After school art club

I’ve been using the jigsaw this week to cut shapes from wood for something I’m working on. The scraps I collect from the floor are intriguing shapes that I could never repeat or plan.

Art club this half term has been about wood so I decided to take these processed wood pieces along to make some low reliefs. I gave the children narrow MDF surfaces to work onto and was impressed by the way they allowed their artwork to escape the confines of the page. The MDF was an unknown material and they were unsure whether to call it cardboard or wood.

They started by selecting pieces and arranging them to make birds and other forms, quickly accepting that the shapes could not be altered without a saw. They carefully sanded the edges then painted the background and shapes separately before gluing them together. Washers and bolts became eyes and wire was attached with a heavy duty stapler to create legs. I’d like to extend the woodwork element, perhaps next time introducing hammer and nails.

Art Club, winter twigs

p1010013Storm Doris left us with a trail of winter twigs with early buds strewn across roads and gardens and plenty of ideas and materials for this terms art club.

We started with The Woodland Trust‘s winter twig ID sheet. The twigs were tricky to identify at this time of year but the close looking helped observational skills noting layout of buds, presence of catkins and, the children’s favourite, the stickiness of the horse chestnut bud.

I had prepared long scroll lengths of paper and supplied brush pens filled with diluted ink (a new tool for the children) and watercolour pencils and encouraged them to make observational drawings of the twigs using the length of the paper.

Some of the children used magnifying glasses for close looking identifying patterns and an array of colours within the bark and buds.

In the second session I brought short cut lengths of twigs that would be painted and become a material to use for 3D work the following week.

We started with some colour theory, mixing bright primary colours in acrylic then set to the painting. This simple painting task offered a calm time to talk about the relative vibrancy of colours, how the paint transformed the twigs (would we look at them differently) and what size and shape twigs would we need to make the 3D work.

As the children finished painting I asked them to look at the underlying paper: what shapes and images could they find; what happened if they turned their paper?

The following week I demonstrated joining the twigs with wire and talked about making a hanging or free standing structure. The children joined their twigs to create tree or birdcage like structures using the more pliant materials to create curves. I was very impressed by their achievements but photographing the delicate structures proved very tricky against the classroom backdrop.


After School Art, rocks

This term our art is taking us down a geological path, maybe visiting some soil science along the way. The children unwrapped and examined a collection of rocks picking out surface textures and patterns. On a long sheet of brown paper we used chalks and charcoal to explore how these materials could be used to explore the rock surface. In some cases the chalk was applied to the rock and the rock to the paper. The rocks were also used as tools to grind the chalk into powder. This might be an interesting way of thinking about rock particles in the soil.

We moved looked at other ways we could make surface textures, preparing papers to move the artwork in a new direction next week. We used oil crayon resist with ink wash on crumpled, pleated and punched surfaces. The children learnt about the amount of resist needed and how dilute the ink should be to expose their layer of texture.

We talked about how we could make 3D rocks from our paper. Origami was mentioned: it sounds challenging and we didn’t have an expert in the room. I’ll have to do some research.


Art Club: Exploring soil

We started out by examining a large clod of soil under magnifying lenses and making detailed pencil drawings imagining we were soil scientists making an investigation. This activity proved to be quite captivating with many discoveries in the soil such as small insects and tiny shiny particles.

Next we thought about how people worked with soil in the garden and made some garden workers that we photographed in the school vegetable garden. With the next group I think I’ll expand this question to think about other people who work with soil and encourage more thinking about the tools used.

The following week I’d asked the students to bring different types of soil they found in their own environment. We started out by making a sample collection and naming the different types. It was the day of the England match and one of the soil collections was named after the team. The students examined the soils very closely and were able to distinguish between types that were visually very similar.

We experimented with using the soil as a pigment thinking about how paints are made using water and PVA as the medium. This activity gave the students a chance to really appreciate the colours, textures and components of each soil.

After exploring how it felt to use the paint and how to make marks with it I suggested that the children use the soil paint to imagine the underground world under a large tree. We started with a shared drawing to warm up and then moved on to painting, extending ideas by adding finer details with pens after the paints had dried.

After School Art Club, Snails

Last week the children used there snail observations to make foam print blocks and by the end of the session we’d made snail and leaf prints for the artwork this week. I noticed that the younger members of the group find printing a difficult concept, why would they want to get involved in the messy process of  printing when they can think through their ideas much more easily when drawing? I need to consider how I introduce this activity for the next group and whether I include the more immediate mono-printing.

This week we returned to thinking about snail habitat and started with some textured, rubbed leaf backgrounds then adding their printed snails and leaves and some foliage to create a more 3D scene.




Fergus became absorbed in the using different papers and layers for leaf rubbings and create a series of black and white images. Some of the children returned to the drawings of the first session and incorporated them into the habitat background.






After working with texture and print, Leo returned to drawing and reimagined the snail race that the children had set up the first week. This is the drawing at mid-point and he was still working on it when I went home.

It was image

After School Art Club, Snails

Today I put on the gardening gloves and turned over every flower pot in my garden looking for snails. Where are they when you need them? I eventually located six lucky ones who would be the inspiration for our artistic inquiry this term.

I’ve decided to explore how to build new knowledge through inquiry based learning and in particular through material investigation.

We started the session by making a shared drawing and writing about what we already knew about snails. Interestingly a discussion on slowness resulted in lots of turbo charged snails being drawn.

I brought out the live snails and asked the children to spend 15 mins observing with magnifying lenses and making detailed pencil drawings.

imageThe snails turned out to be lively models. This is Christian’s drawing of them stretching out on the side of the seed tray. We spent some time talking about questions that the drawing process brought up. Some of these were:

Why are snails so slow and sticky?

What are their antenae for?

Why do they have shells?

I then invited the children to choose materials from the table to make an artwork about the snails perhaps thinking about the questions they had been asking.

Some chose to tell a story through their art which was perhaps a way of thinking through the ideas we’d talked about.  Chloe focussed on the shell making this collage drawingimageAfter making a story and drawing about snail predators (this led back in to the shell question), Isla set up a snail race track with the help of Leo and Joshua. During this activity we discussed whether small or large snails were faster, whether snails had genders and also discovered that snails could do their own painting when the dragged their slime over felt tip.


After School Art Club, musical instruments

This week’s session started by revisiting the blind contour drawing of musical instruments the children had made last week. I pasted these onto a large sheet of paper and we took a closer look at them. The children began to see recognisable shapes that might initiate another drawing and I invited them to draw ‘in conversation’ with what was there and with each other. The only rule was to avoid drawing on somebody else’s lines. Fergus immediately found moustache like shapes in the baritone drawing.


Next we tried some quick gestural drawings experimenting with ink and brush. I’d also brought wire and found metal objects to extend these drawings. The children found their own direction with these objects modelling inventive instruments and using them for printing.