Sue Goddard and I will be running this course at Llanover Hall Arts Centre after half term. One of our themes will be exploring creation myths from many cultures with the children, encouraging them to create stories, poems, and images using printmaking and expressive drawing and collage.
I’m very excited to have been chosen to work as a creative practitioner in a local primary school as part of the Lead Creative Schools Scheme, an extensive five-year plan to embed the arts and creativity into the Welsh curriculum.
I and a fellow practitioner, Lowri will be working with a group of about twelve Year 2 learners to create a storytelling and outdoor art project, taking inspiration from the rich local history of the area surrounding the school. The artwork created in response to the stories will be installed in a small wooded area in the extensive school grounds.
Lowri, who grew up in the local area, and whose first language is Welsh, told us about the Tŷ unnos (one night house), an old Welsh tradition that claims if a person could build a house on common land in one night with a fire burning in the hearth by the following morning, the land then belonged to them as a freehold. The squatter could then extend the land around by the distance they could throw an axe from the four corners of the house. Old axe and spear heads were discovered in the back gardens of local houses, and as they can now be viewed in the National Museum in Cardiff, we considered taking the children on a field trip to inspire them for their stories and artwork.
One aspect of the artwork will involve making prints from the children’s stories – both monoprint and cyanotype – onto material which will be hung as an installation in the wooded area. Clay and willow may also be used to create structures and sculptures…who knows how things will develop and grow as the children become immersed in the tales…I’II be posting regular updates as the project unfolds.
‘Children are remarkable for their intelligence and ardour, for their curiosity, their intolerance of shames, the clarity and ruthlessness of their vision.’
— Aldous Huxley
We began the session drawing faces, practicing on tracing paper before transferring to the styrofoam. The children quickly got the hang of etching into it, creating wonderfully detailed characters.
They were excited about seeing the progression from their drawing to being able to pull multiple prints from their etchings, and were soon confident enough to go straight into etching out their ideas.
Next, the children chose a leaf from a selection collected in the park, and attempted to name the type of tree it was from. They chose from two coloured inks that I had rolled out, printing the leaves in their own designs to create a background.
Onto this background, styrofoam stamps that the children had drawn and carefully cut out were printed to create the finished pictures. Fantastic work!
This was a Cyanotype Drop-in Session I ran at Cardiff Print Workshop. After my short introduction about the history and process of cyanotype printmaking, participants experimented with a variety of objects and techniques to produce interesting, abstract photograms.
Automatic drawing or painting can be described as “expressing the subconscious” using any technique that eliminates conscious control and replaces it with chance. The basic techniques originate from spiritualism, practiced by artists such as Georgiana Houghton and Hilma Af Klint, both of whom have recently had their work exhibited in a revival of interest and appreciation of automatism and early abstraction.
Surrealists such as Andre Breton and Andre Masson, were keen to experiment with automatic drawing and promoted it as an art movement. By this time, ofcourse, psychologists of the unconscious had dismissed the idea of spirits speaking through the artist: it was the subliminal self that could express itself in ways that could lead to the development of real artistic genius. The new interpretive framework was now wholly secular and based on the insights of psychoanalysis, but the basic techniques were adopted from spiritualism.
Whichever way you wish to interpret it, drawing randomly without rational control is a good way to avoid inihibitions that freeze the flow of creativity. It is a way to bypass the ‘I can’t draw’ mentality a lot of people develop when the natural artistic confidence of childhood is abandoned.
Making simple marks and considering the relationships between them bypasses jugement by the logical brain about what is “good” or “accurate.” It opens the doorway to the intuition, allows the emotions to be engaged, and allows enjoyment of the pure physical experience of artmaking.
Some of my experiments:
One of Georgiana Houghton’s spirit drawings – The Eye of the Lord (1 Sept 1870), and Joan Miro – Preparations for Birds, detail, 1963.