Printmaking scheme

Scheme:  Nubian house decoration of North Africa - a study through printmaking
No. of lessons: 9
Total time: 360 minutes
Group: fourth years
No. of pupils: 15
To help pupils to:
·         get the students excited by and curious about the architecture of this region
·         be able to take inspiration from one art form and interpret that in their own lino prints
·         think about symbols and what they mean to them and possibly the creation of their own symbols
·         think about layout on the lino itself, what will be cut away and what will be left
·         gain experience in the Lino printing form of printmaking
Overall learning outcomes for the scheme
On completion pupils should be able to:
  • have an appreciation for the art work of the Nubian people and their use of symbols
  • have an understanding of the power of symbols in general
  • be able to use lino cutting tools efficiently and safely,
  • understand the printing process from inking through to registration and over-printing

Vernacular architecture refers to buildings which are built using local materials, by local people, often by hand using traditional materials and techniques. One area with a distinctive tradition of architecture is Nubia in Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan. The art of the Nubian houses is not just decorative; it also has meaning for the artist and the family in the house. For instance, whenever a child in the family lost a tooth, he would throw it at the wall, and where it struck, in that place they would then paint a sunburst as a wish for a new tooth. Different symbols had different meanings, an eye or a reflective surface, were added to ward off evil.

Linocut is a printmaking technique, a variant of woodcut in which a sheet of linoleum (sometimes mounted on a wooden block) is used for the relief surface. A design is cut into the linoleum surface with a sharp knife, V-shaped chisel or gouge, with the raised (un-carved) areas representing a reversal (mirror image) of the parts to show printed. The linoleum sheet is inked with a roller (called a brayer), and then impressed onto paper or fabric. The actual printing can be done by hand or with a press.

This lino cut is based on the decoration of a house that I found on the internet. Many of the symbols involved are consistent from house to house. The motif of a chicken frequently reoccurs.
 initial sketch for lino print

cut lino on registration board

one colour print

two colour print

initial sketch for second lino cut (geometric pattern)

lino in the process of being cut

tiled print

History and critical studies:
While many motifs recur frequently, the differences in decoration from one house to another are often lively. Much of the Nubian style is attributed to a builder-artist of the early 20th century named Ahmad Batoul, whose iconography has become “traditional.”

Abdallah (one of the residents of these houses) regrets that times seem to change for the worse. “Before, we put a lot of effort into our house designs and into things around the house, like pottery and floor mats. But now we think we can buy beauty, so we stop making it—but we are wrong. There is nothing better than something homemade.”

Printmaking artists

Shepard Fairley original poster, later changed to 'hope'

Traditional African prints

'There is a woman in every colour' woodcut and lino print by Elizabeth Catlett, African sculptor and printmaker born in 1915
Drawing of a Nubian house

 Banksy, location unconfirmed, somewhere in Africa, Banksy is a controversial street artist who prints street art or graffiti on buildings across the globe. Discuss with students, how is street art or graffiti different to the decoration on Nubian houses?

Reverse graffiti in South Africa

West African street art

Both by Ricky Lee Gordon a South African artist who goes by the name Freddie Sam. He is using his murals to brighten up the run down architecture in a Cape Town suburb named Woodstock.
Literacy: Discussion on the patterns and motifs seen on the Nubian houses, how do we interpret their meaning, description of the types of patterns etc.
Numeracy: drawing of geometric patterns, measuring of paper and lino, registration.
Use of digital media: A PowerPoint presentation of images giving examples of Nubian decoration.
Teaching/learning strategies:

  • Presentation to the class using PowerPoint on vernacular architecture
  • class discussion on motifs and patterns, symbols, the use of symbols and their meanings
  • sketching and planning stage, give students lino to draw around as a base for design
  • encourage students to allow for a second cut in their design
  • student demonstration on the transfer of their sketch to their lino using tracing paper
  • PowerPoint on the lino cutting process, show students some cut linos
  • cutting stage, demonstrate to each student the safe use of the tools
  • demonstration by a student on the use of the printing press

Differentiation: Those that finish their first prints can cut back into their lino and using registration, print back over their existing one colour prints with a second colour.

Materials/resources/facilities: paper, various drawing media to include pencils, colouring pencils, markers, etc.

Safety precautions: students will need to be shown the safest way to work with lino cutting tools with the hand that is holding the lino crossed behind and underneath the hand that is working.
Timeline/sequence of lessons:
·         The scheme begins with a presentation on Nubian architecture and some research on the internet into the vernacular architecture of this area of Africa.
·         Students are then given a hand-out with images of some Nubian houses and their symbols.
·         Students can then sketch out the symbols they find most exciting and interesting.
·         Students may also choose to develop their own symbol as a representation of a wish for something as the Nubian people do.
·         Choosing a particular symbol or group of symbols the students can then make the drawing their lino cut will be based on.
·         Students use a piece of lino to draw a rectangle the exact size and shape they need to design within.
·         When students have created the symbol they are happy with they trace this onto tracing paper – get a student to demonstrate this.
·         Some students can plan to do two cuts so some of the design will not be cut initially.
·         Students go over the back of the drawing on the tracing paper with pencil in order to transfer it to the lino.
·         Presentation on lino cutting, how what is cut away will not take ink, creating texture, etc.
·         Students then begin cutting out the lino for the first time.
·         Students make their first prints, (registration marks for the a5 lino are already on the printing presses.) get a student to demonstrate the use of the press to the others.
·         Students may now wish to cut again.
·         Students print over existing prints with second cut lino.

Assessment rubric:
Assessment rubric  
Deirdre Grimes
block 1
October 2012
Fourth years
Nubian house decoration of North Africa - a study through printmaking

Student name:
Prep work (20%)
Cutting (30%)
Printing (30%)
Participation (20%)
Overall grade

Assessment of scheme:
This scheme went well. They were a very quiet group and pretty much all of them worked hard throughout the scheme. I broke the scheme down roughly into a week for preparation, a week for cutting and a week for printing. This worked out fine even though there was some absenteeism and one boy did not get to print due to this. I would be interested to see how this scheme would work with another age group and I think it would have been more difficult to run with a larger group of students.
If I was to do this scheme again:
  • I would spend more time talking to them about symbolism in general in the first class.
  • I would give out worksheets after the presentation in order to gauge their response to what they had seen and get a better idea of their level of engagement and understanding of the scheme.
  • I would get them to write a short piece on what their chosen symbols meant to them.
Images of students work from this scheme: