Through the student ambassador role, I applied to work alongside a creative writing lecturer to deliver a two-day workshop based around the Imbolc festival to the year 5 children of Marsden Junior School. It was a fantastic experience which gave me an insight not only to working with this age group but also how to put a picture book together as a collaboration. It was interesting to hear about how the story would be planned and broken down across the twelve spreads. Obviously, this was simplified for the target audience and the children were asked to create a book which consisted of six pages, a front cover and a back cover.
Some participants of the biennial Imbolc festival arrived in full costume and performed a dance between the green man and jack frost. The children were asked about the story and from this they were asked to come up with their own. It did not have to directly relate to the story of Imbolc. We covered creating the protagonist, considering an antagonist, the problem, the drama, the twist, and the solution. I helped with the character building and talked through and problems the children were facing with their story. At the end of the first session they had a six page plan, their character card for their protagonist and were equipped with the knowledge of what they had to consider so they could go away and write their stories ready for the next session.
For the second session, I was asked to deliver a ten minute demonstration of what to consider when designing a book cover and Sara was asked to do the same regarding the blurb on the back. I broke my delivery down to some key elements; simple design, don’t overcrowd and don’t give too much away; use of colour, what it says and what it does; type, leave room for it within the design. I used other picture books to reinforce what I was saying and asked questions to keep the children engaged.
The children were very keen to be hands on in this session and their hard work and enthusiasm was notable. There were a couple of children that were dragging their heels and distracting others but once they had created something of their own they were proud. I noticed how one of the boys was extremely anxious about his drawings, I spent some time with him to help him and to try to break down the idea that things have to look exactly like whatever it is you are drawing. I went through the picture books available to show him how the characters did not look realistic and his drawings were fine as they were.
I came away from the sessions wanting to engage more with this age range and I will make contact with schools once I leave the MA. I do realise that schools are struggling with their budgets at the moment, but after various conversations with people about their children wanting to be involved in more art in their schools or hearing that some teachers don’t deliver art classes, I do think it’s important to make contacts to try to help with this.
Today we held fifteen minute presentations to our peer groups talking through our practice from Practice 1 through to Practice 3. After each presentation we talked our way through the Learning Outcomes to mark ourselves against a traffic light system; Green= working well and are on track; Amber= room for improvement across certain aspects of your practice; Red= there are aspects of concern and need to be addressed over the rest of the unit.
Across the learning outcomes I was marked between green and amber to acknowledge that I was aware that I need to push on with certain areas. I found the feedback interesting. I understand where my work sits and could sit, what it could be seen as and used for, and that I have different aspects to my practice. In relation to demonstrating a coherent body of work, it was suggested again to play with more materials and think about convenience. If I am creating an editorial piece I would not have time to work with clay, at least not to the point of considered ceramics, alternative material could be economical. Again, as one of the ceramic technicians mentioned, the question arose of why I have to follow the ceramic process while making my figures and sculptures if they are purely for display. Why do I have to take my sculptures to the kiln; can I not have materials protruding from the clay; do I have to use underglazes? The truth is, I don’t, I could take advantage of not being a ceramicist and work to the way that suit the needs of my work. Although I do enjoy making the sculptures and would like to invest in a kiln, this could be something that is put aside until after the MA. I wanted to take advantage of the equipment and the knowledge of the ceramic technicians throughout my course but I do see how this could limit the potential of my work if I keep concentrating on the process and rules.
I spoke of how I was worrying that I am spending a lot of time engaging with activities through the University such as the homework Club, workshop assistant roles, applying to exhibit, and establishing connections with peers and tutors who are working or interested in similar subject matter or processes. I believed that this was taking me away from pushing on with my visual language. My peers drew the conclusion that my work and involvement in these projects all connects to my interest and empathy with people and this is a fundamental part of my practice. I should consider this as a role I offer, be it a facilitator to art workshops for children and adults, working with the community to provide art therapy, working with people in regard to communicating their experience, or, providing a connection between people. I have always been dismissive of my role as a hairdresser, however, I can see how this connects with my role as an artist and illustrator due to my connection with people. My peer used the term Visual Anthropologist. This highlighted a contradiction in my personality, I have a desire and an artistic need to connect with people, but I have to be alone to create my work.
I determine myself as an Illustrator yet I am aware that my practice has allowed me to take different paths. This may be due to lack of a better term for myself and it is something to ponder over the duration of the year. I am an illustrator; an artist; a visual communicator; a facilitator; a provocateur. Am I usuing Illustrator as a conveniet umberella?
Going forward I will prioritise my experimentation and scale and set myself deadlines. I need to use my time more efficiently and this may lessen my anxiety if I see myself achieving small targets.