Saturday, 30 October 2010
Jackie Morris asked me yesterday what was the best thing about my week-in-residence at the National Gallery in London. The answer was easy. Despite the fantastic colleagues, the glorious surroundings and the world-famous art, it was the children who made every day so memorable. There were so many lovely little characters, and as always, it was a joy to see even the shyest child create something satisfying.
A few children gave me their pictures as gifts; and a few "preliminary sketches" were left behind too, so I am posting some pictures here, along with some biro drawings of me and Katie (with Madame Moitssier - apologies to Ingres) by Amelia.
Even at the final workshop - which was for adults - there were children squeezing into the (jam-packed) room. It was a real delight to learn that a family from the British School in Paris was amongst them. And all grown-up, a girl from Tacolneston school who I worked with when she was just a tiny little child also came. I also met a charming young student of Journalism, with a particular interest in the Arts, called Steve Peiris.
Other days brought other surprises: the second prize winner of the Nessie competition, Gareth, came along on the Thursday and joined in the fun. And Kathryn, who I went to school with and who I haven't seen for 30 years turned up one day...(I forget which - it's all a blur!).
Of course the object of the excercise has been to excite young minds about art, and my sincere hope is these children will always look upon those paintings in the National Gallery as their paintings. Everytime they see a postcard or a reproduction in a book, they will remember the day they created "Storms Seas and Sunsets", like Mr. Turner!
It's been an extraordinary week, only made possible by the hard work of all the people behind the scenes at Orchard Books (Fritha, Sarah, Emma, Liz) and the National Gallery (Miranda, Katy, Emma and Hannah). Thanks a million!
Thursday, 28 October 2010
Today was the last children's workshop at the National Gallery, and it rushed by so quickly. I still have the adult workshop tomorrow, but I'm going to be sad when this week is over. I've met some wonderful people, revived old friendships, and seen the glow of inspiration in the happy faces of, literally, hundreds of children.
Alongside my events, the gallery have hosted workshops by an organisation called Artburst, who mix up art, stories and drama, to create wonderful workshops for children. To tie in with the week, they have used Katie's Picture Show, in particular the Rousseau painting "A Tropical Storm with a Tiger" (or, "Surprised!").
The children created scenery and acted out a mini version of the book. It was rather stange and wonderful - and, appropriately, surprising - to be able see the performances, and indeed to eavesdrop on the reading of my book in the gallery. It feels like all this is happening to someone else, not me. I am very grateful to everyone who has worked with and around me, preparing the week and supporting Katie. It's been an unforgettable experience...
I love the way children draw and paint but even taking that into account I've been blown away by the extraordinary work children have been creating this half term at the National Gallery. Definitely a great new generation of artists coming our way, and what lucky children to take part in these free workshops at the National Gallery in London!
The younger children began by looking at the paintings of Turner and, after making some sketches actually in the gallery, they went to the education department for a chance to do something more painterly (and messy!). They've all thrown themselves into it with absolute abandonment, creating gorgeous and unexpected twists on the idea of "painting weather". Some few pictures are posted here - the days have been so busy, there's been barely time to pause and grab a camera. But what great days they have been - filled with stories and fun and art. Their pictures were created with emulsion paint - ideal for Turner with the subtle and muted colours.
The older children (12-17) also started with Turner, and took up the idea of bringing things into more focus; imagining they could climb inside. With the story of Ulysses and the Cyclops (inspired by Turner's painting of Ulysses deriding Polyphemus), they took their Turneresque sketches and expanded them ("drawing out the elements" as the workshop was called; a reference also to the weather in the pictures). In this instance, the children used more illustrative materials: pens and watercolours, preceeded by pencil sketches in the gallery. It was interesting to note how much more self-conscious teenagers are and how soon a child loses that ability to be reckless and experimental. But I think they had fun too (even if it was uncool to admit it!). Last workshop for children today, then an event on friday for adults. A busy busy week, but what an honour to be working in such a magnificent building!
Sunday, 24 October 2010
Tomorrow I go to the National Gallery in London to set up everything ready for four days of workshops there during this half term. I am so excited!
A couple of weeks ago, outside the gallery on the "fourth plinth", was a beautiful ship in a bottle. As the theme of the workshops is the paintings of Turner, this struck me as a good omen...
These workshops are all FREE so come along if you have bored children this half term. I promise we are going to have lots of fun with messy paint!
Full details cane be found on the National Gallery website, by clicking HERE and following the Holiday Activities links.
Hope to see you there!
Friday, 22 October 2010
After a week or so with Tonsillitis, I am at last getting around to posting more about the Katie celebrations in Paris. The area of the Seine was popular with many impressionist paintings and it was lovely that the local authories had had the sense to put reproductions of relevent pictures at the correct spots along the river bank.
Obviously with this sort of heritage it was appropriate for the children and I to work on something impressionistic. You can see some pictures here which will give you some idea of what went on. The year 3 children worked on a vast (and I do mean VAST) picture inspired by Van Gogh, which was around 9 metres long (in just two hours!). We combined the Starry Night with sunflowes and a cornfield painting, and the children did a fabulous job. After lunch the year 6 children combined two Monet paintings of the Grenouillere (see previous posting below).This was slightly smaller but still spectacular. The effects of the water are particularly pleasing. I had such a busy but exciting and satisfying couple of days, and it's a real thrill to think that a something has remained behind there!
Meanwhile I have also been busy with Ella Bella events. You can read about those HERE.
Thursday, 7 October 2010
Yesterday I returned from an exhilarating trip to Paris, where I had been invited to speak at The British School of Paris. The trip was so easy and enjoyable I'm rather embarrassed to admit that I have never been to Paris before. What a city!
The simply wonderful librarian Janee, and her generous and warm family, scooped me up from the station and immediately whisked me down the Seine on a boat cruise to see the sights, of which, of course, there are rather a lot! With my head reeling with landmarks...Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Opera Garnier (Oh how I wanted to go inside!), Musee d'Orsay etc, etc... they then took me to the most wonderful restaurant. But that needs a post to itself (which will follow!).
The purpose of the trip was really to work. And so on October 4th, their dynamic young head, Jamie Hornshaw, showed me the spectacular new junior school, opened just a few weeks ago by the Duchess of Gloucester. It is built to the West of Paris along the banks of the Seine, at the very region where Monet painted La Grenouillere and other scenes, along with his Impressionist colleagues. I felt very honoured to be the first artist to visit the new school and to work with the children. And it all seemed extraordinarily appropriate.
It was also the perfect spot to celebrate the publication of Katie and Waterlily Pond (which features that painting), and I am overwhelmed by the welcome I received at the school. Truly an unforgettable few days.
The school arranged sessions with all 400 plus children... so it was a busy couple of days. But perhaps the most exciting moment was when a large anniversary cake was revealed, with Katie painted on the icing, with the words "Happy 21st Anniversary". Most extraordinary of all was that, by pure chance, this was October 4th, my sister's birthday. And as anyone interested in Katie surely knows, my sister Kate is the original. She was at home nursing a cold, so was greatly cheered by the news that the entire Junior department of the British School of Paris were saluting her by singing Happy Birthday to You, twice. Once in English; once in French.
I felt extremely honoured to be there and I am so grateful to everyone for an unforgettable few days. More will follow!