Art after school, light into dark

Back to art club after the clock change, by the end of these four weeks we’d be starting the sessions at dusk, a perfect time to think about light and dark.

As a starting point we set up pigeon light boxes using a collection of high powered torches. How did the torch need to be angled to create the most interesting shadow and perhaps more of a challenge, how could we keep the torch and subject in place while we drew them?

We used charcoal, starting  by covering our paper with a mid ground and then making lighter and darker tones using a rubber and denser charcoal coverage. Drawing the shadow needed some encouragement but everyone was surprised by the extra drama it added to the drawings.

This session was followed up by painting extended and distorted shadows of small figurines. As often is the way with painting, I didn’t manage to photograph the process.

Thinking back to the first session I wanted to explore how we can use the light to distort and transform. The children all understood the concept of imagining shapes in the shadows of their rooms. In this activity we worked with wire, pipe cleaners and foils to make sculptures which would become a projected image. The light area was kept in place throughout the activity  for the children to check the progress of their piece using coloured filters.

Last art club before Christmas but still November. The snowflakes were an acknowledgement that the season was upon us and an introduction to Japanese Notan cut-outs, creating a balance between light and dark. I really enjoyed how the children explored this idea and often took it off in their own directions.

Looking forward to new projects and ideas in JAnuary.

Into the Somewhere

Working with theatre maker Dominic Biddle

Into the Somewhere started out as the Sumfing research project investigating innovative ways to bring together performance and visual art. It also looked to make an art encounter relevant to the thoughts and concerns of primary school children.

Six months later the Somewhere Place has starting appearing in schools around the region. As researchers we always have a limited time to enter and explore this place and we enlist the help of a team of research assistants from the school.

The children think about and experiment with the skills and tools they might need in an unknown place and how they might approach anything that might be living there.

The skills of the artist and scientist coincide in this cross curricular experience. We practice deep looking using all our senses, we ask questions, we make connections, propose theories, start to make meaning and create a new story. Most importantly, we stay curious.

This encounter considers how we approach the unknown and how not knowing the answers can sometimes lead to creative acts. Perhaps it touches on how we live in uncertain times but equally it asks how we can think like artists.

Into the Somewhere is currently available as a half day in school experience for Years 3, 4, 5 and 6. We are also developing the project for other situations so get in touch if you’re interested in the idea.


With theatre maker Dominic Biddle, R & D project commissioned by Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds for Once Upon a Festival

Sumfing’s inside


Sumfing won’t get up


Something’s outside


Sumfings Up!

Theatre maker Dominic Biddle and visual artists, Jacquie Campbell and Heidi McEvoy-Swift, are collaborating with children’s imaginations to create a theatre piece that speaks directly from the child.

We have designed and built a portable immersive space that children are invited into, to discover Sumfing. Sumfing is inside a big box that will not open.

Over the course of 50 minutes, the children discover and express what Sumfing might be, using word, sound, and making.  Together we uncover Sumfing, personify Sumfing and empower Sumfing: A large-scale puppet. Finally, they send Sumfing on its way, through the door, altered by their responses, into the world.

Through this process the children will help us create a piece of theatre for Bury St Edmunds’ Once Upon a Festival.


Open Day, Theatre Royal

Rojo Carnival: Character building

Family Day at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

How to take part

Turn up at the theatre anytime between 11am and 3pm and make your way to the Greene Room. We’ll be there to meet you.

Step One: Delve into our Lucky Dip to find ideas for your carnival character.

Step Two: Make your character mask with the help of our costume artists.

Step Three: Get into character, put on your mask and leave your autograph and unique hand drawing on the wall of fame. Don’t forget to pose for the paparazzi as you head towards the stage door.

Step Four: Make your way onto the theatre stage. Our dresser will help you find a costume to complete your look.

Step Five: You will be greeted by our carnival animateur who will help you develop your character’s own dance move. While you’re on stage, look for the appearance of your giant masked photo on the backdrop.

Then suddenly it’s carnival time! House lights dim; stage lights on; cue music, dancing and a carnival procession around the theatre.

Carnival processions will take place at 12, 1, 2 and 3pm. Arrive earlier to get ready.


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.

Chatteris in Myth and Memory

The tent is transformed into a library where old stories are revisited; new stories begin and a large collection of broken and unwanted books become the materials and inspiration for the making of individual artwork.

During the afternoon children from local primary schools  are invited to visit the library and work with visual artists from Rojo Art and Joseph Coelho, a writer who always seeks new stories behind those ‘Happy ever afters’.

The children revisit local myths and memories with local storytellers and poets and prepare performances for later in the day. With the visual artists, the threads of these stories twist with a pile of forgotten books making new stories from old.

Trees in Town

At Barrow Primary School today working on an Art Branches led arts and environment project. The Woodland Trust have sponsored Art Branches to run a competition and series of workshops that encourage people to connect to their local trees.

After an assembly to launch the competition we worked with years 3 and 4 using art techniques to look more closely and explore some ideas about winter twigs and bark.

I worked with some enthusiastic groups looking for and drawing the shapes and patterns in the negative spaces between bare winter birch twigs. The children looked at their drawings from all angles deciding whether they represented twigs and trees or whether they had taken on another form. We discussed the similarities between the twigs and other networks such as rivers, roots and veins of the circulatory system.

The drawings were coloured highlighting either the positive or negative spaces or in a way that reinforced the ideas the children wished to express.

At the end of the morning we left the school with a drawn record of all the twigs the children had identified