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‘The BFG’ Image making workshops at Warmington School

9.3.15

A different musical choice to add to my Blog Title Soundtracks page, but perhaps not a surprise to anyone who knows me either. I’ve always admired Fred Astaire, he was a class act.

The song title selection however couldn’t be more appropriate. It’s been another day of drawing workshops at Warmington School leading a group of year 3&4 children this morning, followed by a group from years 1&2 this afternoon, and once again some very successful pieces of work have been produced.

Both groups definitely had their listening ears on. I began each session with a short talk as an introduction to portrait painting and they appeared to enjoy the images presented to them of work by Leonardo Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Graham Sutherland and William Dobell before moving into the arena of caricature, discussing works by Honoré Daumier, Max Beerbohm, Gerald Scarfe, Marco Calcinaro, Sebastian Krüger and Patrick Strogulski. Feeling suitably inspired, we then settled down to some practical work.

The first exercise was to produce a portrait drawing, loosely based upon a measurement system devised by Da Vinci, to analyse the proportions of the human head. Using pencil on an A4 sheet of paper this was a very disciplined exercise which demanded a high level of concentration as drawings were constructed upon a carefully drawn grid.

However this was simply the appetiser for the main course as the next drawing was about to prove. As a complete contrast to the preliminary exercise, the emphasis now was to allow distortion of features to become a priority in order to produce an illustration of a character from a book by Roald Dahl.

First I read some passages from ‘The BFG’ which described the main cast members; Sophie – a young girl who is “kidsnatched” from her bedroom at the orphanage where she lives; The BFG himself – a kind, gentle giant who can be found every night blowing good dreams through the bedroom windows of sleeping children; and the nine scary giants in Giant Country who are about twice as tall and wide as the BFG, and a lot more horrible – The Bonecruncher, The Fleshlumpeater, The Bloodbottler, The Childchewer, The Meatdripper, The Gizzardgulper, The Maidmasher, The Manhugger and The Butcher Boy.

Chalk pastel was used for this exercise and my intention is now to select the most successful drawings and incorporate them into a mural which will be painted in the library at Titchmarsh School later in the week. As can be seen from the examples below, I have several very worthy contenders to choose from………..

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Warmington School/Titchmarsh Primary ‘Monet’ Mural

21.11.14

Four years on from Black Sunday and what better way to celebrate my recovery than by spending the anniversary painting a mural and participating in another ‘Sharing Day’ with Warmington and Titchmarsh Schools. This time there was a French theme, with the children coming together to experience a day filled with a variety of activities, one of which being to work with me to paint another mural. This was our third mural collaboration, having joined forces last year to produce a celebration ‘Unity’ mural and a few months ago to create a very large ‘Mad Tea Party’.

Earlier in the week I had given a presentation of ‘The Story of Impressionism’ and led some drawing workshops, both in the classroom as well as en plein air. Josie Milton, Executive Head, suggested Claude Monet as the subject of our mural on this occasion, in particular the large water lily paintings produced toward the end of his life which formed the monumental Grand Decorations series now housed at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.

Claude Monet Studio 5With this being the centenary year of the outbreak of the Great War the subject seemed very appropriate. Monet painted the Water Lily Pond at his garden in Giverny as well as the Weeping Willows repeatedly during the war years, employing the latter as the motif as an homage to the fallen French soldiers. After the horror of the First World War, the purpose of the Grand Decorations series was to encourage the visitor to gaze in endless contemplation. Monet wanted his work to take on a poetic dimension and provide a haven for peaceful meditation. Our mural was intended to act in a similar fashion in the school, to be seen as a meaningful and thought provoking image, but also to commemorate the anniversary of this event.

The object was not to paint a slavish reproduction of a Monet painting but to enjoy the Impressionist technique of applying pure colour in an active and spontaneous manner, and to create a landscape which is constantly moving. The structure of our composition was loosely based upon ‘Le Matin aux saules’ and ‘Le Matin clair aux saules’, but includes influences of other paintings within the Grand Decorations too.

It was a very enjoyable day with energetic mark making and daubs aplenty, regardless of the age group involved. Within the confined area of the corridor not all of the children in each group could work with me at the same time, so I devised a second activity to take place in the Main Hall. During the course of the day the children had not only participated with the painting of the mural located in the corridor leading to the Main Hall but had also contributed to a separate composite image produced on paper too.

Monet explained that ‘Landscape is nothing but an impression, and an instantaneous one’, and this project certainly followed that example. The painting measures approx. 92″x196″ and was produced in a very short space of time, one day was spent with all the children making painterly marks and I spent another working alone to bring the painting to a conclusion.

photo 3

The end result is a not a copy of a Monet, it’s a painting inspired and influenced by Monet. I’d like to think that if he saw us working, that it brought a smile to his face and that upon completion he’d give our ‘Nymphéas’ a nod of approval and a thumbs up too!

