Friday, February 14, 2014

The wonderful magic of toothpaste batik

Isn't this gorgeous?  The piece above is an example of a process I call 'toothpaste batik', and was created by a 5th grader in my DragonWing Arts after-school art program.  She started with a resist made of a 50/50 mix of toothpaste and aloe vera lotion.  I have previously blogged about this fun process here and here and here and  here.  Check each of them out to see images inspired by Matisse, by Victorian architecture, and by dragons and castles and fantasy!  I was first inspired to try this by a blog post I read, but the link is unfortunately dead so I cannot share it with you.

 
Anyhow - when the resist (above) was dry, the whole thing was painted with tempera, (but definitely NOT the washable sort).  She realized that she didn't have to stay in her lines, so she had a lot of fun mixing and playing with color, and painting right across the spirals and swirls she had drawn.  Here it is after being painted:
When the paint was dry, the piece was washed out to remove excess paint and resist, leaving behind the lovely white lines.  And voila!  Below is the end result.  If she wants to add extra detail now, some colored Sharpies will work great.  She can frame it with construction paper, or leave it alone; it's up to her.  Great job!  She was absent this week, so she hasn't seen how it turned out yet, but I'm sure she'll love it!
Below is another student piece, a dragon cave, made by a third grade student.  The first photo is of it after it was painted, and the second photo is the completed piece.  The third photo is, of course, the proud artist.  I had intended for the girls to mount the pieces on construction pieces, but they didn't want to.  This student told me that this was "the best art project I have ever done, EVER."  She was beyond proud of the result, and I am so happy for he!  Her choices were truly her own;  totally different than what I expected her to create, and I'm glad that I didn't try to force my ideas/opinions on her.  I don't think she would have been as proud. 

Lets walk through the entire process, step-by-step.  We begin with a drawing in pencil, traced over with a black Sharpie marker.  The drawing is then taped to a board.  The example in the photos below were made by another third grade student.
A piece of fabric is stretched to get out wrinkles and taped directly over the drawing.
Then, we will need to prepare our 'not glue': a mix of toothpaste and aloe vera lotion that I purchased at the dollar store.  (I'm sure they wonder why I sometimes buy SO many tubes of toothpaste.  They must think I have a strange obsession.)  I purchased these small glue bottles to hold the mixture, and I clearly label them 'not glue'.  (Once, a couple of years back, a student thought they were bottles of glue and could not understand why a cardboard structural project he was making would not hold together!  We had a good laugh when we discovered he was attempting to glue it together with toothpaste and handcream!)
So I squeeze the two products into the small empty squeeze bottles, which then have to be shaken like crazy to mix them together adequately.  I do not measure, but I try to be equal in the size of my squeezes.  To mix them together well, my enthusiastic students do what we call 'the shake-shake dance'.  (Make sure your finger is on top of the cap when shaking!  We do not want toothpaste squirting around the room!)
Now the student is ready to trace over her drawing on to the fabric, periodically putting her finger over the top and re-shaking the bottle to keep it well-mixed.  She keeps the bottle tip close to the fabric to aid in her control.  I warn the students to be wary of drawings with too many tiny details; sometimes you might get a blob!  Little drips and mistakes are incorporated into the design and add charm.  Remember, this is a resist; anywhere it is placed on the fabric will remain white (or the color of the fabric; I used this process on a piece of pink fabric for a project that I blogged about here.) The big bonus is that, while your students are working with the resist, your classroom will smell wonderful from the aloe and toothpaste mix - minty fresh!  How often can you say that in an art room?!?!

She lets the resist dry overnight; it might still feel sticky or rubbery afterward; that's OK.
The resist is dry, and now she is ready to paint.  It is OK to paint right over the resist lines.  A word about the paint brand - I have tried various brands, with varied levels of success.  This paint worked great!  We used Blick Premium Tempera.  We want richly pigmented paint that will stain the fabric and not wash out in a rinse in the sink.  Washable tempera is no good to use.  I previously have done fairly well with Crayola Premium Tempera and with Sax Versatemp, but honestly, the Blick has proven to be the best at color retention (which I suppose is a good reason to make sure your students wear an art shirt, since the paint will stain your clothing!)  The young lady who did the piece in these photos insisted on just painting the bottom very lightly.  I was concerned that it would not turn out well, but she insisted on trying so I let her.  I, of course, was wrong to have worried!
To wash the piece, we first remove the tape to remove the fabric.  (By the way, in a larger class of students I would have the students write their names in fine Sharpie on the edge of their artwork, covered by tape, and then once again on top of the tape!)

Take the piece to the sink, let warmish water run over it, and rub lightly with fingers.  Excess paint will come off, and after a brief time, the toothpaste mix will start to come off easily.  Rinse it off well, and lay it back on the cardboard board to dry.  We put a couple of clean pieces of newsprint under the wet artwork to absorb some of the excess water. 

