Have you ever been over the moon—that is to say, really excited—about something? Make your own series of prints inspired by artist Robert Rauschenberg, who was over the moon about, well, the moon!
In 1969 Rauschenberg spent time at Cape Canaveral leading up to the launch of Apollo 11—the first crewed mission to the moon. The artist remarked, “My head said for the first time the moon was going to have company and [the moon] knew it.” The artist made a group of 34 artworks in response to his time at Cape Canaveral.
Time: 45 minutes +
Skill Level: Intermediate
Look closely at each image. Let your eyes wander up, down, and around each print. What do you see?
Describe what you see. What similarities do you notice between the artworks? What differences?
You probably noticed images of spacecraft, the Earth, tall trees with crowns of leaves called palm trees, birds, and people. There is a rocket in the second image, (Stoned Moon Series) Horn. Can you find a rocket in another one of the prints?
These artworks are all part of a series. A series is a set of artworks made by the same artist that have a common theme, look, or goal.
The artist, Robert Rauschenberg, was a space enthusiast. The Stoned Moon Series was the result of the artist’s experience visiting the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA invited Rauschenberg to Cape Canaveral to witness the efforts to launch Apollo 11, which was the first crewed spacecraft to land on the moon.
Rauschenberg was so inspired that, over the course of one year, he made 34 prints—a major undertaking!—combining images of space and things he saw around Cape Canaveral. The Hirshhorn has 29 prints in its collection; see more of the Stoned Moon Series here.
A print is any artwork where an image is transferred from one surface to another. The Stoned Moon Series are all lithograph prints. Lithography is a very complex process involving many steps and materials. To make a lithograph, artists draw a design on a large flat stone or metal plate. Following a mutli-step chemical process, the design is transferred—backward!—onto a piece of paper. The stone or metal sheet can be used over and over to make more prints.
Try This! Draw on a piece of paper with a crayon. Brush watercolor paints over the crayon. What happened? The waxy crayon resists the watercolor and stays in place. The oil in the crayon repels the water in the watercolor. Oil resisting water is the foundation for how lithographs work! Curious about how lithographs are made? Watch this video to learn more.
MEET ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG
Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008) was an American artist known for his innovative artworks. As a child, Rauschenberg was very creative, but he didn’t visit an art museum until the age of 20. Seeing a real painting was so inspiring that he immediately bought art supplies, and eventually went to art school. Over his career, he made paintings, sculptures, prints, and performances.
Rauschenberg was a curious person who used his art to explore what was going on in the world. He expressed himself by making art about his own life, his friends, and major news stories like the moon landing.
What are you excited about? Make a series of prints expressing your interests. For this model project, we took inspiration from Rauschenberg’s love of space and created a series of prints about the Mars rover Perseverance.
- Find inspiration. Go outside, look online, or go through magazines and newspapers to find inspiration! Rauschenberg was inspired by images from NASA and Cape Canaveral. What inspires you?
- You might find inspiration by looking outside your window to the sky for clouds or the moon. You might look to the Earth for plants or flowers.
- You might take a nature walk to find rocks or other items with interesting shapes.
- You might find inspiration images about a topic that interests you, like space! You can find images of the Perseverance Rover from NASA or another piece of space history from the National Air and Space Museum.
- Gather your materials. For this project you’ll need:
- A protective layer to keep your surface clean (newspaper, old sheet)
- Acrylic paint
- Styrofoam: You can buy styrofoam printing plates, or find styrofoam in takeout containers or produce packaging. Make sure your styrofoam is a flat piece; remove any sides or curved edges.
- A brayer (paint roller): If you don’t have one, you can use a full can of soup or a rolling pin as a paint roller.
- A tray for the paint (a cereal box with one of the large sides cut out will also work)
- A stack of paper, a pencil or pen
- Plan your designs. Think about your design. What do you want to include? The more simple the drawing is, the better it will show up in the final print. Our young artist made a plan that included a big circle shape for Mars as well as a galaxy scene of Earth and Mars with a rover landing on it. Remember, your design will be flipped backward in your final print when you transfer it!
- Prepare your printing plates. Working artists like Rauschenberg use specialized printmaking equipment. For this home project, we will use styrofoam to create printing plates.Use a pencil or pen to draw your designs into your styrofoam plates. The indentations should be deep enough to make a clear design, but not break through the styrofoam.
- Make more than one design. Rauschenberg created multiple lithographs as a result of his time witnessing the Apollo 11 launch. Use your inspiration images (or your own creativity!) to create additional styrofoam printing plates.
- Prepare your paint. Squeeze a small line of paint (about the size of your roller) to your tray or open box. Prepare your paint roller. Roll it back and forth through the paint, making sure the paint is evenly distributed (and not too thick!) Note: If your paint is too thick, your design will not be clear in the final print. Adults may want to assist younger children with paint to avoid over-application and spills.
Apply Paint. Roll the paint over your marked styrofoam until it evenly covers the surface. You can use one color or experiment with using multiple colors in the same design.
- Apply your print. Carefully press the painted side of the styrofoam to a piece of paper. Rub the styrofoam, pressing the paint into the paper. Hold in place for at least 15-20 seconds for the best results.
- Carefully remove the styrofoam. Hold one corner of the styrofoam and slowly peel it off the paper, revealing your design.
- Repeat. The best part about printmaking is that you can use your designs over and over. Make another print! What can you change? Think about the paint color or the placement of the designs on the paper. If you’re really inspired, maybe you’ll make more than 30 prints, like Rauschenberg!
- Title your work. Give your prints a title. We named ours “Mission to Mars!”