Thursday, 28 January 2016

Miss Baines

The first slide of my PowerPoint

Today I went to Brookhurst Primary school in Wirral, Merseyside to give a presentation about Art to a class of Year 3 children. I was exceptionally nervous, as I hadn’t done anything of the sort before but the usual Artist who gives these annual presentations for the Art segment of the school year was unfortunately ill, so I was asked by a family member (the teacher) to do it instead. It was an overall charming challenge to conjure up a presentation that would be suitable for that age group and ensure their attention, delight and inspire them whilst keeping it educational.

 I prepared a PowerPoint presentation including photographs of my work and some of the basic principles of the Artistic process followed by a mini lecture on Jackson Pollock. The decision to use Pollock as my artist profile for the children came from my being engrossed in researching the Abstract Expressionism movement after attending the Blind Spots exhibition at the Tate Modern gallery in the Albert Dock late last year with University. I thought Pollock would be an interesting contrast to the usual artists children study at that particular Key Stage and one of the main points I wanted to get across to them was that art comes in many forms, as well as the principle of ‘mistakes can be useful’. I also wanted to get them involved and produce some work of their own and thought that all the sloshing and splashing involved in a Pollock-inspired piece would be endless fun for young artists.

 All traces of nerves were swiftly vaporised after my second slide where I went through some of the career paths one could take down the artistic route and the eager hands shot up to ask me a continuous assortment of questions. They were really engaging and the overall experience was mutually inspiring.

 I won’t dwell too much on the details of what was said but we covered many things, including the different types of paints, canvases and types of paper, artistic techniques and even Surrealism. The children reacted incredibly positively to my every word. It was so humbling when Janet (the teacher) said that it was time for break and they all let out a moan of grief and I had a little crowd of excited faces talking at me about their own art work and running to show me paintings and drawings they had done.

 After break we did some paintings inspired by Pollock. Going through the tables helping them and showing them techniques I observed that many of them were thoroughly enjoying the process, however some of them couldn’t quite understand the concept of ‘not painting anything’; just painting and one boy just painted a park scene instead. Some of the work that was produced was outstanding to say the least.

 For the children that were confused or discouraged by not having a subject, I pulled up an example of fellow Abstract Expressionist Willem De Kooning’s work and explained that you can still have a subject when producing work ‘with feelings’ (as my simplified explanation of Abstract Expressionism) but the point was that art doesn’t always have to look ‘photographic’.

We finished with a lot of paint splattered children, and I asked them what they had learnt today. The responses were heart-warming: ‘that mistakes can be good’, ‘it’s ok not to be perfect’, ‘to never throw away work’, ‘art can be anything’ and about Jackson Pollock. It was just what I wanted them to come away with; that imperfections can make a piece, that although as artists we can be cruelly self-critical never to throw away a piece of work, and that art doesn’t just mean realist paintings or sculpture.

 I asked for a raise of hands of who enjoyed themselves today and every one reached for the sky in an instant. That followed by a last wave of questions where I was overjoyed to hear them say that I had inspired them to do more art work, to become an artist and that I was ‘the best artist they had ever met’. Some of the children said they wanted to do me some paintings and send them to me through the post, and were beyond excited when I said I would definitely be coming back to do more work with them in the future. 

Upon returning home I received a text from Janet, who is actually my step-mum (that was hilariously difficult to keep secret when I was talking about my family in response to a question and when the children kept shouting ‘Miss Baines’) saying that one of the children exclaimed to her parents that they'd had “the best day I’ve ever had”.

 That experience today is what inspired me to keep a blog, as talking in a school about art was one of the most enriching experiences I have ever had as an Artist and is most definitely something I would love to have the opportunity to do again. I came out of that school full of motivation and a renewed outlook on how much art actually means to me.

Note: Photos of the Children's work and my presentation to soon follow

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