Hay Festival

Where to begin? Initiating children’s workshops has been part of my journey during my degree, trying things in the safety zone as a ‘student’ to work out which direction I want to take myself. Alongside school workshops and library projects, I singlehandedly ran some highly successful pop up workshops at Queens wood Countryside Centre in summer 2015, attended by over 700 children and their families.  So when I was approached by the most supportive ex-tutor and now Festival team member about running workshops at Hay Festival I didn’t hesitate – I knew under her guidance I would be safe, protected, looked after, supported and free to make creative choices true to me. As I was embarking on final major project, I knew the only way to make this work was to integrate them. So at the back of my mind was Hay in everything that happened for FMP and how I could translate my project into tangible activities on a large scale.

I was given some overarching themes and then free reign to create activities. Based on my knowledge of family dynamics and my observations at previous workshops and previous attendance at the festival as a parent, I wanted to create a new environment where families could create together rather than adults socialising whilst the children ‘got on ‘ with the activities. The emphasis being on creative confidence (just like the creativity book for FMP), but by extending this to adults I hoped to offer a family creative space.

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So for each of the themed days I devised loosly structured activities for older children, another for younger children and a messy activity. I also created a family area which deliberatly wasn’t supervised by the team of staff (who were designated to the structured areas instead). This family area was filled with boxes full of stuff, all recycled, nothing specific, just stuff to make stuff – no pressure on outcomes, no set activity – just the loose theme of the day if they needed a starting point. For those needing to warm up their creative juices I sent them to start on a structured activity first and soon witnessed them migrating back to the family area to work on new creations. The parents were free to play without judgement, the children were engrossed in their projects and seeing families working as a team was a joy.

Never was this more apparent than on Nature Day when we built Bug City.

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We covered Journeys, Printing, Caputs, Listening Sticks, Birds, Book Arts, Nature, Music and ended on a Junk Modelling day. The feedback throughout the course of the week was overwhelming and the hugs and thank yous from the children at the end of the festival was just delightful.

Listening Sticks

Someone to tell your stories to.  Made by me for children and by children for themselves (as a workshop). Based on Guatemalan Worry Dolls but without the ‘worry’, these Listening Sticks are created to be used as a tool for mindfulness, meditation, calming, reflecting and resolving – they love to hear about happy adventures, anecdotes, big stuff, little stuff, important stuff, mundane stuff and everything in between.

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As part of my primary and secondary research, I took the listening sticks and creativity pad/pod into a local school during their SATS for four afternoons as a mutually beneficial exercise – to allow me to see how the book would function, how I could tweak it and how the activity could run as a workshop but also to give the children some time away from their tests – a bit of art as relaxation.

The sessions went incredibly well and the children enjoyed time in the pod, relaxing, thinking, doodling and generally having a great excuse to be young again.  The listening sticks were a huge success and after seeking approval and updating relevant risk assessments I was able to work with a old fashioned hand drill on the last day to allow the children to mount their sticks onto wooden blocks ready for exhibition.  I was also impressed with the level of engagement by the children with Caputs (my creatures found in the everyday world around us), they went off on Caput treasure hunts and drew some beautiful examples from around school and even bought some in from home. I was delighted with the outcomes and have included a couple of my favourites in my RVJ.  It was useful to see the book and mindfulness colouring being productively used and I was able to make a few changes to the text to change closed questions to open ones to allow for more discussion and opportunities for creative thought to evolve.  The school gave the workshops a lovely write up in their newsletter and parents were invited in to school to see the Listening Stick Exhibition.

Having trialled this activity at the school, I felt confident to undertake this activity on a large scale and programmed one of the 10 days managing Hay Festival Make and Take tent to making Listening Sticks with the children. I prepared over 250 white painted sticks and approx 50 reserve unfinished sticks (we used every single one!). The day was a huge success and the younger children helped prepare for the graduation show by painting, splatting and mark making on supersized sticks.

We had hats, scarves, dresses and even the cast of Harry Potter made an appearance (genius!).

I was even able to talk about the Listening Sticks to BBC Country file,  it may simply end up on the cutting room floor but just to have the experience of being filmed is one to add to my armery of bravery skills.

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My favourite story to date is the Headteacher of the local school (to whom I gave a listening stick at the start of this project) receiving a knock at her door from a Year 2 child (who had made a stick with me during a play date) – the child said that his stick wanted to talk to her stick – and so a new alliance was born! Beautiful.

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Final Major Project (FMP)

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There. Ive said it out loud so it’s official. I am now focussing on FMP. The culmination of 4 years at HCA and the best opportunity I will have in my life to showcase myself. No pressure then…

I always suspected my FMP would be a picture book but my journey over the last few years has led me to childrens workshops and rekindled my passion for education, which I abandoned first time round for many reasons – all relating back to confidence in myself.

My focus has shifted to activity books and more specifically creativity books. Having just submitted a dissertation looking at meaning making in childrens art and the reasons they loose their creative confidence when they get to 7-8, I already have a very specific target audience and having a 6 year old and a soon to be 8 year old at home as ‘guinea pigs’, I feel well equipped to tackle this project full on and immerse myself in it for the next 3 months and beyond.

Project Brief Template FMP

Being mindful of achieving a balance between something aesthetically pleasing for grown ups and attention grabbing for children is a priority and I keep coming back to the idea of Collections.  It was, by far my favourite module – so I have knowledge and experience to draw on and I am confident that collections will make the book both user friendly and visually interesting.  I also feel that by incorporating ideas for projects and having examples as a ‘collection’ alongside I can draw on my dissertation research in giving children practical examples but leave the way clear for their own interpretations.  There is also scope for younger children to use the book as an educational tool (How many Guatemalan Worry Dolls have red hats, Can you count the creatures on this page etc).

My initial practical research looks a little like this, looking for ideas in the things we do already…

Pattern making, plate portraits, drawing fruit, playing with rocks – all lend themselves to collections.

