Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Sketchbook Library Beginnings...

As mentioned in this post, I'm in the process of building up a new Art library for the students' use here at our Learner Centre. To complement the published books in the library, I've decided to also include a sketchbook section. This will feature completed sketchbooks submitted by a variety of creative friends, many of whom are practicing professional artists. The inspiration for this came from the fabulous archiving of sketchbooks at the Brooklyn Art Library.

I've had some submissions for the project already and thought I'd share some sneak previews of the sketchbooks I've received!







Tuesday, 11 July 2017

End of Year, Fly Festival and Debs Newbold

We're so close to finishing this school year now and our Year 11s are preparing to move on. We're also welcoming a group of new younger students to Red Balloon and starting to get a feel for what our learning community will be like come the autumn.

Last year we marked the end of the summer term by spending almost a full week at the University of East Anglia's excellent Fly festival. Though we haven't made it to as many events at this year's Fly, we have managed to take in a few of them.

One of the standout sessions this year was Debs Newbold's amazing one woman performance of Shakespeare's King Lear. I was particularly impressed by her expressive energy and dynamic movement - not to mention the almost conversational manner in which she re-told Shakespeare's story. As I had my sketchbook to hand, I made a few scribbly drawings as she performed.




Wednesday, 5 July 2017

New Art Books!

Our Learner Centre recently received a generous donation, which has allowed us to develop our library facilities. This means we now have a far wider range of books than previously, and were also able to purchase some Kindles for the English department. Most excitingly (for me, anyway!) I was given a budget to order some new reference books for the Art room.




















Though I've only had them for a few days, some of them have already been useful. For example, Barney Saltzberg's classic Beautiful Oops! has provided delight to students and staff alike. People have also been enamoured with Bimba Landmann's exquisite use of unconventional materials in I am Marc Chagall,





















I also ordered a number of books from Taschen, some on specific artists (Kahlo, Ofili, Miro) and some on particular styles (Pop Art, Portrait Illustration).






















My next project is to further build up my Art room bookshelves with a mini version of the Brooklyn Art Library. I've already got a number of creative friends working on this project. Expect a blog post soon!


Friday, 26 May 2017

Clay Head Grotesques

This session began with an exploration of the 'grotesque' in art work from various medias. Students looked at images and artefacts from Hieronymus Bosch, Diane Arbus and Kris Kuksi. These pieces led to lively discussions about what the idea of grotesque might actually mean. Young people quickly came to  realise that 'ugliness' and 'beauty' aren't quite as opposite as we sometimes think.

A practical activity involving air dry clay was then introduced. The images below are some of the artefacts that were created.




Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Totem Poles

Totem Poles are created by many of the North American native tribes, and are usually situated close to the homes of prominent families. They often serve  the purpose of telling a visual family history through symbolism, shape, markings and colour. They possess a striking visual presence and people of all cultures and background can respond very strongly to them.

I often use totem poles as a prompt for educational and therapeutic activity. They can provide great insight into the ways of an ancient but still active culture.As a discussion point, they seldom fail to get people talking about what the various symbols might mean. When people are given the opportunity to create their own totem pole, they often create highly distinct, powerful, intriguing artefacts.

The following pieces were made from air dry clay and painted in tempera.







Friday, 28 April 2017

Jeannie Baker Landscapes

A few years ago my Sister-in-Law bought me a particularly beautiful and thought-provoking picture book called Window by Jeannie Baker. The book explores themes of urbanization, the passage of time and environmentalism through some elaborately constructed collaged landscapes.

I re-discovered this book recently and was moved to carry out a lesson on it. Students used wall paper, painted paper and magazine cuts outs to create their Jeannie Baker inspired landscapes.























Other Mixed Media Musings landscape projects...

