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I was recently invited to a North London primary school’s art club to present a painting workshop. I decided to revisit the exciting theme of anthropomorphic animals; Anthropomorphism is making something which is not a human, more human-like.

After a brief presentation about anthropomorphism and the history of animal/human shaped artwork (the oldest example of an animal/human-shaped work of art is the Löwenmensch figurine. It’s approximately 35,000 years old and is a sculpture of a human figure with the head of a lion or lioness), we looked at the paintings of two modern day artists who use anthropomorphism in their work, Ken Hoffman and Svjetlan Junaković.

The students studied photos of animals and chose one they wanted to base their painting on. Thinking about what era, style of clothing and setting they wanted to adopt, they began to sketch their initial ideas on an A4 sheet of paper. When they were happy with their idea, they were able to draw their anthropomorphic animal on artboard.

Students used acrylic and ready mixed paints for this project.

Many thanks to Weston Park Art Club for letting me use the images below. Photographs by Joanna Leigh.

 

 

 

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I was invited to do a clay coil pot workshop at a school in Harringay recently. This is an activity I last did with the Art Cabin students back in 2011, so it was great to revisit it.

We used air-drying clay. To make handing out clay a little easier, I divided it into small chuncks, perfect for rolling into coils (thin sausage shapes). As you can see from the photos, we lined a bowl with cling film and began to arrange the coils to form patterns.

Blending and smoothing the clay in the inside of the bowl will adhere the coils together. The beautiful coil patterns will be seen from the outside. To protect your bowl after painting, add a coat of varnish.

Tips: Don’t make the coils too thin. Don’t let the coils dry out (they become crumbly). Keep a lid or damp cloth over clay chunks to stop them drying out and becoming hard. Use a hairdryer to speed up paint drying times.

 

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Polar-Bear

This activity was taken from the superb book called ‘Make, Build, Create’ by Paula Briggs, co-founder of Access Art. Making ModRoc polar bears was a very successful project, the children thoroughly enjoyed creating their bears, each and every one had character! Some students made simple plinths to display their bears on, some made accessories like hats and scarves.

The students studied pictures of polar bears and we discussed characteristics. As a warm up activity students painted their own illustrated polar bear with water based paints.

The bears were constructed from newspaper, masking tape and ModRoc.

 

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This art project was linked to KS2 Rivers. Primary school students were learning about rivers in Geography and I was asked to compliment this with an art project.

I decided that we would make clay ‘portrait’ miniatures. The Victoria & Albert Museum have a few on display and I always admired them. When Grayson Perry made the ‘The Earl of Essex’ miniature for his ‘Who Are You?’ exhibition, as part of a Channel Four programme, I really wanted students to have a go at making them.

Students were asked to research animals and plants that make their home in or by British rivers. They had to choose their favourite and paint it on their clay miniature. The Kingfisher was the most popular by far!

Hopefully the ‘how to make’ photos below are self explanatory.

Tips: I cut oval templates for students to use as a size guide.

To get clay to adhere to clay, you need to make slip. Mix some clay with water until it is like thick cream. Roughen up the surface of the two pieces of clay to be stuck together, apply some slip and use a small tool or finger to blend ‘touching edges’ together.

While the clay is still soft, press a wire hanging loop into the back of the miniature. We bent wire around a chunky marker pen to create a loop. If you bend 5mm of the wire ends 90 degrees, this will help stop the wire from dislodging from the clay when hanging.

We used gesso to undercoat the flat oval surface in preparation for painting. If you don’t have gesso, just use white water based paint.

Here are some of the finished miniatures. To complete the look, like Grayson Perry’s ‘The Earl Of Essex’, we tied a bow around the hanging loop.

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The AccessArt Village exhibition at Farfield Mill, photograph by AccessArt

Last year some of my sewing club students took part in ‘The AccessArt Village’ participatory project devised by AccessArt and supported by Appletons Wool.

The aim of the project was simply to inspire the AccessArt audience of all ages to embroider a line drawing of their home on a 20 cm square piece of fabric. These embroideries were then sent to AccessArt to be cut and mounted to create the AccessArt Village. We are very excited that our embroideries are part of this wonderful installation which will be exhibited around the UK!

The AccessArt Village has its first exhibition at Farfield Mill in Cumbria, 12th September – 22nd October.

There are over over 700 embroidered pieces on display, lovingly created by children, accomplished artists and older generations.

“Whilst highlighting the character and individuality of each piece, the project celebrates the diversity of our audience and reminds us of the universal sanctity of ‘home’.” AccessArt.

The AccessArt Village will be on display at the following five venues – try and visit if you can, it’s sure to be a stunning exhibition!

13/09/2017 to 22/10/2017:  Farfield Mill, Cumbria

14/11/2017 – 21/12/2017: Mansfield Central Library, Notts

17/01/2018 – 31/01/2018: Brentwood Gallery, Essex

20/02/2018 – 20/03/2018: Whitley Bay Library, Tyne and Wear
Only a section of the AccessArt Village will be on display at this venue, as exhibition space is limited.

May-June 2018: Old Gala House, Galashiels – dates to be confirmed. A London date is also being discussed.

For information about visiting the exhibition, please contact the venue or check their web page.

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AccessArt Village installation, photograph by AccessArt

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AccessArt Village, photograph by AccessArt

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When I’m not doing art clubs and workshops, I spend my time working as one half of the art duo ‘Quiet British Accent’. The other half of the duo is my husband, Jason. Together, we use a variety of signwriting and sewing techniques to explore our love of lettering, language and pop culture.

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This is our studio (it’s a bit messy because we’re getting ready for an exhibition)

Recently we collaborated on an art project with the students from our village school, creating a poster to brighten up the local train station, Cuffley.

We thought it would be fun to create a poster that people could interact with (super useful if you’ve just missed your train and you need to while away some time!).

Our poster is based on the good old ‘Spot The Difference’ idea. Students created the illustrations and Quiet British Accent (QbA) created the lettering and layout; using the red, white and light blue colours in keeping with QbA’s look.

So, if your destination is Cuffley, see if you can spot ten differences on our poster.

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Drawing on plaster with wax pastels project

 

This still life activity is based on the ‘Drawing On Plaster’ project from the book Drawing Projects for Children by AccessArt’s co-founder Paula Briggs.

Leading up to this activity, I had spent a couple of sessions getting students to do obsevational drawings, learning to look is an important factor when doing still life study and doing something like this is a good warm up exercise. Each child had a view-finder and a magazine page; they could select an area of the magazine to copy.

Young student with still life drawing

Using a view-finder to select an area of a magazine to draw

 

We set about making the mould for the plaster canvas and once completed we mixed the plaster and poured it into the mould.

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Creating a mould for the plaster

 

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Plaster setting in the mould

 

After a week to dry out thoroughly, the mould was removed to reveal the plaster canvas.

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Removing the plaster canvas from the mould

 

I set up a screen on each table so each student could set up a still life composition (we used fruit). It’s a good idea to discuss complementary colours and making your still life visually pleasing.

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Looking at composition

 

Once the friuts were in place, students had the chance to practice their observational skills using watercolour paints. We discussed highlights, midtones and shadows, looking at all the different colours and tones we could see.

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Practising observational skills using watercolours

 

When students were ready they began to illustrate their fruit still life on the plaster canvas with water soluble wax crayons.

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Sketching on the plaster canvas

 

Adding water to a cue tip and gently rubbing it on the wax pastels will encourage the blending of colours.

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This activity was a total success, the paintings were superb and the students really enjoyed the opportunity to draw on an unusual surface.

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