Day one of ‘playing’ with ideas went like this…

Colour, collections, circles feature strongly and I always feel the image has to do/be something else – something to cut out, a toy or a useful/practical object. Trying to steer myself towards collage rather than screenprint, purely because of being able to tackle it in my own studio rather than relying on college – which, as I recall was difficult last year with everyone wanting the workshops to complete their FMP’s. No one does collage like Mark Hearld so I studied his work in the best way I know how, by copying it.

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Work in progress, with nothing stuck down. I looked at MH use of backgrounds,  of textures, of the use of ink over papers to tie the image together. I stood back at the end of the day and realised if I wanted to work in this way (and the amount of papers I have collected over the course tells me that I do) I needed to rejig the studio. I had a huge board balanced precariously across the desk and ‘stuff’ everywhere – bomb site, fire hazard, absolute chaos. To continue my experimenting I needed to set up my space efficiently.

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I couldn’t bear to take a ‘before’ image (such a tip!), so settled on an ‘after’ shot through the back window. Studio is small but functional and now has three workstations in a triangle rather than just the one on the desk, this now means I can create experimental collages, one ‘proper’ one and one ‘just for fun’ whilst still being able to transfer the pieces to another image for sticking if needs be. A technique I learnt about whilst on Portfolio, but one that has been with me since – it’s usually the one you have to ‘play’ with that yields results – amazing what can happen when the pressure is off. Next on the list was a trip to the Hive. This week’s reading material consists of the following…

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Marion Deuchars, in particular is relevent to what I am trying to achieve – her book Draw, Paint and Print like the Great Artists had some exciting projects, which I could see drew parallels with what I was trying to achieve.  As a mother of two as well as an artist she has  astutely constructed projects for older children (Amazon states 8-12) with a sense of conversation, of journeying together and not patronising the audience. Many of the ideas are not new but they are presented in an interesting and contemporary way and collectively have impact. Having had a slight disagreement over the age range this book targetted, I went to the Amazon page to clarify and was interested to read the book reviews which were primarily positive, many stated that the adults wanted the book for themselves and were able to engage with it too.

Anorak, Okido, Aquilia and Whizz Bang Pop together with countless off the shelf magazines also contain many activities and opportunities for creativity and having collected them all since my children were young, in anticipation of such a project I felt it was finally time to go through the immense collection and draw out useful pages and disregarding the rest – this approach I felt would help springboard ideas and focus my direction – it would also be a useful way to welcome in a new era by clearing out a backlog of research material, refining it and noting my progression.

So, after many evenings spent sorting, the two massive boxes of childrens magazines and activity books were finally whittled down to just one folder – sorted into activities, articles and collage material. My next challenge was to work through the activities to see why I liked them, why I felt they were appropriate and how I could adapt them to suit my own project. Many of the activities are presented in my RVJ and I have also presented them on Instagram

Instagram record of creativity activity idea development

Whilst looking through these activities, I was struck by my own sense of what would work and what wouldn’t and my conviction surprised me.  As confidence in my own ideas has always been a struggle, I was relieved and encouraged by my optimism and realised that the time I have spent over the last couple of years working with children, running workshops, planning Art Club activities, leading classroom projects, ensuring my own children have access to interesting and unusal activities and generally immersing myself in all things relating to childrens creativity had served me well.  I was able to speculate on what would and wouldn’t work – but more importantly I was able to justify why.  Whilst this isnt always easy to communicate articulately under pressure, it is easy to demonstrate here, on my Instagram page and in my RVJ.

I have a very distinct view of what makes a Creativity book rather than an Activity book – and this is fundamental to what I am trying to achieve.  Generally activity books are designed to keep children ‘busy’ and reinforce their learning in school (ie. word searches, mazes, spot the difference, dot-to-dot), there is usually a definite right or wrong outcome and there isnt much room for lateral or creative thinking. Creativity books on the other hand offer scope for deeper thinking, for unique outcomes, for starting points to other things.  They aren’t designed to keep a child’s mind ‘busy’, they are designed to open a childs mind and allow for creativity in their own unique way.

This leads me to reflect on my dissertation and the confidence a child looses when they are 7+, which is usually reinforced by adults who impose their own views of representation and undermine the work of the child.  Many children never recover from this, leading to the familiar cry of older children (and countless adults) of ‘I can’t draw.  So what skills do children need to gain creative confidence? What concepts do they need to understand to help them navigate this difficult time and help them overcome the negative (often well meaning) comments that stiffle them.

Pinterest Board with various avenues of research

The ‘big ideas’ which would help children to understand can be condensed as follows:

  1. Empathy (putting yourself in someone else’s shoes)
  2. Serendipity (happy accidents)
  3. Collaboration (working with others)
  4. Culture (the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves)
  5. Creative Confidence (feeling good about your own ideas)

My own children have understood these words from a very young age (Harry was able to say and understand the meaning of serendipity when he was just 3) and whilst the explanations are simplified, the concepts are big.  Whenever I go into a classroom I always start with explaining to the children what collaboration means (after first having a discussion with them to see if they have heard the word before). I explain how fortunate I am to be able to work with them.  I don’t just say we are working together, I say that working together to produce something is called collaborating and then reinforce that by using the word throughout the project – the children respond to this, they enjoy knowing a ‘big word’ and more importantly they enjoy knowing what it means and how to use it and appreciate that they are being talked to in a more adult way and not patronised.

Up to now I have been looking at content. How am I going to communicate this content? I started off by looking at collage as my medium but am drawn back to screenprint due to its simplicity, its aesthetic and my familiarity with it.  Having mixed a number of binders for my last module, I was mindful of the fabric binders translucency compared to the opacity of the binder used for paper.  I decided to begin with some experimentation of my leftover pigments to see what textures could be achieved and whether the binders mixed/separated or muddied when combined.

