The Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe, and the people who live there are famous for the ancient art of pysanky or decorating Easter eggs. The word pysanky comes from the word pysaty, which means “to write.”
A special instrument called the kistka is used in making pysanky. Hot beeswax flows from the tool allowing the artist to make detailed designs or patterns on eggs. Designs are usually geometric, but plants and animals are also used for inspiration.
The person making pysanka (singular) usually starts the design by drawing a line around the egg. Then a series of lines are added and connected, resulting in a geometric pattern. After some lines are drawn, the egg is dyed.
More lines are added, and the egg is dyed again. The drawing/dyeing process continues until many designs and colors have been used. When the artist is finished, the wax is removed to reveal all the colors and patterns.
You've probably dyed Easter eggs with food coloring, and you may have used a crayon to create designs on the egg before you dipped it in the dye. The crayon is waxy, so in a way, that's similar to making pysanky. Wherever you made marks on the egg, the crayon resisted or kept the dye from covering it.
Working with crayon and a liquid in this way is known as crayon resist. We can make an Easter egg picture using a method similar to pysanky. We'll use crayons and mat board scraps to make a giant egg.
Mat board is used for framing pictures, and it comes in beautiful colors. We'll use an oval-shaped scrap to create our egg. Made of many layers of paper, mat board isn't recyclable. Using a scrap of the material to make the decoration will help save energy, natural resources, and landfill space.
|Visit a frame shop, and ask the employee to save oval mat board cut outs for you, and explain that you need them to do this art/reuse project. Usually the mat board is thrown away, so the framer will most likely be happy to share the material.|
|To start the project, turn the mat board over to the white or plain side. Using the ruler as a guide, draw a line across the center of the egg shape using a light-colored crayon. Now make a vertical line, dividing the egg into four spaces. Continue making geometric shapes in all the areas until you're happy with the design.|
|When you're ready to do the crayon resist, cover your work area with newspapers. Squeeze the liquid watercolor into the pan or container, and brush the color over the egg, covering the designs. Wherever it's been applied, the crayon will resist the paint. Allow the egg to dry thoroughly before displaying it.|
|If you prefer, instead of using the plain side of the mat board, decorate the colored portion with oil pastels, letting some of the original color show through. Just follow the main steps for making the designs and patterns. Since the background is already colored, it won't be necessary to do the resist or painting part of the project.|
Tips and Tricks:
The crayon must be applied with some pressure in order for it to resist the paint. If it's not drawn on heavily, the paint will fill in the areas on the egg shape.
Liquid watercolors come in many beautiful colors, and they're available at art supply companies. If you prefer, use pan or tube watercolors, or acrylic paint that's been thinned with water.
To see beautiful examples of pysanky, visit the Web site of award-winning artist Patty Wiszuk De-Angelo.
Crayon etching is another method of decorating the egg. See Make a Halloween Crayon Etching for complete instructions. For this technique, use only the white side of the mat board.
© 2008 Marilyn J. Brackney
Volume 21 No. 1
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