Image making workshops at Warmington & Titchmarsh Schools

17 & 18.11.14

Not the most accurate of weather forecasts. It wasn’t really very cold and both days began by being misty and dull, however the sun did shine brightly during the afternoon session of the first day and made a fleeting visit on the second. Nevertheless, this slight exaggeration of the truth is still a good excuse to include the Foo Fighters on my Blog Title Soundtracks page.

This week I have returned to work with children at Warmington and Titchmarsh Schools following a invitation from Executive Head Josie Milton. I was asked to give an art history/appreciation talk using the Impressionists as my subject, lead some drawing workshops and to paint a mural during a French themed week.

I met with two groups at each of the schools, years 3&4 during the morning sessions and years 1&2 in the afternoon at Warmington school on the first day, with a similar timetable at Titchmarsh School on the second. The schools would amalgamate at the end of the week to participate in a ‘Unity Day’ when we would paint another mural together. So watch this space to see how it turned out.

After my short talk about ‘The Story of Impressionism’, to which all of the groups listened very well and even contributed by asking several questions, I invited the children to work with me en plein air. First we made a small ‘sketchpad’ by folding an A4 piece of paper to A7 so that it would fit in the palm of the hand, and after some preliminary advice in the classroom about ‘taking a line for a walk’ using an HB pencil, we bravely ventured outside. A collection of small drawings were produced, accompanied by descriptive words which might trigger and reignite memories and sensations at a later date.

Titchmarsh Church

With this being a new experience of drawing outside the classroom, as well as it being the third week of November, our time was naturally determined by the temperature, however all of the groups made some very successful notations which involved careful looking and a high level of concentration. The year 3&4 groups walked a short distance to work at nearby churches, the Church of St Mary for the Warmington group with a different Church of St Mary for the Titchmarsh group, while the Year 1&2 groups worked on their respective school fields and play area.

Returning to the warm and controlled conditions of our ‘Studio’, we then worked together to produce a more finished version of one of our outdoor scribblings on a larger scale. Some good drawings were produced as a result and hopefully the working method I introduced might even encourage personal and individual work in the future. The note taking process was so simple and unfussy, and illustrated that the act of drawing is comparable to keeping a diary, and can be just as private.

As usual, I was far too preoccupied to take any photographs on either day, so many thanks Josie, Cathy, Mikayla, Lorna and Gill for taking these:

Warmington Year 3&4

Warmington Year 1&2

Titchmarsh Year 3&4

Titchmarsh Year 1&2

Titchmarsh Primary/Warmington School

‘Sharing Day’ Mural

18.10.13

‘I wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch and we’re putting it out for dinner’

The words of John Lennon, and the story, as he told it, about how the song ‘Instant Karma’ was produced. It’s slightly inaccurate. It was written and recorded in a single day, Tuesday 27 January 1970, but not actually released until 13 days later however this detail is irrelevant.

The point he was making was to stress the speed achieved within a working timeframe from concept to realisation. An improvised idea was developed and manipulated, then embellished into a finished item which retained the energy and spontaneity with which it was produced. He successfully captured a moment in time as compelling today as the day it was written. Although it is not always the case, sometimes the best results can be achieved when working with impulse and allowing serendipity to play its part.

Once upon a time, in a world long ago, I worked in a design office. The name above the door, ‘Fast Art Fast Print’, reflected the nature of the activity inside the building. The nature of the job was to produce good quality design into print, and quickly. To steal a well known advertising slogan, it did exactly what it said on the tin. They were good days and the first time I’d worked in a graphic environment. The design process was alien to me, I was on a very steep learning curve but soon recognised the demands of the commercial world, and it has influenced my working method ever since.

My aforementioned graphic background and the ever-present influence of Lennon, as well as my previous experience of such large scale painting, was worth its weight in gold with this ‘Bigger Picture’ project. I received a ‘late notice’ email to ask if I was available and if I would like to be involved. The next day a telephone conversation outlined details for the ‘Sharing Day’ project and the following day painting began. Not exactly ‘Designed at Breakfast, Painting by Lunch and Finished for Dinner’ – but it came pretty close.

The mural was completed in two working days. Six different groups of children, arriving at 40 minute intervals, played their part on the first day; some worked with felt pens on paper with a view to creating a large graphic picture, others used stencils and painted directly onto the wall with their fingers. My role initially was as adviser and guide in order that the basic composition took shape, then as artist to complete the image, tidy and clarify previously painted marks as appropriate and to include some lettering.

The finished painting is a success as a co-operative project and works as an illustration of a particularly special day on the school calendar. On Friday 18th October, Titchmarsh Primary and Warmington School joined together to engage in a ‘Sharing Day’ involving Painting, Poetry, Science, Music, Numeracy and Physical activities. The mural is certainly a reflection of the energy, enthusiasm, exuberance and effort of that fast paced day. A moment in time, captured in paint. Instant Karma? I’d say.

SLATER-MondayPMMonday – PM

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