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Image making workshops at the Fulbridge Academy

– Pirates!

14.7.14

Shiver me timbers! It was back to the good ship ‘Fulbridge Academy’ this morning to lead the second of two portrait themed workshops. However the approach today had a distinct contrast with the previous session.

To begin with the day had a Pirate theme and according to pirate name generator site http://pirate.namegeneratorfun.com/, my name for the day was Toby ‘Throat Slasher’ Raw, “The Keelhauler of Cutlass Haven!”. Well I’ll be the son of a biscuit eater! As the Million Pound Radio Show Pirate Sketch confirmed several years ago, pirates only speaks in the present tense does pirates, and any scurvy dogs found employing the past participle was either strung up from the yardarm, sent off for a training day in Eastbourne or thrown in the crèche!

I was accompanied this time by my very good chum, author, illustrator and fellow pirate Vince ‘Silver Tooth’ Fry, “The Wencher of Crocodile Bay!” (aka Nick Ward). While ‘Silver Tooth’ worked with the lads and lassies reading extracts from Charlie Small’s journal ‘Pirate Galleon’ and then designing treasure maps, I picked up the subject of my previous portrait workshop to produce illustrations for some pirate themed ‘Wanted’ posters.

I presented a couple of portraits by Leonardo and Rembrandt to the little landlubbers, and the distorted facial images produced by Modigliani and the portrait of Joshua Smith by William Dobell to ask the question, ‘When does distortion become caricature?’ I then showed grotesque caricature portraits by Leonardo, followed by work by Honoré Daumier, Gerald Scarfe and Ralph Steadman.

The drawings produced were an adventurous development as a continuation of the previous formal session, and the collection of Pirate portraits produced today presented some pretty scary characters. A motley crew of Sea Dogs and Bucko’s if ever there was one. Blackbeard, Long John Silver, Captain Pugwash, Jack Sparrow and Johnny Kidd would have been proud of ’em! Avast ye, me Hearties!

 

 

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Image making workshops at Dogsthorpe Junior School

– Landscape & Seascape

22 & 23.5.14

A couple of days working with children from year 4 at Dogsthorpe Junior School, Peterborough, to generate some ‘Landscape’ and ‘Seascape’ images following an invitation from Head Teacher Charlotte Krzanicki. The first day was spent using charcoal, the second chalk pastel.

I met with three groups of 30 children each day and sessions took a similar format, I displayed a couple of my own charcoal and chalk pastel drawings in the room so that the children could identify a comparison with my regular working practise and I also worked alongside them to produce a drawing too while they made theirs. We began by making an initial investigation and exploration of working with the medium which was followed by the production of a more finished drawing as a conclusion. However, although each group received the same introduction their end piece was a different subject.

In my own working practise as a painter I often produce interpretations of the work of others which I refer to as ‘Souvenirs’, a term stolen from Hercules Brabazon Brabazon, a nineteenth century artist who produced some wonderful watercolours of paintings he had seen and admired. The concluding piece for each group therefore was to produce a variation on the work of a Master, however rather than showing an illustration of a painting and making a slavish copy I described a scene and asked them to picture it in their mind before we worked together to make our interpretation of it.

Working on a board which they could all see at the front of the class to produce my own version I suggested a series of stages in which the drawing could be constructed. We drew a portion of the composition, followed by another, until the sections pieced together into a picture. The children were totally oblivious of the painting they were creating or its title until it was finished, and after their teacher had searched for it on the internet it was revealed to be shown to them at the end which made for an interesting comparison.

Day 1 had a ‘Landscape’ theme and the painting I selected for the first class was ‘Christina’s World‘ by Andrew Wyeth, for the second one of the many compositions of ‘Mont Sainte-Victoire‘ by Paul Cezanne and ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows‘ by John Constable for the afternoon group.

The theme for Day 2 was ‘Seascape’, with the first group producing a variation of ‘Snow Storm; Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth‘ and the second ‘Peace – Burial At Sea‘, both by JMW Turner, with the afternoon group tackling ‘The Cliff, Etretat, Sunset‘ by Claude Monet.

All the children made brave attempts with their image making and some successful images emerged. Unfortunately I didn’t photograph the children’s work so the examples illustrated here are the images I produced while leading each of the groups…………..

Nevertheless, these sunset images after Monet were all produced by the children and are a selection from the last group of the day. Considering it was a Friday afternoon and the last session before breaking up for half term, I think they produced some pretty breathtaking drawings!

Image making workshops at Newark Hill Primary

19.3.14

Perhaps my last session in the classroom with my year 6 group at NHPS and this week our approach took a different tack, with design playing the central role.

