Saturday, 5 November 2011

New Ideas for Children's Workshops...

On Tuesday, I set aside my story writing, because I had an invitation to visit St John's First School in Stafford. 

I've been to Stafford before and it's not the most direct journey from here by train, so I set the alarm early again, and was away at 6.45am (don't you just hate getting up in the dark?). At least I got lots of train sketching done, as you can see...

St John's was a tiny school, only 70 children in total, so we divided them into 2 groups. I started with a chat to the 28 children in Y3 and Y4. For the first time, I used PowerPoint on the classroom's interactive whiteboard, which meant I could show all my illustrations, without having to lug so many books on the train. 

The same group then did an illustration workshop, drawing characters. Children often use rubbers too much, so I experimented with a new tactic. I demonstrated on the flip chart in conte, rather than drawing with a felt tip. This is much truer to the way I would draw characters in the studio. As part of my usual 'start with a snowman shape' exercise, I used the conte to show how you can sketch faint shapes loosely, to give yourself a rough guide, before you draw anything too definite. 

I demonstrated how easy it is to correct mistakes without a rubber, by adjusting things as you go along and, because conte is blacker then pencil, they could all see my sketchy lines, even at the back. I wanted them to see how, even though the sketched lines were sometimes in the wrong place, those fine, sketchy drawings behind the final, more accurate line work weren't mistakes you had to rub out, but instead made the characters look more alive.

After the workshop, I gobbled my school lunch down really quickly (veg curry, then jelly - yum), because I had loads of books to sign for the children and there wouldn't be enough time at the end of the day, as I had a train to catch for the long journey back.

Once the dinner-debris had been mopped up from the floor in the hall (come 1pm in any primary school, it always looks like a pie shop has exploded), we got all the Y1 and Y2 children together for a storytelling. I read Bears on the Stairs and Stinky! to them (my current faves) and I did lots of flipchart drawings, as usual:

The children played the part of all the flies in Stinky! (40 children waving their arms and buzzing sounds exactly like a swarm of flies), then they all designed their own monsters that might lurk at the top of the stairs, instead of the bears in Julia Jarman's version of the story. There were some really scary ones!

I had a fabulous day. It was lovely to discover that all the children had already been shown my website and were consequently all really geared up for the visit. My publisher had been contacted, so the school was plastered with posters of all my books (thanks Gullane). The school sent letters out in plenty of time, so that 3/4 of the children ended up buying a book. They even invited parents in at lunchtime, to coordinate with my available signing time. 

Thank you to Mrs Lane and Mrs Mawdsley for my lifts to and from the station, and thank you to all the children and staff for making me feel really welcome.

Oh, and thank you to John for doing all my sketchbook scanning this time - I've got a lot on at the moment, so wouldn't have been able to show you them without his extra pair of hands. 

1 comment:

Jade Graham said...

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