The shapes were derived from Elise Gravel’s work, simple bold and easily identifiable for children.  Interestingly the translucent binders enabled me to layer on top of them – obviously I knew this was possible, but it occured to me this has a much more practical application – I can offer a ‘collection’ of images but also offer starting points for the children to draw on to – a creative invitation to see what may happen by using the translucent binders as a rough ‘outline’ for the child to work on top of.  The shapes themselves were also interesting in that there were alternatives, options, creative starting points – had I been preoccupied with specific shapes before I started, I would of missed this – I went into the Textile Room looking to see how binders reacted together and came away teeming with ideas for making the shapes work as starting points for creative activities (explored in RVJ).

Collections of shapes need room – going from left to right seems to imply ‘these are my ideas first – now do yours’.  What if I could work from the top down, so the space in front of the child is ‘theirs’ and my work simply serves as a useful reference for them if needed peripherally. What if they could work in such a way that others couldn’t see to judge them? What if they could envelop themselves in the activities? How could they do this if it was a book?

My RVJ explores all sorts of paper engineering projects for children, looking for ideas – but what if the paper engineering was an activity that involved the whole book? No fiddly cutting out, or tabs to fold – a simple structure that could be a theatre space, a garage, a home…a safe space…a pod…what happens if I scale it up?

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Ok, so its made out of flimsy paper rather than think card (or ply) at the moment but the dogs seem fascinated by it as do the children – they can sit in it, it can be reconfigured to various shapes and has secret panels for working on projects that children don’t want to share with the world just yet. In principle this is doable. An interactive book that opens up into a creative space. From a ‘pad’ (book) to a ‘pod’ (I like the digital reference – an anti-ipad!).

The only thing bothering me with a pitched roof was it turns more into a ‘playhouse’ rather than a ‘creativity pod’ and engineering issues means the whole structure is unstable as the apex makes the walls bow without a brace.

By giving it a flat roof, I gain stability and function – the children can still fit in it- and as the reconfiguration offers more choices with a flat roof, there is even room for them both. But what about light – its pretty dark in there!

I approached a couple of Tech Dems to talk though my idea and realised I could either integrate the construction into the design or make it as discrete as possible – by integrating it I would be making more of the structure and going down a more 3D route. Not wanting to overcomplicate the project and keeping it as illustrative as possible I decided to make the construction simple and discrete, allowing for durability, simplicity of use and maximum overall space for the artwork.

My preliminary studies with various maquettes has helped me enormously without having to part with lots of money to learn from my mistakes.

  1. The slits along the top work to throw light into the structure (but also conveniently double as a handle for when it is folded up in book format) but are extremely difficult to cut – especially in card.  We are lucky enough to have access to a laser cutter at college, which I have used for various projects recently, including De Koffie Pot menus – potentially I could get the card cut using the laser cutter to ensure accurate and precise alignment of the ‘windows’.
  2. The card adheres extremely well to the bookbinding tape using PVA glue (the only colour available in the college library was brown), I have now committed to an order of white.  I did consider other coloured options but as the tape is not double sided I felt I was prioritising one side of the book over the other – a neutral white is ideal for not making distinctions as to how the pod should be folded. By sandwiching the tape inbetween each side of the book, there is only a thin strip of it on show.
  3. There are some technical issues which, by using offcuts of thick plywood I was able to visually work out. The spacing required at each joint depended on how many pages folded at that specific point – to ensure it folds smoothly back into a concertina book after use as a pod this spacing needs to be very accurate to avoid being sloppy or hingebound.
  4. By having the top row of cards independant from each other I am able to configure the structure in many different ways, yet allow it to fold back on itself naturally.
  5. Mount card isnt thick enough for an A2 version, but by sandwiching the bookbinding tape between two layers, stability is good. For A4 version, mount card can be used one side and thick paper on the other (this gives potential for digital printing).

The next step is now await delivery of card and bookbinding tape ready to take to the laser cutter to cut a prototype. Whilst waiting delivery, the illustrations themselves need further consideration. But simple screenprinting taking inspiration from Helen Dardik, Marimekko and Louise Lockhart will be foremost in my mind as I develop the sketches for the activities.

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I shall be working on an A2 version of this pod for use at the Graduation Show as well as an A4 tabletop version for people to look at.  The individual activity pages will look like this – a collection of my designs at the top, gradually fading out to space for the child to experiment at the bottom. Using typography which is readable to a child but still aesthetically pleasing – the likes of Sara Fanelli and Oliver Jeffers spring immediately to mind – hand rendered and childlike.

The individual elements to be considered are:

  1. Front and back cover inside and out (should these actually resemble doors?)
  2. 4 x outside roof panels (these should be patterned rather than pictorial as they will be seen at different angles depending on configuration.
  3. 2 x mindfulness colouring panels (these will hide the secret panels) children rarely have difficulty sharing their colouring in, so this is an ideal ‘mask’ for their protected work.
  4. Creative confidence activity – warm up exercises to encourage mark making
  5. Empathy activity – involving thinking about facial expressions and body language
  6. Serendipity activity – using my shapes found in the world around us as a starting point for creatures, collection of my own followed by opportunity for children to create their own and also start looking in the world around them for more.
  7. Culture activity – listening sticks based on Guatemalan worry dolls.  Culture can be seen as the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves – these listening sticks are something to tell your stories to. They can be designed in the pod and made in the real world.
  8. Collaboration activity – Sonia Delauney circles – children and adults do not say they cant draw when dealing with pattern or abstract art – therefore this is a perfect activity for a child to do with a parent collaboratively.  This activity is on the outside of the pod, to allow the adult to participate and to respect the internal space as the childs personal domain.

To integrate this project further, I have the opportunity to present and run the activities at Hay Festival in the Make and Take Tent in May as well as at a local school as part of their Art Club.  I have been looking at all of the art activities in terms of a creativity book and their transferance to ‘real world’ activities which can be done in a workshop environment.

The mindfulness pages of the book will obviously be slightly different from the rest of the book as they will be outline, whereas the rest of the book will be block printed. My creatures lend themselves well to mindfulness colouring ( which is looked at in more detail in my RVJ).

