Lines of Possibility


The learning adventure started with an idea. An educator created a provocation using three simple materials, colorful pens, rulers, and paper. Different dimensions of rectangular, circular, and square shapes of paper were presented on a table inviting children to begin their work.

In addition to current investigations and play opportunities, it is important to create new provocations for the children who are not currently involved in a specific investigation. As educators, we want to offer opportunity for children to create through invitations that are interesting, challenging, and fun to explore. 

The invitation asked the children to utilize the tools provided to create a series of lines on paper. The process of repeatedly creating new lines with different colors of ink would cause a unique image to appear.

Inviting children to engage in process art is one staple of our work. The process of being introduced and working on a new creative technique benefits the children, as they employ what they have learned into future work. Provocations provide the children with an opportunity to explore materials and new techniques in depth and discover takeaways in learning.

Initially only a few children were interested in the process, as the thought of drawing lines over and over did not seem appealing. As the initial group started to work with the educator, other children questioned the purpose of the work. 

School age children often question why the educators choose particular invitations. Process art may appear purposeless to a child who is tuned into the structure experienced in school. Our role is to offer invitations that complement the work experienced in school. Art is done for the sake of the experience itself and utilizes other aspects of our thinking and is a good complement to reading, writing, and arithmetic. 

The initial group started cautiously moving their rulers and pens over the paper. Bursts of colorful lines started to appear. The children talked with each other about the right way of doing this work. The educator encouraged the children to keep making lines and reminded them that a unique image will appear after numerous lines are created. The educator continued talking with the children and shared that they had done this type of work before and the process of creating takes time

Process art is all about the process, in this case putting pen to paper. The creative freedom is a challenge for some children who like more specific directions for their creative work. Crafts are fun and have a direct line from beginning to end where in process art the outcome is unimportant. 

The initial group continued work on creating lines and then stopped for the day. The group came back the next day and continued to partner with the educator on their creations. Encouraged by what they witnessed other children joined the project. Soon eight children were working on creating lines and depth of color on their paper of choice. 

The patterns created by the repeated process were varied. Each work took on a unique shape of it’s own depending on how the children moved their ruler and pen over the paper surface. Color choice was a factor as well. Some children utilized a wide variety of colorful pens and other children concentrated on darker or lighter colors. The color choices the children made transformed their images along with the pressure used to place ink on paper and the number of lines created over time.

The exploration of pen, ink, and paper continued for weeks. Many different children explored the technique. A few children enjoyed the process so much they continued exploring the possibilities of this work for much of the school year. Some children used the knowledge gained through this experience and shared it with younger children. The children explored the technique further utilizing other mediums like crayon, oil pastel, and chalk. They experimented with the possibilities of layering line and color and used that knowledge to create other work in the future.

This work was a jumping off point for the exploration of creating with ink and paper. The initial provocation created an opportunity for children to experiment with color, pressure, layering, and time when drawing with ink. Later some of the same children would expand their work by using pen and ink to create more realistic and less abstract drawings of their own choosing. As educators we are delighted when we see children take a skill that was introduced in one exploration, develop and blossom as the children express their creative freedom.