In my former classroom, I had three sinks, and I had the kids work together in teams to rinse their projects.  Unfortunately, I do not currently have a sink in my classroom, and I only have three students once a week, so I washed their projects for them.  You can see in the photo below that her lightly painted ground area has come out just as she desired! 
You can see, she is very happy with her result! 
 Here below is the sample I worked on with the kids, when I demonstrated the steps/process.  First, here is the fully painted and unwashed piece.   I like lots of color, and I used a lot of paint.
 And, after washing, here's how it turned out.  I think the Blick paint colors worked out fabulously!  Note - because my previous experience with this process had poor results with pastel colors (paint colors with added white), I was hesitant to use white at all for this project.  I did, however, end up adding a little white to one of the blues because it was SO dark, and the result is fine, so I think next time around I may try with some much more white added, to get some lovely pinks, lavenders, and turquoises.  It's worth a try, I think!
One last thing... I have seen many blog posts and pins on Pinterest doing this same sort of process, using a resist of Elmer's washable School Glue or Blue Gel Glue.  I tried it once when we ran low on toothpaste, and even though the process worked, it was very challenging to wash out the resist and I wouldn't use it again.  I also saw that someone used hair gel; certainly worth trying, I suppose.  The point of the toothpaste/ hand cream mix is, I assume, to get the liquid flow of the lotion, and the drying ability of the toothpaste.

Have fun!!!

28 comments:

  1. Wow, these are gorgeous! I can't wait to test it out :)

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  2. Really amazing! Have you ever tried acrylic paints?

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    1. Yes, Marcia, I did, but they didn't wash off nicely. I wasn't happy with the result, but it wouldn't hurt to try again.

      Another great idea to try I suppose would be some actual fabric paint (if it didn't cost too much) and then it would be permanent to sew onto a pillow or something!

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  3. I love these! I love textiles and have to put this on my personal list of things to try!

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  4. I had missed your previous post on this. Love the way they look. For the fabric do you just use a cheap cotton or does it matter. The pieces also look fairly large, what size did you give your students? These would look gorgeous matted and framed. I have fabric stretched on embroidery hoops for screen printing, I wonder how that would work for the painting part instead of taping down to cardboard? It would justify my buying more fabric next year if I used those up. : )

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    1. I've thought about the embroidery hoop idea and I think it would be cool to have circular pieces. The only challenge would be how to put the drawing under it to see. The first year we did these, we drew the pics on w/pencil, but then the pencil lines showed when the piece was done. If you can think of a way, let me know, because I love the round idea! Maybe simple cut and tape the drawing on the back?

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    2. To answer your other questions, I used cheapo cotton. I bought it in bulk with my art supplies, but you could just cut up old sheets, too. The size doesn't need to be large at all. I think these were about 14x18, but even 9" squares would be a fun size. I did a very large piece using this technique, on pink fabric, that I used on a mat for a piece. I included the link to a post about that particular piece, in this post.

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  5. As always, FABULOUS colors. That first little girl is going to be thrilled with her piece!

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    1. I agree. I would mat and frame it. Her mom is an art teacher, ironically!

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  6. You are just the coolest thing ever. That's all.

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  7. That FROG is the coolest Phyl!!! Can Cassie sew it into something for you;)

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    1. Thanks Erica! Not sure it would wear well, since it is, in the end, still tempera paint! Anyhow I can sew too; what could I make it into?

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    2. I would just make it into a wall hanging if I were you, Phy. Maybe add a little embroidery or quilting or even seed bead embellishments. It's is so nice!

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    3. Ooh I like that idea! A little drop needle sewing on my machine,and some sparkly beads.... Maybe if I do that I can hide the fact that the frogs legs are structured wrong!

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  8. Would muslin fabric work for this project? I can see from your picture that the fabric has to be a bit transparent. Also have you ever try gouache paint from Pebeo? I am in Canada and prefer to buy the paint here. Looks great!

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    1. Veronique, yes, muslin works great! As for gouache, I've never tried it for this, since I am working with young elementary students and I have had to keep it cost-effective and tempera paint can be purchased in bulk at a reasonable price. I would imagine that gouache could probably work great, if I could afford enough! Anyhow, if you have the paint, it wouldn't hurt to try a small sample. If you do, please let me know how it works out! Thanks for your comment.

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    2. Will let you know.I will try the sample during March break.

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  9. Beautiful. I love the before and after washing comparison. I think I would have to take a before washing photo to display next to the finished art. I have used flour and water in the past. It cracks like wax but can be difficult to remove. Thank you again Phyl.

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    1. I think if I used enough toothpaste in the mix, and if I put it I in the fridge perhaps, I could probably get a nice crackle with this process. Worth a try! I'll have to experiment.

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  10. oh! this is really nifty! thank you for sharing. i have been loving your projects!

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  11. Hi, I'm in Australia so I want to make sure I would be buying the right product. Is the aloe vera hand lotion a specific hand cream or could I use any cheap hand cream?

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    1. Amanda, I think you could use anything, but just test it out before you use it with students. I usually buy it in the dollar store, so I get whatever I can find. One year I used a lotion that was kind of watery and it didn't work as well. I honestly don't know if there's any reason it would have to have aloe vera in it. I originally found the idea written on another blog, and just did what she suggested! You can also use other kinds of paints - acrylics for a different look - or for something to wear, I've used fabric paints, but that was WAY more expensive and so I did it just for myself, not with students. I hope this helps!!

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    2. Thank you, I'll see what works here. I'm looking forward to doing this with my students.

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  12. Hi there!
    This looks fabulous! I had the same question about the hand cream so thank you for answering. It is holidays here at the moment so I will be trialling it and hopefully can do it with my Year 4 kids when we return to school.
    Thanks!

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  13. I tried this using a thinner , dollar store lotion and even used a 2 to 1 ratio of toothpaste to lotion and it was still too drippy to control well. I will try again using a thicker lotion, 1-1 ratio but add a bit of baking soda to thicken it. Has anyone tried using simple flour and water? Thanks.

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