Experimenting with this has led me to wonder about tailoring the characters to the upcoming events.  These are my Digraph characters, selected at random from a stock I have been collecting since starting this course and used as a starting point for this element of the book.  But what about doing a set of Hay characters – chosen from various places around the town – an Instagram tag could show people where they were found. HCA characters – a mindfulness colouring sheet of the creatures I have found at College Road and Folley Lane over the years would be a great way to mark the end of my time at the college.  This could lead to National Trust character sheets (I have hundreds from their properties), as well as individual places of interest – Avoncroft Museum is a goldmine of character shapes as is Ironbridge. In this instance, the ‘coloured in’ version could be screenprinted on the outside of the pod – unifying the project.

I have also arranged to visit my local primary school on the 10th April to talk to children from Years 3, 4  and 5 as a small focus group to see what they think of the book, the activities, the illustrations and the concept as a whole – so the next two weeks will be spent preparing the prototype for their scrutiny and getting to grips with the visual narrative that will form the basis of the external structure of the book. I also have a visit to Hay planned to photograph characters for the mindfulness pages (with my husband taking photos of me taking photos so their location can be uploaded using a specific hashtag to encourage digital interaction once they have been coloured in – for example there might be a brick pattern on the front of Booths Bookshop which becomes a character – I can take the close up and then its specific location can be identified by a distance photograph – this adds an unusual interactive element to a simple mindfulness colouring activity and engages families rather than individual children).

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Now I have finally got my head round the concept, the design and the layout – it is now time to bring all this together in the illustrations. Wanting a bright but limited palette (filters do not do justice to the colours here)- I have settled on tones which have a deep richness, using complimentary colours, blue and orange, magenta and green with yellow as an accent. Purples were too dark and lilacs to insipid. I felt this palette would appeal to children but not be ‘babyish’.  Louise Lockhart uses 3 colours, but overprints to create 5 – to great effect. I used 7 for my last project (including purple and red) but feel this smaller palette will work more effectively with my design.  By printing on coloured backgrounds on the outside, I hope to draw attention to my designs, but on the inside I intend to use a white background to reflect more light and to offer a better surface for children to add their own designs to.

Following a snowglobe disaster, I am having to redo some work (it bounced off a shelf whilst I was hammering holes into cutouts). But it’s an opportunity to redo the work in a more refined way.

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My desire to screenprint verses my desire to collage is still raging and I wonder whether collaging in a screenprint ‘style’ might be the answer I am looking for. I am reluctant to rely on screenprinting as I know it will be difficult to find the space to work quietly and unrushed in the run up to deadlines after Easter, especially as I have 16 reversable panels to deal with. There are also big cost implications going down this route and I’m not convinced it’s viable.

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With the Hay Treasure Hunt approved and under construction, I felt this would serve as a super promotional material and could form the basis of the reverse of my CV to introduce myself to the Hay Team.  Needing business cards too – I was concerned I wouldnt be able to get the images completed in time and would be leaving eveything to the last minute.  I decided the best way forward would be some studio photographs of my work which could form the basis of promotional work for the workshops (as this would be the main way I could generate income in the short-term, I felt this was the most effective route to concentrate on – especially for the Grad Show which would have a lot of school involvement). I could always reassess after deadline and reorder for New Designers for a different audience using the completed artwork.

 

I felt the group shot would serve well as a postcard – highlighting the workshop element of my work and as collections are always aesthetically pleasing to me – it felt like a great ‘fit’.

The listening sticks themselves could work as promotional products, in various sizes for various audiences so it would be useful to also have some mini business cards which could also act as labels to simply explain the concept.

 

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Alongside my mindfulness colouring sheets for my CV, business cards, mini cards, postcards, stickers and promo packs which could include actual sticks – I also looked as lots of alternative options.  Screenprinting onto bags was one that caught my eye and could be useful as a workshop handout.

I also looked into the pop up business cards – which would be amazing with the listening sticks but it was going to be too tricky to coordinate with such pressure on the laser cutter at this time of year – but its definitely one to look at again in furture.

As for a covering letter – I felt this was the most difficult aspect as I dont want to promote myself too much at the moment as I still have another year of PGCE to content with before I threw myself into marketing, so it felt slight futile preparing a covering letter for an unknown entity and each letter would be completely different dependent on whom I was addressing. I felt it best to focus on the CV and tangible elements.  But to comply with the grading criteria and submitting a covering letter – it would potentially read:

Dear (insert name of contact rather than Sir/Madam)

My name is Sarah Dean. I am an illustrator, specialising in education and engaging children in interactive illustration.   I thrive on turning my work into workshop activities to build children’s own creative confidence. I would love to work with you.

(The rest is dependant on whether Im talking to a publisher, a school, a funding source, an events organiser, a sponsor, an art director or someone commissioning my services)

Yours sincerely, Sarah Dean

This short introduction could be included in the elipse on the mindfulness colouring page – so when it is folded into a zine it reads as the front cover.

Moving back to the degree show itself and having bounced back and forth with collage and screenprint, I eventually concluded that the only way to do my work justice was to screenprint – but instead of UV, I would simplify my designs and use stencils.  This would keep the cost down, save resources (I wouldnt need as many screens) and allow me complete control over the process – having to wait for over a week for access to the print tables was a blow, but meant I was able to prepare well so that when I was in the workshop, I would be the most productive I could be.

The stencil process went well, by using newsprint I could create 4-5 identical templates at once which could be taped off as necessary for the different colour prints – whilst I could only get a limited run out of this process, I felt it was a reasonable compromise with the resources/facilities.

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The translucent binders worked beautifully to create green and orange with overprinting in yellow/blue/red.  Whilst there was a lot of time and thought involved in the preparations to ensure the stencils were accurate – I was able to maximise my time by bringing the screens home to prepare for the next days session – taping off the relevant areas whilst sat quietly at home, helped keep the stress levels to a minimum during this busy, busy time.

All the pages have now beeen photographed in the studio and the creativity pod submitted.  A smaller book version is in print ready for the show and final images will be released in June ready for the Graduation Show Exhibition.

