I’ve avoided having an easel in my studio so far. It depends what kind of work you are doing, but when I first got the space, I wanted to be free to experiment, to make a mess, to be unrestricted. I like to be able to crouch beside the work, to move around it, to pin stuff up and take it down. Having floor space means space to work bigger and freer, to try out a combination of mediums.
I saw this same joy in the children this week when, by chance, the tables had been removed from the room we use for art and storytelling. This meant space to work bigger and bolder, to try out new ideas. It was entirely natural for them to spread out, alone or in small groups and begin creating with very little prompting from me. I am there to suggest, to oversee, to offer encouragement. To provide safe boundaries and make sure they have the materials. I try to say YES to their ideas, or if something isn’t possible, to find an alternative. We have our central story and characters to fall back on for ideas, but this has expanded into the children’s own stories in mini books they are illustrating.
One boy likes to stand on a chair and tell us an installment of his own story each week. Before the end of the session, everyone gets a chance to share with the group what they have been working on. Most of the group have come back term after term, and there is a comradeship, a familiarity they can fall into. Each term someone may leave, and someone new comes bringing fresh ideas and inspiration.
This week, one boy squeezed out paint combinations, and made these ‘portals’ by rotating a plate on top of the paint.
The after-school story-telling and art sessions have evolved into the children writing their own story in weekly installments that I type up and read back to them the following week. They still listen to folk or creation tales from different cultures each week, and these tend to inspire elements of their own story.
Week one, they decided on the characters and a general outline of the story with the Working title of ‘Miss Ira and her Army of Hyphrans’. All the children had different ideas, so it was a challenge refining them down into a workable plot.
To help with this, I encouraged them to draw the characters and to write their ideas on ‘scrolls’ that could be put on the wall and referred back to during the term.
Boy transforming into a hyphran monster after being injected with the serum.
Characters from the story: The evil Miss Ira, notes about a hyphran monster, a magic boomerang. Lily, the magic stone, the twins Larry and Lara, and Jack.
This week, two girls created a wonderful map of the places where the story is set, including the school where the evil headmistress plots to steal the children’s souls and turn them into hyphrans, the eco-village where the main characters live, adventure playground with portal to the other world. Some of the boys added characters, pets, a hyphran monster and the shed where the twins Larry and Lara carry out their experiments.
Some stunning paintings in response to two stories from Africa today: ‘Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky’ – a Nigerian folktale, and ‘The Lion’s Whisker’ – an Ethiopian Folktale.
Elements by Jim age 9
African landscape by Paddy, age 9
Camouflaged Lion by Iolo, age 6
Sun by Paddy, age 9
Witch Doctor by George, age 7
Witch Doctor Dance by Jim, age 9
Elements II by Jim age 9
African Landscape By George, age 7
Lion, by George; Winged Lion with Horn by Paddy, Mask by Paddy, Compound of Sun and Moon for the Water by George, Sun and Water by Iolo.
Some wonderful interpretations of Welsh and Chinese folk tales on our latest course looking at stories and art from around the world.
The Lady of the Lake with a piece of cheese by Paddy, 9
Apocalypse by Fletcher, 10
Milk Fish by Jim, 9
2000 Yers Laiter??? by Fletcher, 10
When the Nian Monster came by Flo, 9
For the last week of this five week cycle of storytelling and art from around the world, we travelled to Russia to hear about the enigmatic Baba Yaga. She is a many-faceted figure, variously seen as a Moon, Death, Winter, Earth Goddess, totemic matriarchal ancestress, female initiator, or archetypal image.
After discussing some of Baba Yaga’s traits: iron teeth, lives in a house that walks around on chicken legs, sails through the sky in a mortar yielding a pestle, the children listened to one of the many tales involving Baba Yaga: Vasilisa the Brave. It exhibits Baba Yaga’s ambiguous nature – scary, yet wise, and the choices of a girl who triumphs through courage and perseverance.
Below is a selection of the wonderful illustrations of Baba Yaga by children on the course. I’m always amazed at the detail, personality and energy of these drawings that the children do without hesitating as they listen to the stories.
Vasilisa’s magic doll by Lily.
Children’s Storytelling and Art Course, Week four. The children were interested in the concept of having two heads after hearing the Indian folktale about a bird with two heads that can’t agree. They drew pictures of themselves with the head of something or someone they would or would not like to be attached to and we discussed story ideas around what it would be like to sleep/go to school/get dressed etc.
Some responses to the story of the birth of Ganesha, and how he got his elephant head.
Some other Gods, Goddesses, and a demon created using an inverted stencil as a starting point.