Fine Art for Kids: Pepper prints with Edward Weston


© Sarah Lipoff 2011

There’s nothing cooler than when you look at something in a new way. Edward Weston turned simple things into superior works of art by changing up our idea of perception. Weston was an American fine art photographer taking pictures of just about anything in the 1920’s. His close-up images of various items from nudes to heads of lettuce (really) gained the attention of the art world – and regular people who found his pictures stunning. And let me tell you, Weston’s ability to grab you by your eyes and suck you in is addictive. Once you see one photograph you like, you just want more.

One of his most iconic images is of a pepper. His ability to focus on the graceful angles, curved textures, and light and shadow of the simple natural form proves his talent. I can’t deny that Weston has been a big influence on my interest in photography and inspiration to keep searching for unique ways to turn the norm into something spectacular.

So, the other day when red peppers were on sale two for a dollar, I had an Edward Weston moment. Sure, we could take a couple home and photograph them. But, that’s been done before, right? Instead, we hurried those curvy peppers home and prepared for creating pepper prints.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

This is a simple activity perfect for younger kids aged two to eight. It’s a bit messy, but hey, that’s what art is all about. Older kids could take things further by setting up a pepper still life, just like Weston, borrow the digi camera (or load your actual film camera with some black and white), and take pictures of the peppers before getting printing.

Start by taking a closer look at Edward Weston’s collection of natural studies photography. Discuss all the shapes and lines your child finds and see if she can recognize the object in each photograph. Some of them are a bit tricky! Taking a closer look at artwork encourages your child’s creativity and self confidence.

Now help your child slice a pepper in half. If you picked up the pepper at the store, encourage your child to select one that has an interesting shape to it, which will result in a unique print.

Pour a few drops of black tempera paint on a plate and help your child water it down with a bit of water. Offer her a paintbrush and encourage her to move the paint around the paper plate so the whole base is covered. This way the pepper can be pressed evenly, helping to create a solid print.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Get out a sheet of white paper and get printing! Invite your child to gently press the pepper into the paint, then press onto her paper, and then lift up. Does the print look like half a pepper? She can keep pressing and printing creating a random design or a pattern.

Once she’s finished, check out how other veggie prints look! Slice stalks of celery, cucumbers, onions, or use individual lettuce or cabbage leaves to create artful prints.

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