Creative Classrooms

My preliminary aim is to introduce  a series of short briefs to create useful resources to back up workshops, classroom activities and using wider pedogogical theory and research to create interesting visuals to accompany the ever growing range of classroom activities I am involved in.

1. Art Club

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Helping out on an informal basis at a local Art Club was an absolute joy and whilst I was disappointed not to be able to help out every week, due to college commitments, I was around enough to start to see the benefits and scope that came with such activities. Even the limitations – primarily time constraints – which was useful for future planning. 45 minutes is not long – so each session required careful consideration and insight into clearing up times and an awareness of how long each activity could and should take. Fortunately the children involved were Key Stage 2, all wanting to be there and ready to get stuck in.  There is huge potential in such a club and I anticipate being hugely involved in such activities in the future, wherever I end up – and welcome the opportunity to find diverse, captivating and unusual projects for the children to use as a starting point for their own creative journeys.

2. Bookbinding and Front Covers

Not only did this activity give me an opportunity to get to grips with InDesign to create the pamphlet, it also helped me realise the importance of staying in control of self initiated projects.  This work formed part of a wider project and I wasnt able to be involved with the delivery of the workshop to create the inital content due to college commitments.  I felt the content and the book covers weren’t consistent and in future I will ensure that more workshop time is timetabled to ensure I can oversee the stages of a project to ensure the children get the maximum benefit from the project (clearly this only applies to my own projects and I need to adopt a flexible approach to working with 3rd parties and consider how I could of changed to adapt to the content which was provided). It boils down to my underlying ethos that the work should come directly from the children, which when looking only at outcomes can be difficult for adults not to intervene and bring their own expertise to it – for my own workshops I want the children to lead, the process to be more important than the outcome and for a pride in the ownership of the work to exist – which can only really be achieved if the children are in control.

3. Molas – Rainforest Topic

This project produced a range of outcomes which were diverse, completely original to each child and yet when assembled produced a vibrant and cohesive display (photo to follow). I was able to remain responsible for this from start to completion and ensure each child was fully accountable for their own outcomes. I could see how some found it easier working with stencils, some found collage with scissors challenging whilst some needed encouragement to see that tearing paper could be a viable option.

4. Creative Art Space – Reception Class (EYFS) – By running wreath making workshops with the children at a local village hall, alongside adults – I was able to encouage intergenerational learning and provide a fundraising solution for the Creative Art Space project. The wreaths were sold at the Xmas Fayre and nearly £100 was raised.  I was also able to involve the Art Club by getting them to create a huge banner for the fayre to adverise the wreaths for sale.

 

5. Revision to posters already created for portfolio  – using the feedback from trials in class

I anticipate each of these being a one-day brief, allowing me to create and run workshops for each, but the wider research impacting on my continued professional development and acting as a catalyst and prompt for future work.

Now that I have had time to reflect and review the above preliminary proposal for educational resources, I realise I am still not quite in the position to do so – having spent time revising for and successfully gaining a place on a PGCE at Worcester next year, I realise I have so much to learn about the curriculum for each year group before I can begin to create illustrative resources which would be meaningful and of value and relevant to classrooms (“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know”).

Therefore I have decided to still go ahead with my plan to research and develop one day projects to accompany the workshops I have been involved in, but rather than this being the overarching brief it will form part of a wider project – to document the workshops I have done to date.

Following out recent visit to London, which gave me lots of inspiration for new avenues, I was taken with the Map Exhibition which was on at the British Library and the activity book which I bought for my children based on Mapmaking in various forms.

Following this exhibition, I met up with fellow students at the Folio Agency where one piece of advice from them started the wheels turning.  “Have an illustrated map in your Portfolio – it shows you can draw people, animals and buildings as well as deal with typography.”

Slowly this idea has evolved into a workable plan – my biggest concern with doing the workshop resources were that they werent going to be sophisticated enough – each taking a day would not be sufficient to meet the grading criteria – and to get the level of detail I needed involved so much research into the curriculum to render them inpractical for this 7 week project.  But to make an illustrated map of the the workshops I have done to date acts as:

A. a reminder for me in the future of successful projects to build on to create illustrated resources appropriate to specific Topics/Modules/Key Stages and Assessment criteria once I am armed with the PGCE knoweldge – that is after all the whole point of me doing it!

B. provide me with a key portfolio piece (and in effect an illustated CV) which will showcase my recent projects

I think Paul Bommer would be a great place to start.

Following my research, it was time to start developing this ‘map’ into something tangible rather than a cluster of ideas in my head. Concerned my ideas were not sophisticated enough to fulfil the brief, I decided to start with what I was sure about and build from there. It was to be a map of Hereford. The easiest option would be to print this as a stencil but wanting to print a few copies meant it would be more practical to print as a UV for registration purposes.

The placement of the map itself would help guide the style for the rest of the piece. But what other information did I want to display? I used my research to help mock up the information.

For the Adrian Mole project I had begin my initial analysis of the book covers by copying them to help me really see what I was looking at, this approach had worked well so I dedided to adopt a similar approach here.  Tracing lots of styles and stances and expressions from a huge variety of sources helped me to see how much information is conveyed in such simple lines, David Roberts in particular has a real skill for conveying emotion and action in his characters.  The likes of Shirley Hughes are incredible artists, but I feel illustrators such as Oliver Jeffers and Jon Klassen are often overlooked but they convey so much with so little, which is an incredible skill.

I was able to see that Mizielinski’s layout in Maps was one I wanted to investigate and apply to my own map making, I enjoy the busy-ness in this work and for me this is one of the key features for my own practice. I also took inspiration from a trip to the Harry Potter Sudio in London where I saw a fascinating array of line drawings for set building and @Bristol where a Heath Robinson/Roland Emmet style drawing adorned the Reception area.

Having decided my map was of Hereford, would show my workshops and be full of ‘stuff’ I played around with a few different layouts. I knew the placement inside the map would be straightforward as I wanted the images that related to the workshops to be placed in their approximate geographical locations.

