Wednesday, 1 April 2015



The Corbie, such a good poem and such a great subject.  I love crow images, so full of life and movement.  The children appreciate the sinister qualities that the bird represents.  It's also a great way to learn the words of the poem.

I like to use words in a piece of artwork, and sometimes do so in my own work.  I think that is a natural thing for a child, they use a mixture of words and images to express themselves from an early age, and are used to books having complementary illustrations along side stories.  In this case we used the words of "The Corbie" poem and sounds that the crows made as a background and texture for the drawing of the bird.

We used thick and thin black felt tipped pens  for the written work. (Berol are the best)  The children are allowed to ignore all the rules of writing.  You can imagine how well that goes down with the pupils, and unpopular with their class teacher I become!  By ignoring spacing, the rules of capital letters and even spelling to the children are able to keep the words flowing and create texture and pattern. The contrast between thick  and thin lines and large and small words start to create a  sense of distance too. 

The qualities of the felt pens allow the children to create shadowy trees, by painting wet tree shapes the ink from the pens and the water blend together to make spooky grey silhouettes.  (one to remember for Halloween)   

The class then created a crow shaped stencil (tricky cutting) and using soft drawing pencils the scribbled through the opening.  It is important that the pupils do not outline the shape of the crow but let the ends of the pencil texture define the edge of the shape.  Encourage the pupils to make the pencil lines follow the directions of the feathers.

We also added yellow beaks and beady eyes to create a vocal point.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015


Some of my class teachers still have a fear of getting the paints out.  Who can blame them, who wants paint all over the maths jotters and have to face the wrath of the angry cleaner who is trying to scrub the paint from the table without the use of chemicals.  But I love paint days and so do the pupils.  This series of lessons were done to revisit all the type of paint techniques that they may, or may not, have visited before.  It soon becomes much more than that.


Each school is different and I just work with what they have, but generally I try and set up at least 5 different activity areas.  Paint + either brushes of different sizes, simple printing blocks, rollers, bubble wrap (my old favourite), sponges etc. Also, the available paper, (A4 is generally big enough and should be various colours and tones.  The trick is to limit each area to one activity, eg one type of brush and two colours.  The pupils really have to work hard to exploit the possibilities of the combinations.  Make sure you limit the paint to a few colours + white to avoid the production of brown ( another lesson!)  

Be aware!  You need to be prepared for the children to produce many pieces of work!  organise the drying and make sure that every piece of paper is named.

Language can also play a part in this lesson.  The children can consider the experience as a series of "ing" words.  It's a really worthwhile exercise.

In another lesson the pupils will create a pile of circles of various sizes and arrange them, concentrically in different sizes.  We looked at the work of Hundertwasser for inspiration.

Some children added lollypop tree trunks to the finished work

Some of the classes brought in pizza boxes that we painted to arrange the circles on, this gives an extra dimension and elevates the finished piece into a "canvas".

I have also used the painted paper sheets to create African masks. 

So come on!  Get the paints out!  Its worth it.  You will produce so much more than just a mess.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

POST IT portraits

With a car still half full of post it notes, we set about using them to create self portraits.  We took photographs of the pupils pulling faces.  This was to remove all the facial symbols that the children would usually rely on when drawing a face and create interest and asymmetry The students divided photographs of themselves and copied them on to the notes, using pens or pencils and using all the skills that the had gained in previous exercises.  

It's not a new lesson I have seen it done before.  But it really works so well and gives the children such confidence at a crucial time in their artistic and intellectual development .
It still amazes me to think that these children have achieved such a high standard of draftsmanship at such a young age. 

Some fun was had with some of the spare pieces too!

And some of the younger classes recreated another masterpiece, would Van Gogh have been proud too?

More POST IT drawings

We then started working with a number of post it notes with groups of curved lines like little rainbows or "nobows" as the children were calling them because of the lack of colour.   

Sometimes we added the post it notes to a larger piece of paper and extended the lines creating linear patterns and helping the children with their pen control and allowing them to express their own designs.

Some classes wanted to try and "join" their pieces together on the wall and of course some pupils got their "rainbow"!

Even the younger classes got something from this lesson, black felt just can't beat them!  Sometimes I find it hard to use anything else.  


I spent far too much of my Summer holidays worrying about what angle my drawing programme should take in the new term.  8 schools, 21 classes, 575 pupils = a lot of equipment to resource and travel around with.  So my big idea need a small scale.  Post it notes, pencils and pens!  

The pupils were delighted to have small bits of paper to work on, and enthusiastically developed different textures, tones and patterns.
Some classes used pencils others biro pens. 
The idea was to display them in a block of 4 and I thought the slightly temporariness of the display would be quite appealing and a bit different.  Classroom environments are not always conducive to the sticky qualities of a post it.  Its always best to add glue!   I regularly came in to school to a snow storm of post it notes all around the room.