I began the workshop by showing a selection of images on my MacBook of the drawings produced during the past few weeks, then I asked the children to imagine these drawings on a completely different scale. Rather than 30cm x 42cm, to think of them being 30′ x 42′. Next I suggested they should consider these previously drawn images as the basic ingredients for a design which would be reproduced on a monumental scale, as a mural. To help them envisage this process I showed some examples of my own work; scribbled ideas in pencil for mural projects which were then modified, revamped and refined using colour, followed by an illustration of the end product.

Using pencils and pencil crayons the challenge today was to produce ideas for a basic composition for a mural which would be painted to celebrate the school becoming an academy. It was not intended that the mural would necessarily be based on the design of one child but that elements suggested by the group as a whole would be recomposed to form the final painting.

A very loose and energetic approach was encouraged, the emphasis being the production of ideas rather than accurate drawing. Likewise colour was applied in the same liberal manner. Speed was key in order to stimulate a quick rather than laboured thought process.

In a perfect world the painting would be completed in time to be unveiled on the actual date when the school will become Newark Hill Academy, on 1st April, however an outdoor project has several factors to take into account, especially at this time of the year. A very wet period has delayed preparation of the wall and recent mild weather was much needed in order that the foundation priming coat could be applied to a dry surface. Conditions for working outdoors in Spring are hit and miss, but I would prefer the painting stage of the project to be an enjoyable experience for the children. Even with this recent relatively settled spell one can be lulled into a false sense of security. My mother would say, ‘March – in like a lamb, will roar out like a lion!’ and like many old sayings she recounts, they often ring true. The weather has the final word, so a delay to the preferred completion date is understandable.

Regardless, the subject for the painting has been successfully explored in a number of workshops over the past few weeks, and the children have suggested elements to be included in the layout. We have not reached the end yet, but the end has a start.

The actual painting may not have begun but if the children had their own mural, they would look like this…………….

…………..and I have used their drawings to develop a design for the final composition…………….

SLATER-NHA drawing white

Image making workshops at Newark Hill Primary

12.3.14

To bring my charcoal & chalk pastel workshops at NHPS to some sort of conclusion, this morning the group used the whole session to work on the same drawing. An owl in flight was our subject again. There is a good reason why I have repeated this theme and it will be revealed to the group next week. Time has been an issue in previous sessions and it was interesting to see whether the extra time would benefit or be detrimental to their work.

I’m often asked how I decide when a painting of my own is finished and it’s a difficult one, however I certainly know when I’ve killed it. It’s important to push the envelope, to move an image around to get the best one can out of it, but it’s easy to be tempted to go too far and then it’s a matter of repairing the damage. With digital work the ‘undo’ button can be a lifesaver, and sometimes I wish this facility was available with oil paint. Today, on the whole, I think the group took advantage of the extra time although it’s interesting to compare the images at break with the final results.

Break time…………

Full time…………..

The children employed many of the techniques explored during the past few weeks of image making and I feel the results show them moving forward very quickly. The work is adventurous and inventive. Some particularly good images have been achieved, particularly for children still in year 6.

‘A Mad Tea-Party’ at Titchmarsh School
– The Workshops

6.3.14

The title doesn’t quite work but I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity of including a song by The Jam on my ‘Blog Title Soundtracks‘ page.

At the end of January I was invited to a meeting with Executive Head Josie Milton and Year 3&4 Classteacher Lorna Denholm to discuss plans for World Book Day, and beyond, and I was looking forward to leading some drawing workshops at Titchmarsh School again. Yesterday, after a couple of days of preparation, I arrived armed and ready for another busy day and the children, as on previous occasions, worked with the energy and enthusiasm I’ve now come to expect from this very good school.

Alice in WonderladI carried my treasured copy of ‘Alice in Wonderland‘ by Lewis Carroll under my arm. It once belonged to my Dad, a book he won as a prize when he was a child. He loved the story, as do I, and the surreal storyline I’ve no doubt will be popular for many years to come. It describes such a curious world where the oddest things can happen. It therefore came as no surprise at all to be met at Reception by Eeyore and to be then taken to a classroom where the teacher was a Cat in a Hat.

The children were dressed as a veritable collection of characters from Harry Potter, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Superman, Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia, Winnie the Pooh, Treasure Island, Where’s Wally? and a host of other popular books for children. Had I been more prepared I could have disguised myself as Charlie Small‘s eccentric art daubing uncle.

The subject of my workshop was the opening lines of Chapter VII of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ‘A Mad Tea-Party’.

There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it: a Dormouse was sitting between them fast asleep, and the other two were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and talking over its head. “Very uncomfortable for the Dormouse,” thought Alice; “only, as it’s asleep, I suppose it doesn’t mind.”

The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: “No room! No room!” they cried out when they saw Alice coming.