David Tazzyman’s simple, delightful illustrations inspired me and as one of my design proposals I took my self portrait linocut and turned it into a ‘Tazzyman’, thinking this could be incorporated into the map.  I quickly realised that whilst it was fun and worked as a stand alone piece, it wasnt going to be suitable for the map.

I was constantly drawn back to work from illustrators who incoroporate colour but also keep an element of uncoloured areas – David McKenzie being a prime example of this and having found a few of his books in the library I was drawn to this image of children packed round a table – it reminded me of my workshops and it made me think that my Hereford map outline wasnt dissimilar to this table – a creative table maybe?

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Following on from my last project, where I screenprinted 26 characters, I knew that this screenprint needed to be more organised in terms of colour separation and planning. I had difficulty working at such large scale last time, but really enjoyed the challenge and the outcome.  I decided to investigate the options available for each separation and settled on thick acetate sheets which would give me a degree of flexibility as to where I could work, their mobility and to minimise damage and movement.

I wanted the text to complement the piece but at such a large scale I didnt want it to overpower or in contrast, get lost.  I decided on an angular style as other styles scaled up just turned into ‘bubble writing’ and whilst I wanted to avoid digital text, prefering a hand rendered finish, I didnt want it to look like an advertising poster. I was very aware of the kerning of the letters to ensure they worked together and tried a variety of layouts and wording for maximum impact.

I decided against using the word ‘I’ in the poster.  My research has helped me see that I am not a ‘Sage on the Stage’, I am a ‘Guide on the Side’ and this approach gives me confidence as its not about me – it’s about the children.  It takes the pressure off to some extent as it removes my percieved inadequacies from the equation and concentrates on the amazingness of the children. But for this poster, using the word ‘YOU’ felt like a call to arms or an accusatory statement.  Instead I wanted it to be about collaboration and unity, so the word ‘WE’ felt the most appropriate.  In hindsight, the work WE could of been highlighted more to endorse this statement.

 

After moving all the elements round, thinking about balance, unity, rhythm and rule of thirds, I was happy to take my acetates to the print room.

I had used a permenant marker to draw on the acetate and knew I needed it to be darker, thinking the photocopier would be suitable, I copied the image onto acetate. But this thick A1 acetate was too dense and the background was too dark on the copies.  I learnt an expensive lesson to print onto paper first to check the quality and use the ‘bleed’ tool on the photocopier in its lightest background mode whilst having the density on its highest setting, this produces an acceptable quality for the UV machine. But it also warms the acetate and this expands it, so very fine work is extremely difficult to reproduce exactly on a large piece as the sections dont overlap precisely enough to be useable.  Instead opaque inks are required instead (Permopaque) on the original to eliminate the need for copying. A lengthy process for my separations, effectively doing them twice as well as wasting time and money at the copier.

But whilst they were piled up, I noticed the DKP project and this one could collide.

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I had four colour separations, the top layer being very detailed.  43 mesh was suitable for three layers and 120 was chosen for the finer detail for the top layer.  Such large screens needed a large washing and drying area and I needed to ensure the workshop was quiet as I would be taking up 4 tables.

Once the screens were coated, exposed, cleaned off and ready for printing (a few days of heavy work in itself), it was time to set up paper, mix the pigments and set up the repeat stops on the table bar to ensure accurate registration. 3 of the four layers went on beautifully…

But as I was working experimentally, I encountered a problem with the fourth and final layer. First attempt was too light – so I simply added more pigment to darken (I was working with translucent standard binders usually used on fabric, instead of the opaque binders usually associated with papers). To stop any bleeding I was using a small amount of thickener in my mix.  As I was working away quietly in the workshop, not wanting to disturb the tutorials which were happening over the other side of the room, I was washing my screens by hand instead of using the pressure washer.  I had done this before when it had broken last year without difficulty.

But no matter what was tried, the 4th layer simply wouldnt print.  We tried ironing the paper incase it was buckling and not making contact (many screenprinting tables use vacuum systems for perfect registration and contact), I tried changing the consistency of the pigment,  moved the paper to a hard surface to see if that was affecting it,  changed the squeegee blade to a round tip instead of a straight one.  Each attempt proved useless.  But by eliminating all those elements one by one, I was able to deduce it had to be the screen.  Could it be that after that first attempt (that was too light) that the screen had blocked when I cleaned it by hand (it looked clear but the thickener may be the culprit)? The others had been fine, but then they werent such a fine mesh, nor were they so detailed.

There was nothing for it but to expose a new screen and start again. Time now against me and other people needed to use the space that I had been occupying for so long, I was only able to do one more – but fortunately this one was successful and I had a portfolio piece. I do intend to go back and do another couple of prints when I have regained my strenth (its exhausting lifting, pulling, washing and registering!) as such a lot of time (and money) has gone into this project that I want to ensure I get the most out of it before the screens have to be washed off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penguin Brief – Adrian Mole Age 13 3/4

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What a perfect place to start, having not read the book since my own youth (dim and distant past..), this documentary was a perfect introduction to the phenomena that was Adrian Mole.  Dealing with the Thatcher years, raging hormones of adolescence and  the family break up, this ‘childrens book’ appealed to all – David Walliams says in the forward of the 30th Anniversary edition that “EVERYONE had read it, EVEN teenage boys who never read a book in their life had read it” – it really was extrodinary.

Re-reading the book has made me reflect on what I bought to this book first time round – I certainly didnt understand the irony.  I was going through a similar experience at the time with my parents divorcing and felt Adrian was turning what was for me, a very traumatic time, into something trivial. Rereading it as an adult I can appreciate it more with the benefit of hindsight and maturity.  I certainly understood his naivity first time, but now see it in the ironic context to which it is set rather than a simple statement of fact.

Having reviewed the covers, helpfully published on the Penguin website, I realise my starting points are all stereotypical and have been remashed before – exercise books, glasses, pimple cream, rulers and ‘I ❤ Pandora’ have all been covered. Therefore, I have decided to start by looking at the typography.

Here is my Facebook request.

