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Symmetry Ink Paintings: Nature Artists Camp at the Louisiana Children's Museum

Symmetry is all around us! And so is asymmetry!

During Nature Artists camp at the Louisiana Children's Museum, the kiddos learned about the concept of symmetry and explored the idea further through art using ink and oil pastel.

First we observed some items from nature - a pineapple, a shell, a cross-section of a tree trunk, and others. After explaining that symmetry is when two halves of something look the same, but opposite, I held up a piece of yarn horizontally and vertically in front of each item. We could see that the pineapple and the shell were both symmetrical when I held the yarn vertically (each half was a mirror image of the other), but when I held the string horizontally they were not symmetrical (the pineapple had green leaves on one side and not the other, the shell had different shapes on either side of the yarn). However, the cross section of the tree was symmetrical both horizontally and vertically! The magnolia leaf was symmetrical vertically, and aaaalmost symmetrical horizontally except for the stem!

We noticed the symmetry in our own bodies, and how even things that are symmetrical can have subtle and beautiful asymmetry (we might have a birthmark on one side of our body and not the other, one foot might be larger than the other, etc.).

Each child folded their paper in half (hamburger or hot dog style? up to them!) and painted imagery inspired by nature on one half of the page, folding and pressing their hand over the paper between every few brushstrokes. I recommend using watercolor paper or another paper that is not very absorbent so the ink doesn't completely dry out before you fold and press it.

Some kids were inspired by sunshine, flowers, leaves, trees. Others explored intuitive markmaking. One child even decided after doing the pressing technique a few times that he would rather explore the concept of symmetry and asymmetry by painting on both sides of the paper himself.

The ink dried within a few minutes, and we added oil pastel over our paintings. The opacity of oil pastel gave nice depth to the artworks as the kids could fill in white space with color, and even draw over top of of the black ink.

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