“There’s plenty of room!” said Alice, indignantly, and she sat down in a large armchair at one end of the table.

“Have some wine,” the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.

Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. “I don’t see any wine,” she remarked.

“There isn’t any,” said the March Hare.

Using a combination of pastels and charcoal, five groups visited my ‘studio’ in the school hall during the course of the day to produce interpretations of the characters and ingredients within the scene.

Rather than different year groups, the children were divided into their ‘Houses’, each one comprising of 16-18 children ranging from the youngest in the school to the year 4’s.

Following an introduction to the medium, each group then created an image relating to an element within the passage, the last group of the day producing two. The sessions lasted about 45 minutes and some very successful pieces were produced.

My TA for the day was the Cat in the Hat, Lorna Denholm, who was a star. Thanks Lorna, I couldn’t have done it without you!

Here are a selection of the outcomes from each of the workshops. Stage One of ‘A Mad Tea-Party at Titchmarsh School’ is complete. Stage Two follows next month.

Workshop 1 ‘Under a tree’

Workshop 2 ‘There was nothing on the table but tea’

Workshop 3 ‘The Hatter’

Workshop 4 ‘Alice’

Workshop 5 ‘The March Hare’ & ‘Tea Party Cakes’

For pics of the children in action, take a look at the Titchmarsh School Blog

Image making workshops at Newark Hill Primary

5.3.14

DSCF7244

A two week break since my last visit to NHPS, so the priority with today’s session was to pick up momentum again. Not exactly a ‘Mess Around’ but definitely a constructive one in which invention and investigation played a major part.

As with any medium I’d always encourage mark making exercises first in order to examine its capabilities and today the group continued working with chalk pastel, this time however employed as a painting medium. The introduction of water created new opportunities and alternatives which contrasted with effects explored previously when using the medium dry.

It was applied dry to wet paper, and wet on dry paper. Pastel as a powder, as a solution, drizzled and spattered, applied with brushes as well as with a damp paper towel, and using a small container of water as a bath, marbling effects were created. A day of experiment, of trial and error, but much was learned – and it was fun too!

Image making workshops at Newark Hill Primary

12.2.14

Week 3 at NHPS and rather than present more of my own work I showed a selection of images on the screen of my MacBook, examples of charcoal drawings by David Bomberg, Frank Auerbach, Dennis Creffield and Darren Fraser, and chalk pastels by Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, Degas, Whistler, Munch and Len Tabner.

The session was divided into two parts to build on the skills and working practises accumulated and established during the previous workshops. The first exercise was to develop a positive interpretation of an owl in flight…………………

………………..then to repeat the exercise as a dynamic negative.

Using the owl as a silhouette my instruction was to employ the medium to emphasise the fluttering movement and speed of a moving, predatory creature.

The second part of the workshop was to work with chalk pastel and produce a drawing using a photographic resource. The strategy however was the same, that marks made suggested the movement of an active and animated hunter on the wing.

Despite the group working at speed, as they were encouraged, unfortunately more time was needed to reach a more satisfying conclusion. Nevertheless the groundwork has been laid. Perhaps these drawings could be revisited when we meet again.

Image making workshops at Newark Hill Primary

5.2.14

My second week at NHPS and the medium used today was chalk pastel however we began by making some observations of the charcoal workshop, reflecting upon the successful and the not so successful aspects of the previous week’s session.

SLATER-Guardi    SLATER-Seabirds

Again I brought some of my own work to show to the group. Last week I presented images with a theme of water, a charcoal ‘Souvenir’ drawing of Francesco Guardi ‘Venice: The Punta della Dogana’  and an oil painting of a sea storm witnessed from the beach at Salthouse, North Norfolk – ‘Seabirds Riding High’.

SLATER-Ruisdael    SLATER-Craignish

This week I brought a couple of chalk pastel drawings which also had a theme of water. Another ‘Souvenir’, after Ruisdael’s ‘Extensive Landscape with a ruined Castle and a Church’ and a landscape drawn on the shoreline of Loch Craignish – ‘Foreshore with clouds drifting in’.

My introduction pointed out the similarities with charcoal, and the work process began with mark making exercises to learn the characteristics of the medium before repeating the technical drawing of a three sided cube.

One of the key features of the session was the importance of discipline with regard to the approach to the drawings produced and of the work environment, both chalk pastel and charcoal have the tendency to spread beyond the paper surface. In spite of that the working practise was not restricted, the activity promoted energetic mark making actions as well as sensitivity, and the results were expressive and adventurous.

The final piece built upon the ‘wide eyed & motionless’ owl portrait of last week, this time allowing texture and invention with colour to play a prominent role. Some of the results displayed real character and personality:

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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