Folk Art Landscapes

Hundertwasser Decorative Landscapes

Summer Day and Winter Night

Forest Dwellings

Salvador Dali Dream Landscape

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Guest Lecture at UEA

I was invited back to speak at the University of East Anglia today, having given a guest lecture there a year ago. I spoke to the Education undergraduates on the subject of creative education in a non-mainstream setting. They were a very engaged group and had a lot of questions for me - so many that I stayed at the University for longer than I initially intended. I asked that the students participate in a practical exercise, which they responded really well to. The activity led to some really interesting discussions about the nature of creativity and its place in education.

Here's a few photos from the lecture.





Thursday, 16 March 2017

Mark Ryden Figures

My current crop of students continue to work hard on the 'Weird and Wonderful' project. Following on from recent lessons on Tim Burton and Maurice Sendak, students have begun to create work inspired by the 'pop surrealist' painter Mark Ryden.

Ryden is known for paintings that blend the cute and cherubic with the macabre and sinister. Though he works on a flat surface in oil paint, I wanted my students to experiment with creating some Ryden inspired figures using Model Magic air drying clay.

The following pieces were created in this material, left to dry for an hour or two, and then painted in tempera paint.





Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Tim Burton Inspired Scratch Art

Tim Burton's illustrations often read like a more gothic version of Dr. Seuss. One of the units I teach at Red Balloon is on the theme of 'Weird and Wonderful' and Burton is always a popular choice for students to take inspiration from. In previous years I've always asked students to create Burton inspired art work using pen and ink but this year I thought we'd try out something new.

Below are some Tim Burton inspired illustrations created using scratchboards. I think the bright, almost psychedelic colours really pop out from the areas of black space. This use of wild colour to create the lines really takes the Burton-inspired work in a new direction.





















Other lessons which I regularly use when delivering the 'Weird and Wonderful' theme are;

Giant Exquisite Corpses
Salvador Dali Dream Landscape
Max Ernst Surrealist Collage
Fantasy Creatures

Monday, 6 March 2017

Abstract Soap Carvings

Carving into soap is a fun, clean and gentle introduction to working in three dimensions. Many of the young people I work with are resistant to working in clay; they often find it rather messy and frustrating to work in. With these students in mind, I started to look around for some other three dimensional materials that are low cost and accessible. My research led me to carving soap, a medium I'd never worked in before.

As the process of soap carving requires access to sharp cutting equipment, young people should be closely supervised throughout this activity.

When a student is presented with a block of soap and a variety of differently shaped blades, they will quite naturally want to see what kind of marks, shapes and lines can be made in three dimensions. This gentle, exploratory process can lead to particularly exciting sculptural work as the photographs below testify.









































































If you're looking for other lessons using three dimensional materials, here's a few options for you.

Wild Things in Clay
One Piece at a Time Construction
Wire Mesh Heads
Organic Forms Clay Sculpture
Secret Diary Sculptures



Saturday, 28 January 2017

"...Made him King of all Wild Things"

Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are is one of the most loved picture books. It uses poetry and lavish illustration to tell the story of a young boy making peace with his animalistic side. The book reminds us all to attend to (and befriend) the more hidden aspects of our nature.

In this session, students worked in clay to create their own 'wild things.'  I chose clay as a medium as its robust physicality lends itself well to the creation of a personalised beastly creature.

We started the session with the book, taking some time to read through it and enjoy the pictures. Most students had come across the book before, but they gained a different appreciation of it through re-reading.

After reading through the book as a group, and discussing the themes of the story and the images, I introduced the artistic concept of anthropomophism. Students then considered where else they'd seen the combination of the animal and the human. We made links to the fantastical paintings of  Heironymus Bosch and the soft sculptures of  Claes Oldenburg.

Students then set to work and created their own clay Wild Things!








Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Lines from Letters - Creating a Logo

In this session, students took the initials of their name or a favourite catchphrase and twisted the lines and shapes of the letters around until they formed an abstract composition. They then simplified and further experimented with the lines until they formed an image resembling a corporate logo. Once they were happy with the design, student's redrew the image at a much larger size and coloured with tempera paint.

This session works really well as a way or learning about line, or can be used alongside this lesson as part of a unit on graphic design or word art.