Updated: Jun 5, 2020
Spring is finally springing and it’s a pleasure just to be outside on these nice days…and more of a pleasure when “being outside” is not equated with “doing yard and garden work.” With trees leafing out and flowers beginning to bloom, it’s a time when the area’s avid “plein air” painters grab their supplies and easels and take to the hills and fields to paint like mad. If you’re not a painter, there are still projects that can be done out-of-doors, including this family friendly activity that’s a popular fallback in kids’ classes at the Arts Center.
At the Arts Center, you’ll find a number of cards, books, notepads and other paper objects that artist Nancy Langford creates with a “marbling” technique she learned years ago in a class at the Smithsonian. This marbling technique requires less investment and is, as a result, less precise than Nancy’s work – but it’s a great “picnic table project” for kids of all ages.
You’ll need a foil “lasagna sized” pan, a can of shaving cream, a selection of food coloring, a couple craft sticks (aka popsicle sticks), a “squeegee” and some paper – heavier than copier paper but not as porous as construction paper. Arts Center Executive Director Kris Pearson likes to start with squares of paper because then the marbled paper can be used for origami, but any sized paper that will fit in the pan can be used. Nancy sometimes uses old maps or black and white illustrations from old books.
Shake the can of shaving cream and spray it into the lasagna pan to form a shallow layer along the bottom. Use your hands, the sides of the craft sticks and or the squeegee to smooth out the shaving cream layer – try to avoid air pockets and ridges. Once you have a smooth layer of shaving cream, choose a bottle of food coloring and add DROPS of food coloring to the shaving cream. (These shouldn’t be large.) Use two or three colors (but remember your early lessons in color mixing so you don’t end up with a big brown mess!) and space the drops out.
Using the EDGE of a craft stick, drag the stick back and forth across the food coloring and shaving cream to expand the colors. Again – try to avoid digging “ditches” or scraping away shaving cream – just gentling extend and mix the color dots. Once you have a pattern you like, firmly press a piece of paper into the shaving cream, smoothing out any air bubbles. Pull the paper up and squeegee off the excess shaving cream in one pull. The paper will have taken on the pattern in the shaving cream.
Reuse the shaving cream for a more “tie dyed” look or scrape used shaving cream to the side and add a fresh layer from the can before repeating the design process. Depending on the size of your paper, finished designs can be used for cards, cut up as part of collages or other projects, used for origami projects or become the base of unique notepaper for old-fashioned letters. Clean up can be accomplished with a hose and a bit of soapy water (though it might take a couple scrubbings to remove the food coloring from hands).
Go ahead and give it a try – then stop by and see what Nancy Langford makes with her marbled paper!
And speaking of “picnic table projects,” Kris says the Arts Center has some paint left from last summer’s picnic table project (sponsored by the Yates Endowment) and there are still a few picnic tables at Penn Yan’s Indian Pines Park that are prepped for “artistic interpretation.” If you have kids with a vision of how to turn a picnic table into a work of art, stop by the Arts Center and talk it over with Kris. It’s a fun way to pass a day at the park and promote public art.