This is the second week of workshops I was asked to present as an addendum to the main postcard project.I thought, since I’m taking the kids through a few outmoded printing techniques like
typing on a manual typewriter (here’s Ruby, dressed in her costume for the Book Week parade)
that it would be lots of fun to let them play with ink and pen techniques. Again, I broke it down for each class level.
(4 & 5 year-olds)
Fiona, the preschool teacher, already had plans to do some illuminated Medieval letters with the kids (colouring them in with gorgeous metallic pens & colours) so she & I worked out a plan where I’d get them to do pen & ink page borders into which they could stick their illuminated letters.
As you can see, we used bamboo pens. We also used water-based Indian ink, especially formulated for children, so that it can wash out
Fiona was really surprised how little mess the ink made; I mean, we made blobs and smears and they sometimes kept drawing off the page onto the newsprint underneath, but I think she’d expected them to splat and dribble it like paint.
But no… they were fascinated by the ink, by its glossy blackness, which is a black you just can’t get with pencil or texta or crayon. They treated it really respectfully, and it repaid them with lots of lovely different kinds of lines.
I showed them a Powerpoint of lots of decorated borders, many with floral themes, but others with animals and/or cherubs and more again with architectural elements. The kids got really inspired and did great work! I showed them how to make spiders out of ink blobs, which took the stress out of making the blobs, and some of their borders got quite cobwebby.
(They are working with the pens & ink again this week, using the ink to make cherry-blossom branches and then sticking on bits of scrunched-up pink paper to make the blossoms. It looks fabulous!)
(5 & 6 year-olds)
For this group I used the bamboo pens again, but this time I pulled out a few books by my favorite illustrators like Quentin Blake and Edward Ardizzone and Wanda G’ag and showed the kids how they drew with interesting, quirky and scratchy lines.
I read them Wanda’s wonderful book Millions of Cats, which is a dark and multi-layered story that had the children completely enthralled, especially when nearly all of the cats ate each other. No-one seemed particularly traumatised (although one girl refused to believe it, she said ‘they all just ran away’), but I apologise if anyone lost sleep that night!
Afterwards they all had a go with the pens and ink, and again, like the preschoolers, were enthralled by the glossy black of the ink and drew amazing things.
Mostly involving hills and houses, but very few cats.
All of the pens and ink that I bought with the residency funding are staying with the school, and the Kindy teacher tells me that they all want to use them regularly, so pen & ink play will be part of their regular morning Investigation Stations play! I’m really happy about that.
(6 & 7 year-olds)
For this group and the Year Twos I bought some actual steel nibs and handles to use with the ink. With Year One I found some really cool calligraphy images; some were just textual embellishments like this:
Then we moved to some that incorporated living things:
And then I showed them some really cool Arabic zoomorphic calligraphy from Bibliodyssey. They loved that, especially the zebra and the tiger.
And then they sat down and didn’t draw anything like anything we’d looked at, but that was ok, because they’d taken onboard some appreciation of what these pens could do, and they totally got into the linework and the glossy black, etc.
This is Stephen. He’s labelling his drawing as he does it, and, typical of most of the kids, he is living through the drawing as he does it: it is animating as he draws. Quite often the finished drawing is just a reminder of the fabulous process they went through.
See? the little thing is humming, and Stephen was humming as he drew it. Drawing is a living, breathing thing for children.
(7 & 8 year-olds)
The year twos seem so much older than the rest of the school. They do everything in a much more mature way; it’s incredible the difference a year makes.
For this mob I pulled out a book I adore from my collection; I found it in a secondhand bookshop for $10, and it’s amazing. Long, fold-out reproductions of engravings of Austrian towns, very much like this one and this one. We talked about drawing maps, about how most maps are birds-eye but also mostly symbols, whereas these were drawn from a mountain-top perspective instead, and this is because that was the highest people could go without using their imaginations… there were no hot air balloons, or airplanes or satellites.
I gave them long strips of paper (every class was using good toothy 230gsm Como drawing paper, not bond paper, although if they finished and wanted to keep drawing, they used bond) and told them to try drawing either a place they knew or a place from their imagination using this mountain-top perspective.
These two lads usually jump around a bit, but the pen & ink had them glued to their chairs. They were the last to finish, and we almost had to pry the pens out of their hands!
We encouraged them to label the parts of their maps, and to include keys, if they could.
Again, the animated drawing process in action. Sam was making things explode; as he drew them, he would narrate, and as they exploded, he would use his left finger to smudge the ink to create a smoky aftermath.
They asked me to make a sign for them to help explain what they’d been doing so that they could pin their work up as a showcase. I’m not much of a calligrapher, but I thought I did ok:
It was a wonderful week, and the best part is knowing that I’ve sparked something that will continue in each class.
Now we’re going to have a printmaking adventure!
*Well, actually National Literacy and Numeracy Week, but that’s a bit of a mouthful for a post heading; I just called it Litnum week.