PLEASE HELP! PARENT or TEACHER of TEENAGE BOYS – I am redesigning Adrian Mole as part of a college assignment and want to devise my own authentic typeface. Please could you PM me photo samples of boys handwritten school work (when they were between 13-14 years old) – doesnt matter what the content is (I may regret that!)- I just want to take elements of the letters to make up my own alphabet! MANY THANKS,Sarah xx As you can see I have the 3-7 years covered!

I am expecting a serendipitous encounter to set me off on this one….

By analysing variations of the front covers by copying them, I have understood various nuances which I may otherwise have missed. The original cover shows an interesting juxtaposition of Noddy toothbrush and razor – a nice metaphor for the teenage years – inbetween being a child and an adult.

 

Many of the covers focus on typeography but none look authentic, one variation looks to be aimed as a classroom text, one for female audience.  The example below seems to be published with its original, now ‘grown up’ readers buying a more sophisticated version for their book shelves.  The glasses seem to reference Harry Potter readership, perhaps trying to appeal to the same adult readers. Whilst all the other versions of the book note the Daily Mail’s quote on the front cover – this 30th Edition has a quote from the Observer – a telling adaptation for its proposed more liberal readership.

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The narrative voice of this book was original and unique in its day, but it has spawned many variations and to my mind has appealed to a much younger reader.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Tom Gates series can both be seen to have been distintly influenced by Adrian Mole.

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A few teenage fonts have been forthcoming and it is third one I have chosen to use.

The Sue Townsend documentary had the comment that, “You can open the book to any page and find a great quote”, the copy provided by Penguin gives a sample quote from the book for the back cover as well as a couple of quotes/reviews.  Having played around with using typeface alongside the handrendered type, maybe handrendered for direct quotes from the book and typeface for reviews might be sensible? But having read that you should limit the typefaces on a book cover to one or two, I feel it appropriate to just use the handrendered type, as being in a larger 50+ point as well as a small 14+, they look like two different types already, adding another just looks clumsy.

Having thrashed out design ideas in my sketchbook, my initial idea was to take a ‘list’ from the book and turn it into a cover.  These included Adrian’s Christmas shopping list, his camping Survivial Kit or his hospital stay essentials.

Working through some of these ideas in my sketchbook, creating a little zine of possible outcomes, I quickly realised that whilst this would make an interesting poster (something I am keen on exploring at the moment), it wouldn’t transfer down well to a book cover, esp as the design also needs to be suitable as a thumbnail for online images.  Many of the items in the lists were commercial products so I would also have copyright issues with reproducing them for an external brief.  I decided that my time on this project was better spent exploring layout and a more graphic approach to its solution.

Russian dolls come to mind when I think of this book, ever since seeing the original cover where the Noddy toothbrush is juxtaposed with the razor.  That inbetween-ness of adolescence.  Paul Wearing had done some interesting covers for Random House, using a similar brief he had contemporised some classic covers -one of which showed a print and a line drawing offset, this reminded me of the shadow of adulthood/childhood always there during the teenage years and this 3-stages-of youth.  I drew a very simple Russian doll and realised it looked like a keyhole – secrets- perfect.  But it also reminded me of a character from my childhood.  After a bit of research I realised it was Bod, made in 1975 and a very simple animation from my youth.  So this shape could be a keyhole and a person.  Interesting.  Whilst I mulled this concept over, I immersed myself in the TV series, having read through the book a couple of times I was interested to see what else I could pick up from the episodes.   Harry Potter springs to mind instantly (the glasses and scarf) so I needed to avoid that – I could already see the comparison on the 30th Anniversary edition cover.  Then I watched a scene where Adrian turns up for school but its closed for the holidays and someone shouts, ‘Oi, havent you got any other clothes’, as he is in uniform.  I realise the tie is part of his character, his awkwardness and difference to others is intensified by his supposidly mature dress sense (it also made me wonder if the main character in the Inbetweeners also took inspiration from this quality).  The tie and the keyhole created a simple graphic, but one which had relevance.

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I had my type, the copy was supplied, I had my graphic and now I needed to pull it all together using the Golden Ratio, the rule of thirds, the diagional scan and eyecatching colours to create a cover which would appeal to the Young Adult market.

I didnt want to use Photoshop or digital fill as I felt many of the covers that had come before were too clean, to cartoony, too mediocre.  So having stumbled across a book my son had bought home I decided to use graph paper (I had initially thought lined text book would be a good choice, perhaps a little cliche), highlighting areas with Gesso as a homage to Tippex.

My sketchbook is bulging at the seams with experiments, colour changes, placment choices and various design options, with the back copy causing me some difficulty in terms of legibility – wanting it to remain in the authentic handwriting but still be clear to read was challenging. Finally the concept came together and it must look authentic because my family mistook it for a ‘proper book’ when I was staging some photos!

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De Koffie Pot

The Brief: To design a new two colour logo which could be extended to menu for this beautiful, ecclectic, independant cafe/bar in the heart of Hereford.

Meeting the client and spending time in at the venue helped to clarify their values.  Tripadvisor was useful for this, as was speaking to a few patrons – not wanting to disturb customers directly, I chose to talk with people I knew who had been to this cafe and compare to local competition.

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Seasonal produce, beautiful homemade cakes, programme of events, upcycling and continental influences are predominant. Taking the initial influence of Alice Pattullo, I decided to begin with what I know, printmaking.

The results were interesting but lend themselves more to surface design. However, the symmetry is interesting and the idea of using each shape for a different strand of the cafe is one I will explore in more depth.

Keen to see how these shapess could be translated into a screenprint, I did some experimentation with the photocopier.  The standard colours make them look more contemporary than I wanted (the glossy finish of the copier doesnt help either), but the effects are interesting, they relate to the ‘chalkboard’, imperfection as perfection ethos of the business.

Taking these initial ideas, I was able to establish that time and time again I was drawn to circles.  The tops of tomatoes, the bird’s eye view of cups, cake plates; cross sections of onions and oranges…the list goes on.

