Thursday, May 10, 2012

Animal Engravings

As part of our class based on My Art Book: Animals, the children and I learned about Albrecht Durer, the famous painter and printmaker from Germany. His famous Rhinoceros print is featured in the book, and is the basis for an engraving on heavy foil. We thought about what animals might have interesting textures to engrave and our images varied between tortoises, rhinos, and lizards.

We used animal photography as reference and then each student did a preliminary sketch on tracing paper. The metal plates were taped down onto a magazine for a soft engraving surface, and the tracing paper drawing was taped and hinged over the plate. After tracing the sketch onto the plate, the tracing paper was removed and lots of textures and patterns were added freehand to the engraving.

A layer of India ink was applied to the metal plate using a sponge brush and set to dry. Then we burnished the plates with steel wool, to shine up the surface and to enhance all of the line work on the plates. You can choose to skip this step if you like the metal surface as is. Another suggestion from the book was to ink around the animal and use the inked background as a scratch board.

When observing a colleague of mine teaching a similar lesson, she punched holes and mounted her students' projects using office fasteners. I thought this was a brilliant idea to make the pieces look more finished, so I had to steal her genius!


Painting With Brains said...

That last one- the tortoise- is amazing!!

Rina said...

Hi Renee

These are beautiful and I love the brads for mounting. Are you using tooling foil from a roll? Are you pulling any prints with these? Thanks for posting.

Rina at

Renée Collins said...

Hi all! Yes we did use tooling foil, but home schoolers etc. could use the bottom of a foil roasting pan. I did give the kids the option of making a rubbing from their piece before I mounted them.

Pat said...


These are so cool! When you said you used heavy duty foil, I thought you meant aluminum foil until I read all of the comments. Was it 36 gauge or 40? I really want to try this with my students. Thanks!


Renée Collins said...

Our pieces measure 6" x 9", and the foil we used was 36 gauge. I'd love to see your work if you get to it!

Anonymous said...

Renee, thanks for sharing this work. I'll try to source the foil as this appears to be the key to success. You must have prepared the students well to get such great results.

Mary Catherine said...

I've never seen this before and I like it. I've been looking to buy the tooling foil and I see it comes in rolls? Can I buy a roll of it or should I buy it flat?

Renee Collins said...

You can buy it either way. We used a roll cut into pieces.