Tissue Paper Prints


Looking over Instagram the other day I noticed a familiar project. The project uses colorful tissue paper and water applied on top of construction paper to create an image. The image is created as the water soaks thru the top layer of tissue paper and bleeds into the paper below. I remember doing this project years ago, and thought the children at my current school would like to experiment with this process.

Many techniques we introduce to children are from past work we have done with other children. Often these techniques are blended into new projects to achieve a desired effect. Many traditional techniques are copied and reproduced in the creation process, by artists of all ages.

After gathering the necessary materials, I set up a table for our work. I usually work with small groups, so I can be present with all of the children and soak in how they approach the process of their work. In the beginning, two children decided to explore the materials and started their creations. Briefly, I showed the children the process for creating the visual effect. The technique is simple, lay down some tissue paper scraps and gently paint over them with water. Keep repeating the process until satisfied with the amount of coverage on your paper.

When introducing a new creative technique, I may give brief instructions on one method for using the materials in the provocation. I do not always give instruction it depends on how the children respond to the materials and what type of questions they ask about the materials that are presented. I much prefer they take the material and explore it and see what they can create and what possibilities the material holds.

The children worked slowly adding one small piece of tissue paper at a time, and gently stroking the wet brush over the colorful tissue to make it bleed. Then two more children decided to join in the work. These children watched for a moment as the other children continued to gently place single pieces of paper on their expanding work. The new arrivals had a different plan. After placing a few pieces of tissue gently on their work and adding water they decided to try a new technique. The new arrivals took many pieces of colorful tissue and layered them in different directions and on top of each other before adding water to the mix.

Children often observe other children to learn new techniques for doing things. These are social cues children utilize to empower themselves and gain a new skill. The children also watch educators looking for cues on how to grow and become skilled at various areas of life. Once the children learn the basic skill, then a period of experimentation begins where the child attempts to take this new skill and make it their own. Children are open to exploring the possibilities a newly acquired skill has to offer to create a new base of knowledge and confidence.

One of the children who started their work earlier, saw the new arrivals adding more layers and then tried the new technique too. Soon everyone at the table was using multiple layers of colorful tissue paper to create their prints. During this entire process, I caught myself twice wanting to tell the children who were layering the colorful tissue that mixing all of these colors will most likely create a print that is dark in color. I decided to keep quiet and then started wondering why I felt the need to say anything. It does not matter what the end result is. The children were enjoying the exploration and having fun playing with different techniques and three simple materials.

Occasionally when observing the children doing work educators become distracted by what we think something should be instead of being in the moment and enjoying what is. The magic of life is in the moment. The joy of life is savoring the moment, being present for the moment is where the greatness of the work lies no matter what the end result is. The doing is what matters not the conversation we have in our head while the moment is before us.

Many other children came to explore the tissue paper and water technique. They came and went each making a unique design on paper. The beauty of the work is they did it their own way. This is the gift children can give all of us, no one cared what another child’s technique looked like, they were just happy to be together laughing, talking, and experimenting with two kinds of paper and water.