Anyone out and about around The Apex in the town centre yesterday was invited to visit our pop up outdoor Sketching Station. Participants were encouraged to think about, remember or imagine a particular place in the town that is special to them. This special place could be indoors or outdoors, past, present or future. A selection of black pens was available with a variety of whitewashed cardboard boxes to draw on. All the surfaces of the boxes were used with some fascinated panoramas to be discovered hidden away on the insides.
At the end of the event the boxes were constructed into a shared artwork and exhibited in the window of the Apex.
It was fascinating to see themes emerging in the chosen places and drawings. Many people depicted the flint work of the abbey ruins and buildings around Bury with many of the children drawing the patterns within this in great detail.
This project was initiated by our urban sketchers group which seeks to explore the town through drawing. Through the Big Draw event local people questioned what connected them to the town and also Charter Square as a social space for getting together and drawing.
The last of our four weeks about the changing seasonal landscape around the village. This week we extended the activity of drawing and layering winter branches. Each child worked drawing into a white box creating a background of bare branches. I was pleased to see them experimenting with some different types of mark making after last week. They then used 3d materials to construct a forest and perhaps some passing wildlife. I enjoyed some of the conversations that cropped up around the activity such as local horses being spooked by starling murmurations and a discussion over the use of the word ‘sapling’.
At the end of the session the children used torches to light their forests and took the photos below.
Art club has been pretty busy the last couple of weeks and I sadly haven’t managed to photograph any art work. We’ve been thinking about seasonal changes in the local countryside using week 1 to make the most of the last autumn leaves with a printing project. Week 2, I adapted a project from Access Art which encouraged the children to take risks with their drawing. Using varied mark making and media they created some weather related narratives.
Today we focussed on bare branches drawing with twigs, ink and pens on different transparencies of paper. The children assembled their drawings into layered artworks to try to give the feel of looking into the bare bones of a winter forest.
We came away from this morning’s workshop at the theatre really inspired by the way the children had responded to an integrated art and storytelling approach.
Lynn started the session by telling a story with magical woodland elements which inspired the visual artists to seek out woodland characters in some gnarled and twisted pieces of tree bark. These characters and their stories were developed with a visual language using natural material collage.
I was intrigued by the stories the children told around their artwork. One of them even incorporated the wet glue left on the surface into her story as food for the creature that lives behind the tree.
I now need to dedicate this afternoon to thinking of ways we can develop this cross artform approach further.
After stretching our imaginations last week this Monday we returned to close observational drawings. I gave each of the children a large piece of paper with some tiny objects scattered on it and encourage them to look closely and draw each object using mainly their fingers and wrists to make the marks. Some of the drawings were almost too tiny to see but incredibly detailed when viewed with the magnifying sheet.
We then did some charcoal mark making exercises and selected a small object to draw really large.
This time the children drew with their whole arm with sweeping gestural strokes. I encouraged them to try and draw everything they saw including the shadows.
After the session we set out the drawings on the floor for a discussion. Most of the children had enjoyed the large drawings more. We talked about how we’d used hard pencils for the small drawings and charcoal for the large. One of the girls who liked to work small said she’d like to make a huge drawing in hard pencil. This brought to mind a wall sized pen and ink drawing I’d seen in the Saatchi’s ‘Paper’ exhibition. I must take that image next week.
Burnt pizza creature living in the paper towel dispenser
Stingray inspired creature living in the soap dispenser
This one lives in the oven
The creature of the plug points
Flying creature guarding the art cupboard
Carrying on with our exploration of the room this week I asked the children to find a place in the room that was interesting to them and possible overlooked by other people. They spent a time in that space making notes and thinking about an imaginary creature that might live in that environment.
I’d brought along card and textiles thinking the children might create textile collages but some of them surprised me by immediately using the materials in a 3D way. It would have been great to have had another hour working on this because by the end of the session the children’s imaginations were overflowing with ideas about what could live in the hidden spaces of the room and were quickly trying to make these while their parents waited.
We left the artwork in situ so that other users of the room could also be drawn to these spaces.
Back to Art Club today with quite large group and an expanded workspace.
This term I want to offer activities that encourage the children to always be looking with the eyes of the artist, exploring, collecting and documenting what they see. I have decided to use the art club activity room as the place to explore and over the next four weeks we will try and look at it with fresh eyes, perhaps discover things we haven’t noticed before and make some art that will share our findings with other users of the room.
Today we started with sketchbooks. The children closed their eyes then opened them, looked around and sketched the first few things they saw that they felt they hadn’t seen before. We tried lying on our backs to get a new angle on the space.
Next each child selected a shape from the table and explored the room, recording in their sketchbook the places where they found the shape in the environment. I’ve posted the sketchbook entries of a couple of the circle collectors.
Finally we explored the room again this time using viewfinders. We’d looked at how using the viewfinder was quite similar to using an ipad to capture an image. The children used the viewfinders to focus on particular areas of interest to them and to decide what to include in their drawings. They sketched in charcoal on white and in chalk on black. Here are some of the drawings.
This mosaic was made as a community project by Risbygate Arts about 10 years ago and has been hidden away on a wall by the loos in the Abbey Gardens. Bury in Bloom were brave enough to move it to a new prominent location overlooking the Magna Carta flower bed and asked Rojo Art to look at doing some renovation work on it for the Anglia in Bloom judging.
My first inspection of it wasn’t very positive: there were about 200 tiles fallen off and a good coating of mould in parts. Strangely though, once I got started this turned into a very addictive and satisfying process. I also had the added entertainment of explaining the mosaic’s history to interested park users.
Museums of Very Tiny Objects
I’m still feeling inspired from my evening workshop with Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination exploring smallness. I wanted to think about this further with art club and also explore the idea of collecting as an art form. We started the session talking about what we collect and why. All the children had fascinating collections at home and could explain why they were collecting them. I wonder if we forget our motivations as we get older. Quite a few of them were collecting things to use in their artwork and enjoyed the process of sorting and categorising. I brought lots of tiny natural objects with me; shells, rats’ jaws, scapulae, lichen, dead wasps and much more. The children selected two objects and spent some time observing them in different ways; colour, texture, shape, smell, scientifically, by language, habitat, preferences. They then talked to a partner about the similarities and differences between their chosen objects. They spent a lot longer than I expected doing this and also created charts and diagrams to explain their findings. After reflecting on the first part of their collection they then selected another three artefacts to build their museum collection. I’d brought a long materials for simple construction so that the children could build an exhibit or mini museum to show their collection. Most of them opted for a hanging display so that the objects could be handled easily. Some liked the idea of semi concealing their display to add surprise and drama to the experience.
I’m going to try out this project with a different art club next Tuesday so hopefully will have some museum photos then and probably a very different take on it.
As Rojo Art Projects CIC we’re currently developing ideas for a heritage and arts project in Bury St Edmunds centred around a walking exploration of hidden water in the town.
Sometimes the River Lark and Water Meadows take a back seat in the landscape and how often do we question the history behind street names such as Well St, Pump Lane and Raingate St. We would like to work with local people exploring the heritage of these enigmatic names and places through performing and visual arts leaving in place a walking trail that helps us view our town from a different perspective.
If you have any stories or information that you’d like to share with us please get in touch by email firstname.lastname@example.org or of course you can also contact us via Twitter or Facebook if you prefer. Any water based stories are of interest, they don’t have to be from the distant past.
We’re be posting water related snippets on this blog so follow us if you’d like to keep up to date. In the meantime I reckon this must be the highest body of water in the town.