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Art professor draws on creative tools to teach

Arts Faculty Apr 22, 2020
A grid of four images including a woman in a red shirt and a potato that has been carved and inked to make prints
A grid of four images including a woman in a red shirt and a potato that has been carved and inked to make prints

KOKOMO, Ind. – One potato, two potato, three potato….art?

The humble spud became a medium to create intricate designs, in the hands of students learning the art of print making.

When Indiana University Kokomo classes shifted to remote learning because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Minda Douglas, associate professor of fine arts, created a series of instructional videos for students in her advanced print making class, showing ways they can learn the techniques using items they would have at home.

“I had to improvise and come up with a way we could continue to do some kind of print making at home without all of the inks, presses, acid baths, and brayers we’re used to using,” she said. “I didn’t want students to have to buy more materials. I tried to come up with something we could do at very minimal cost.”

Douglas recalled making potato prints at an event with kindergartners and decided it could be adapted for college students.

“While we’re reverting back to an elementary way of making prints, I tried to make it more sophisticated by having them create more elaborate designs,” she said, noting they are to carve six potato halves and overlap them to create radial designs, using both horizontal and vertical symmetry.

She used soot from her fireplace to draw her designs on her potato halves, and then carved out the potato flesh around it. Then, she inked them with paint and pressed on paper, leaving an image.

“I suggested they use a cheap acrylic paint they might have around the house and stamp them,” she said. “They can use a sponge to dab the paint on. I was hoping they might have some of these things on hand and not have to go find things. I tried to keep it as basic as possible, but still have the designs be a bit of a challenge.”

The prints are their second remote learning project. For their first, Douglas had them find textured surfaces around their home — like some leaves, patterned furniture, wood surfaces — lay paper over them, and rub over them with a charcoal pencil or even a crayon, to create rubbings.

Students are currently working on their potato prints, sending her photos as their work progresses so she can evaluate and offer suggestions, much like she would if they were in the fine arts lab on campus.

“It’s another way to teach art remotely,” said Douglas. “Usually, I give them feedback as the move along in the process. By having them submit pictures, I am still able to give them that feedback.”

Students can reference her videos for instruction, and meet with her through Zoom or phone call to ask questions.

“I’ve tried to provide a way for them to learn these techniques at home with very little cost, and instruction that can be understood through videos of me, in place of in-person instruction,” she said. “We’ve had to be creative.”

Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.

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