This soon equated into elements of the business having their own logo which could be mixed and matched depending on the season, location and media.

“Circles represent the inclusivity of the universe”, to me, this epitomised the ethos of De Koffie Pot – a diverse, inclusive, cultural hub with a holistic approach to their customer base.

To convey this to the client, I felt I should work in black and white, as this is their preferred method of communication – if it worked in black and white, it could then be scaled up to incorporate colourways, opening up a whole new avenue for experimentation.

By staging my ideas with the inspiration behind them (colourways,  objects, textures, smells, props and typefaces) I was able to represent my ideas visually, taking the pressure off having to verbalise these notions.

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Meeting the client was relaxed and informal, though a studio based and professional experience. My ideas were well received and the element of texture was one we both agreed was the the next stage – taking the beautiful qualities of the printed vegetables and incorporating them into the circular logo design.

I realised the informality of the venue was not reflected in the symetrical and formal circles and felt elipses and more abstract circles would better define the cafe’s USP.

“Enso circle – sort of like a coffee cup stain (symbolizes enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and the void. In Zen Buddism the circle is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create.

The circle may be open or closed. If the circle is incomplete, it is allowing for movement and development as well as the perfection of all things. Zen practitioners relate the idea to wabi-sabi, the beauty of imperfection. When the circle is closed, it represents perfection, akin to Plato’s perfect form(Wikipeadia)

Working with the photocopier I was able to change the scale and colourways of some of my designs to see what would work.  Wanting to do a screenprint but being conscious of time meant the best way forward was, again, a trial run using the photocopier and changing the colourways for each layer (exactly as I would with a screenprint).

A mindfulness menu seemed to fit beautifully with the company ethos – a zine that the client was able to add to, doodle on, stamp, colour, annotate etc whilst they are waiting for food – perhaps even to leave there for others to add to or to take away as a piece of marketing material.  Various colourways could be offered according to season/events etc and stamps and drawing materials could be placed around the venue to encourage interaction.

Now my concept is clear, the final stage is to refine this ‘midfulness menu’ so that there are more ovelapping colours, creating more depth to the design (as per the third image) – this will be difficult to reproduce on screenprint – as the colours are more opaque and may so it may need to be done on fabric rather than paper – the photocopier is easier to manipulate in this regard and will give cheap, quick, simple outcomes which can be instantly used in the cafe.  A screenprint would be more demanding, have technical issues with opacity and layers, need drying time and would then need photocopying afterwards.

Whilst I enjoyed creating these zines, I decided to adapt the simple elipse logo back to the black and white that I know is so close to the owners heart – and mine.  Using the shapes that have been evolving through this process I concentrated on the ‘mind map’ which I’d created at the start and elaborated it, the words which encapsulate De Koffie pot set in type as a repeat pattern.

I was so mindful of creating something different, to show a ‘creative flair’ that the client may not of imagined that I ignored the fact that I absolutely love the styling and ethos of the company already and could build on this.  This outcome feels the most authentic and considered version, bringing in typeography based on the values of the business in a gentle, meaningful way, using various shapes and patterns that I have collected on this journey.  I now need to take this to Textiles to see how it reproduces as a screenprint, moving the repeat down so it is not symmetrical.

The screenprint was 90% successful. Whilst I was able to successfully offset the print, the joins were apparent on the UV which showed up on the print.  To overcome this I have ordered some large rigid acetate to redo the image without any joins – a job for the Christmas holiday to get a print that I am 100% happy with.

The final meeting with Karen was super, lots of great feedback for us all and projects for all of us to get stuck into.  My clipboard proposal well received and this lead to further experimentation in the Textile Department to find the most appropriate binders to apply the ink to plywood menu boards.

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Standard binders soaked into the wood giving a ‘blackboard’ effect, but the opaque binders sat on the surface and even after 24 hours drying time still felt waxy on the plywood – whereas the former had a matt, authentic feel to them.  The laser cut ply had a burnt edge to it, which as a serendipitous action tied in beautifully with the print. Experimenting with slightly larger than A3, A4 and A5 I was confident I could give Karen plenty of options.

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Finally it was established with 3D that I could curve the edges and also add holes so that permanent clipbaord clips could be added if required.  For now, 2 clip options are available.

 

 

 

 

HCA Summer Project

AOI Sounds of the City brief.

Wanting to make sure this piece could also be useful in my portfolio, I decided to concentrate on what I love most – illustration for children with an added educational element.

Rationale:

“Inspired by educational needs of emergent readers, this poster has 40+ of the phonemes that children need to master as well as reinforcing the ‘imitation of sound’ meaning of an onomatopoeia”

I knew I wanted to produce a screenprint but without access to college facilities before the deadline, I had to rethink.  I decided on a large scale lino/vinyl cut with the potential to refine the piece once back at college for my portfolio. The brief gave proposed dimensions, which corresponded to some large offcuts of vinyl in the studio.  This scale was daunting so I decided to break it down into sections, which also gave potential to produce flash cards etc from the finished piece. I knew I wanted to incorporate the 40+ phonemes – this made it easier to define the sections.

I soon realised that working on this scale was going to be complex as the image needed to be reversed as well as various layers of colour. The most straightforward solution was to do all the drafting on tracing paper to allow me to check the inverse image.  Once I was happy with the overall layout, I set about breaking each image down into its colour layers.  Three seemed more than ample! Concerned that I may make a mistake, I decided that I would make the base layer as one complete unit and the rest as individual sections.  This meant a separate layout sheet for each of the 40 sections, each with 3 copies of the image – coloured in the respective relief colour. Whilst time consuming, this was invaluable as it gave clarity to the piece and helped me process the layout and quickly cut the lino blocks for each section without too much confusion.

Now just the simple (!) task of printing it – good job the kitchen table is extendable!

Finished piece is now submitted to AOI, but Im looking forward to refining this piece as a three colour screen print which will give more definition, better registration and be a great portfolio piece, especially now entering my final year I need to think about life after HCA.

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