Monday, July 16, 2012

Amate Folk Art of Mexico - Craft Activity

Lizy, Jake & I have been taking Art Classes at the South Omaha library this month and it's been very educational and fun. Today we learned about Amate Folk Art which was originally painted on Mulberry Bark Paper (although according to it's Fig Tree Bark paper). The Amate Art form dates back to pre-Hispanic days when the Aztecs used the paper to create books to record data, harvests and more. According to our teacher, Linda, only about 6 books remain from the Aztecs as most of them were destroyed when the Conquistadors invaded and burned them.

Today I'm going to show you some examples of real amate paintings, and then give you a link to a lesson about how to make it and also show you how we created it in the classroom. It's very easy to do but also very, very detailed. Our teacher was a little strict about having the older kids at least try the steps and encouraging them to add it to their artwork.

As you look at the pictures you'll notice how very bright the pictures are. You'll see lots of color, detail and also one of the techniques these pictures are known for are the use of different types of shapes & lines, such as:
  • ooOO -> O shapes
  • lllll - - - - - - > Straight Lines in different directions (think hash marks)
  • sSsSs -> S shapes - could also be wavy lines or curvy lines
  • uuUU -> U shaped lines
(You might draw these on a piece of paper and hang them where your children can see them while they make their masterpieces.)


This is the picture I made at today's class. You'll see the use of white paint or black paint to highlight and add detail as well as a bit of contrast with the background. It's important to not cover every part of the paper. It helps the picture to stand out more. Each picture will have a border and border design and one of the design features is the torn edges. I also used dots on the breast and tail of the bird which added some depth and texture to the painting.

AmateDogbyLizy  AmateRacecarbyJake

Lizy's & Jake's paintings turned out just as nice. Jake's is of a racecar and Lizy's is a dog. I loved how the brightness stands out on each and even though Lizy had trouble tearing the edges it really looks neat. Neither of them wanted to add the details (the white and the lines) that Linda the teacher wanted them to add - but it does really help the picture. I personally would not have made them add the details since they were happy with what they had done - but they both did like the end result. 

Art Fun - A Tutorial & the way we made it:

Materials needed:
  • paperbags - cut into 12x12" pieces - or you could do 8 x 11 if you'd like (I'll show my examples on white paper so you can see it better).
  • Acrylic Paints (the kind that comes in the little tubs - neon and bright colors are best) - these are permanent to be sure to wear old clothes.
  • Pencils for drawing around your stencil or cookie cutters
  • Sharpies for outlining your design
  • Markers, colored pencils (optional)
  • Paint brushes, paper towels and water bowls
  • Cookie Cutters - or those little Wooden Shapes that kids can paint to use as a stencil.
  • Black construction paper to glue your artwork to at the end. 
Cover your table with newspaper so you don't have to worry about permanent marker bleeding onto your table and staining it. Give your child a square piece of paper with the square drawn on the middle - leave a 2" border if possible. 

Have your child pick out a cookie cutter, stencil or draw a design on their paper using a pencil. Using permanent marker outline your design and then the border. ****Note - do not add any details - you'll add the eyes, mouth, hair, fur, etc at the end.

After drawing your design and border, outlining it you will want to tear off a small border on the outside of the paper. This gives it a finished look and also makes it look old. (Look at ours to see. Note - this was the hardest part of the project I thought.)

Give your child a very small amount of the acrylic paint and thin it out a little bit with a tiny bit of water. When they paint you don't want them to saturate the picture with paint and you don't want 'GOBS' of paint on it either. It'll take forever to dry. Teach your child to only dip their brush into water when changing colors and to never pound the brush which will break the bristles, also show them how to dab the excess water out of the bristles.

Encourage them to use bright fun colors. The more cartoonish it looks the better. Be sure to have them use white or black paint to highlight the picture too.

After the painting has dried use these marks (see marks above - it's the O's, lines, S and U marks) to add detail like fur, feathers, shape and texture to their designs. It's amazing how much detail these marks add to your picture - so be sure to do it . You can also use the round end of the brush (not the brush end) to do polka dots. Just be sure to let your picture dry before doing these otherwise they spread out and don't look really dotty. Decorate your border with stripes, flowers, etc. When everything is dry - paste your picture on a black sheet of construction paper so it's "framed". 

Here is another example of Amate painting - you could use rocks or those plaster statues that can be painted (get them at the pottery shops). Wouldn't this be neat in your garden?

I hoped you liked our "lesson" today. I'm not good at doing tutorials but I thought you might like to see how it was done &  you might like to try it for yourself. =D


  1. that looks like so much fun! I will need to do this with my kids when we all get over being sick! those paintings turned out great!

  2. We are doing an art appreciation class this year during our homeschool and we are sooo going to do this. I hadn't even heard of this form of art before. Thanks so much for sharing it!

  3. This is great, I'm going to try it with my boys. I'll let you know how it goes.

  4. Tina, we're happy you shared the link to this blog post on our Facebook page! We're also happy to read that you got a lot out of Linda Garcia's class last year. Will you be joining OPL again for the Summer Reading Program? Many great activities, classes and more are happening this June and July. -Erin/Omaha Public Library

    1. Hi Erin! I don't remember where I posted the link... maybe on the Omaha Public Library FB page? All 3 of us loved this series of classes and I will most definitely be planning on joining in again with my daycare kids this year. Hopefully I'll have a little older kids again this year so we can do the art class. =D I am just waiting to get my hands on the booklet of activities - I haven't seen them yet!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing on Craft Schooling Sunday, love the idea of using paper bags as "bark"! Hope you'll join the party again!