Back in July I was contacted by Merton Infant School about working with the children to create a collaborative artwork for their new entrance lobby. The brief was to create something that embodied the six core school values and was themed around owls; the school logo. A very open brief to begin with which gave me a lot of scope. I put together a rough design proposal with two options; one design with a 3D element and two days of art workshops and one solely 2D design with one day of Art workshops. The Art coordinator was very enthusiastic and took these options to the Head Teacher and the 2D option was then decided on, in September.
The artwork was to consist of six owls arranged around a central tree. I choose the tree motif for its connotations with growing, reaching upwards, and shelter. The tree has six main branches; on which the six school values will be written. The owls are to be arranged so that their backgrounds go from night to day leading towards the tree.
The ambitious project was to be collaborative and involve every pupil in the school (ages 4 – 7), through a day of nine, thirty minute workshops, not a lot of time! So the activities had to be kept simple. It was important that all the children were able to engage with the activity including those with SEN.
All the classes are named after an owl and fortuitously only six of these were real species of owls (apparently there is no such thing as a speckled owl!) and so the species depicted in the mural were chosen to depict the class names. My plan for the workshops was to get the children to use a range of mark making techniques, in oil pastel and paint, using resist, s’grafitto, rubbings and oil pastel Monoprints. Each class would create textures and mark making based on observation from photos of the owl species their class was named after. The other three classes would create textures for the tree and backgrounds. I would then take the children’s work and collage it together into the final design. This way all the children in the school would contribute some artwork for the mural.
Here is a rough scale plan of the Mural.
Part of the aim for this project was that the children would get to meet and work with a real artist, rather than just looking at those from the past and thereby see ‘artist’ and other arts careers as something tangible and achievable.
Everything ready for the day of workshops!
The tree outlined
The children really enjoyed making tree rubbings, exploring mark-making and learning a new word; S’grafitto! The children loved the project and will have a colourful new artwork as a reminder of their day.
Here are some of the children’s drawings for the Oil pastel Monoprints exploring mark-making and texture on the theme of owls, feathers and trees.
The coloured Oil pastel prints.
The Oil pastel prints with a background wash.
Putting the collages together…
The Finished Owls
The artwork is now sited in the school lobby, providing interest and stimulation for staff, visitors and pupils. The mural serves as a testament to the creativity of the children and their ability to learn new skills, work as a team, gain self-esteem, and ultimately to produce a piece of artwork which they can be proud of.
The final mural in place.
If you have any questions or would like to know more about how I could work with your school or community group, please contact me via my website: www.milamarts.org. I can offer workshops as well as larger commissions and projects made in collaboration with pupils or members of the community. I can work in a range of media and across disciplines, with an imaginative and fun approach.