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Artist in Residence at the Voyager Academy

– The Workshops

5/13/20.11.13

An opportunity to work with year 8 and 6th form students as Artist in Residence at The Voyager Academy, Peterborough, with an invitation to lead image making workshops using unconventional materials and concluding by working with students to paint a large ‘cave’ painting.

It began on Tues 5th November with an introduction in the school theatre, accompanied by a ‘slideshow’ presentation of my work and working background. It also included a consideration of the title of their work topic for the remainder of the term, ‘Does Art Matter?’ which hopefully gave the assembled students food for thought. Unexpected applause at the conclusion of my talk was an encouraging sign, it was the first time I’d spoken to a group of that size for 16 years and suggested that our working relationship would be a successful one.

The first of my workshop days began the following week with the 6th form group. I showed them a collection of my notebooks and an A1 portfolio, filled with drawings using graphite, inks, charcoal and chalk pastel which had been produced working outside in the landscape in a variety of weather conditions. I worked outside with 6th form groups too making small studies with chalk pastel, the rain and cold conditions ensuring that images were generated at speed. Back in the controlled environment and warmth of the classroom these studies formed the basis for larger scale exploration, employing chalk pastel in the same energetic and impulsive manner. The work was produced in a standing rather than sitting position which encouraged a whole body activity prompting uninhibited actions and spontaneity, which was a sharp contrast with their previous more careful and controlled drawing style.

Workshops with the year 8 groups were similar but slightly different. An active working process was encouraged but there was also an emphasis on control too. The materials used with this group were unconventional; soot, ash, coal, charcoal, soil, chalk and blackberries. I began with a short introduction about the materials used for cave painting, how they developed into the materials we use today and where colours actually come from.

I provided my mortar and pestle so that materials could be ground to a powder, which could then be used dry or as ‘paint’ with the addition of water or blackberry juice using sticks, feathers or other improvised brush inventions. Some interesting images were generated by several students, the activity stimulating a very different and unusual art experience.

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