also carve patterns on potato stamps.

The most popular stamp I carved was based on Keeko, a traditional Zentangle pattern. Here are some photos of it. It has purple paint dried in the grooves that I carved. It’s kind of an old stamp now—potato stamps are temporary! They start to dry out, shrivel up, and change form after a day or so. But that's okay—this design will be easy to carve again on a new potato any time I want to.

I carved it after discovering that straight lines are MUCH easier to carve into a potato than curved lines. I started wondering what designs I could do with only straight lines. I carved a plus sign into my potato, and then “Keeko!” popped into my head. I made sets of parallel lines in each section that contrasted the direction of the lines in the section next to it, just like in the tangle.

I have since come up with a new tangle based on this simple potato stamp. Because I started potato printing during “P” Week (the week my Kindergarteners were studying the letter “P”), I was going to name it "Pweek." But then I realized, Oh! I could add an "o" and now it rhymes with Keeko! So here it is. Pweeko.
 I  hope these directions make sense! If you have any questions, let me know. If you use Pweeko in any of your designs--or if you get inspired to try some potato printing, please post some pics! I'd love to see!


elnorac said...

Love this design! And as a retired teacher, of course I was drawn to your story. Thanks for sharing!

Mrs. Broady said...

You're welcome...and I thank you for commenting!
Happy tangling!

Cindy (aka PaintChip) said...

Awesome tangle Amy!

I'm sure lots of big kids will like it too. With or without the potato. LOL

I've added it to our pattern library at with a link back to your blog of course!

Thank you so much for sharing your talents.

Amy in TN said...

Hello, Cindy! I hapologize for not responding sooner. I didn't see your comment until the holidays, and for some reason when I tried to visit the Line Weaving forum, I could not connect. Perhaps the website was under maintenance at the time. That's what I was hoping, as i was intrigued and wanting to learn more. So I tried again today, and was able to find it, and I've registered to join. :-)
Thank you for telling me about Lineweaving--I can't wait to explore it! And thank you for sharing Pweeko with other artists.

Amy in TN said...

Accckk! I APOLOGOZE!!! Not "hapologize"--that is ridiculous! I had typed "have to" but then deleted it because I thought that saying that I have to apologize is not the same as apologizing! But I guess I deleted one letter too few...sigh. I'm sorry 'bout that!
See you at the Lineweaving forum once my registration is approved!