Saturday Studio: Dancing with Vegetables

Alyssa Dumire, Director of Children’s Education

A print by Martha Mayer Erlebacher, this lithograph appears like a drawing on paper. In the center, four eggplants sit in a  bowl with three apples. Around them are four bananas, then a circle of eggs, then pears. The fruit and veggies form a pattern through their repetition.
Martha Mayer Erlebacher, American, 1937-2013. Still Life with Eggplant #1. Lithograph, 1974. Museum purchase with funds from the Weatherhead Foundation, 1974.01. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

Martha Mayer Erlebacher’s Still Life with Eggplant #1 is one of my favorite still lifes in the FWMoA collection. A still life can be defined as an artwork depicting an arrangement of inanimate (or still) objects. Still Life with Eggplant #1, however, always reminds me of Beauty in the Beast, in which household objects are not inanimate but very much animated, dancing around the castle. How did Erlebacher achieve this effect? She employed the design principles of rhythm and repetition, arranging fruits, vegetables, and eggs in a circular pattern around the composition. Rhythm is a concept most commonly associated not with visual art but with music. The meaning here is similar–artists repeat elements to create a sort of visual “beat,” much as a musician might. The result on the viewer is a pleasing sense of movement and predictability. An artwork with rhythm might even give us the feeling of a particular type of music or inspire us to dance along!

Today, we’re going to employ rhythm and repetition in our own artworks, using fruits and veggies to print! This is a great project for all ages, but especially younger children–after some adult help to prepare the produce, they can do this on their own! If you’ve followed our Saturday Studios the past few weeks, you may have noticed that the projects range in difficulty week-to-week. Last week’s Silly Sculptures are a bit tricky for small hands, as is Kitchen Lithography, while the veggie prints and Shapiro paintings are much more easily adapted.

Supplies:

  • Fruits and vegetables in a variety of shapes
  • Paint
  • Paper
  • Paintbrush
  • Grown-up assistant with a sharp knife (to slice your produce!)
The author gathered produce from around her kitchen including: a lemon, strawberry, pea pod, onion, apple, and broccoli and then cut them in half.

Raid your fridge and fruit basket for produce with interesting shapes and textures. Cut them in half or slice off a portion so you have a flat cross-section for printing (get help if you need it!). Tip: If you take a slice from the center of your fruit or veggie, you can eat the rest!

Coat the cut side with paint, either by dipping or using a paintbrush to apply (it only takes a little bit), then stamp it on your paper, pressing down firmly so the entire surface makes contact. Repeat around the page. Try printing with different amounts of paint!

Repeat with your other prepared produce, making sure to use each a few times to create a sense of rhythm.

For this art-making activity, the author painted a thin layer of paint on the cut side of her fruit or veggie and stamped it onto paper. Here, we have a trail of green peapods!

Can you guess what I used to make these shapes? An apple, and my favorite, a peapod!

This shows how to thinly layer the paint on a radish leaf, in order to show the veins when you stamp.

Leafy greens work too! This is a radish leaf. Choose leaves with pronounced veins and coat lightly with paint for the most detail.

The completed work includes the green peapods, blue apples, yellow broccoli, and green radish leaf.

Try making your veggies dance across the page in different patterns! The circular layout Erlebacher chose works well, but I also stamped in wavy lines. What compositions can you come up with? We’d love to see them here on the blog, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

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