I only write a blog post like this once a year, so apologies for the length. Despite being what appears to be a very self indulgent thing to do, it's so important to reflect as we quickly forget all of the fantastic things we've been part of, all the amazing people we've worked with and those who've supported us along the way. This post is in many ways a huge thanks to everyone who has worked alongside me this year - it's been a fantastic one. I've included loads of photos too as I think that they speak for themselves. This year I've learned to expect the unexpected...
Reflections and highlights from 2015
1. Fulfilling my ambition of making a big 'Art Attack'
In April, myself and a colleague, the amazingly talented @k8imcgee were given the challenge of creating a large scale work of art on our school field at Norton College, North Yorkshire to commemorate the Tour de Yorkshire which was coming through town. Needless to say we jumped at the chance!
It was an immense challenge - we wanted to involve as many people in school as possible by embracing the collaborative and community spirit which the school takes pride in.
To create the huge bike, we cut out cogs, gears, wheels, teacups and teapots(in Yorkshire, tea is more valuable than gold...) and then all students in KS3 painted them in their Art lessons. I also invited staff to venture into the Art rooms in one of our Thursday morning Teaching and Learning sessions. They had the opportunity to get their hands dirty and paint their own small cup, spoon or cog which would become part of something much bigger. They loved it!
In just under 3 weeks we managed to plan, design,create and install the artwork thanks to the dedicated students and staff at Norton. It truly was a huge team effort.
On the day of installation, I had absolutely no idea if we had enough pieces or indeed how I was going to lay it all out on the grass, as my plans were scribbled on a tatty, crumpled piece or paper(not sure if this is how Neil Buchanan did it in Art Attack...) Luck was on our side thankfully. Big phew.
We were also incredibly lucky to find out that the parents of one of the students, had their own business flying unmanned aerial systems - www.getskyshots.co.uk. They were kind enough to come in and film our installation from the air - it was breathtaking to see it from above, and I was so relieved that it actually looked like a bike - even bigger phew! Check out these amazing photos and click on the link below to see a great film courtesy of Skyshots.
2. What does a 'typical teacher' look like?
Earlier this year, I was approached by Helen Ward from the TES who was writing an article about how children viewed teachers. She asked if our students could draw or paint a portrait of 'a teacher', so I decided to run this as a mini project with my fantastic Y7 groups at Norton College.
First I asked them to imagine they were looking at a picture dictionary and draw a quick sketch to illustrate what they would see next to the word 'teacher'. I also asked them to quickly write down the gender, age, hair colour, any accessories(glasses, jewellery, pens etc) and also the expression on their face. I had explained to them prior to this that they weren't drawing 'their' teacher, but instead had to depict an imaginary one who looked like a typical teacher. It was fascinating! We had some really interesting discussions about why they thought teachers looked a certain way, and how and why they may look different to other professions.
Here are some of the results, and as you can see, the outcomes are pretty varied. Interestingly most of the men wore glasses (makes you appear intelligent they told me!)
See if you can spot a face which looks similar to a teacher you know or remember...
3. Getting messy
This really was one of the best things I've ever done at school - fact! I was sent a link by the amazing @LeedsArtTeacher with some work by the artist James Ostrer. His portrait photography project 'Wotsit all about' was inspired by amongst other things, our cultural obsession with sugar. Check him out - his work is really interesting! I thought it would be great to do this as a mini project with Y12s who had just finished their exams. A bit of fun I thought. As always, I tried it out first at home just to see if it would work. These were my first few attempts...my children( who were helping me) were rolling on the floor laughing hysterically as you can imagine!
I asked my students to come up with a design for a food inspired self portrait using the foods which they consumed most of during their exams, and also another version of what they thought they should eat in order to help them revise more effectively. They drew sketches, planned who would model and who would be the 'stylist', and gave me some very interesting shopping lists.
On the morning the portraits were created, my classroom was a big, big mess, and had such an unusual smell - a combination of fresh fruit, pizza dough, cake, vanilla icing and pic n'mix! However, as you can see, the photographic outcomes are amazing and they all absolutely loved it! It was definitely one of those 'remember when we did that in Art moments' to reflect on when they are older. Huge thanks to the all the students at Norton for their willingness to take creative risks and embrace my quirkiness.
4.Making more of my own art
I've taken every opportunity this year to try to improve, develop and expand my own art skills and techniques,and have done pretty well I think.
I've loved taking part in the fantastic Sketchbook Circle again this year - creating art for the sake of art is just perfect for clearing your head. The Sketchbook Circle exhibitions at Gerald Moore Gallery, Eltham College in February and the more recent exhibition at Baltic, Gateshead in October were amazing. I was lucky enough to have several of my shared, collaborative sketchbooks displayed there and be part of this incredibly supportive art teacher/artist network.
I also took part in #DrawingAugust again this year, despite being right in the middle of moving back up to Northumberland. It's so important to remind yourself why you love teaching your subject and continue to create your own work for yourself.
Images above from Sketchbook Circle exhibitions at Gerald Moore Gallery, Eltham College and Baltic, Gateshead
5. Learning how to draw on my ipad
I've had an iPad for quite a few years now, and have always avoided trying to draw on it. How could it possibly feel the same as a pencil on paper? Thanks to @JennaLucas81 and @MartynReah who are involved with the fantastic #teacher5aday, I began a half term challenge in October. Jenna had created a list of things to sketch each day which you could then share on Twitter using #teacher5adaysketch.
Well...I've discovered mainly through trial and error, that whilst drawing on an iPad screen is nothing like feeling the pressure and resistance of a 4B pencil on paper, it does have great potential. I now love it. See below for some of my attempts from half term.
Since then, I've been trying to draw each week and I'm experimenting with a Paper53 stylus and Adonit Jot right now. I've been really inspired by the brilliant drawings by @DevNicely whose illustrations are simply beautiful. I'm very much still at the experimental stage and serendipity plays a huge part in everything I do, but I think I'm getting better. Here are some of my more recent iPad drawings inspired by #teacher5adaysketch.
Wishes for 2016
1. More collaborations
There are so many supportive, innovative and inspirational art teachers out here who I'd love to collaborate with this year. I'm open to offers... I'm also very lucky that being back in the North East has given me the chance to be part of the fantastic, thriving NEATEN ( North East Art Teacher/Educator Network) and I'm determined to be more involved in this which will hopefully bring some exciting opportunities my way.
2. Embrace more of the #teacher5aday challenges
I really love taking part in these, and will try to do more. Looking forward to it!
3. Slow down and prioritise
Starting a new job, school and role this September has been quite daunting with everything being brand new and it's taken me some time to find my feet and stop spinning. I'm working with a team of amazing art teachers,and am so relieved that I haven't frightened them off with my sometimes bizarre and weird suggestions and my hoard of creative clutter. I have realised though that not everything is as urgent as it may initially appear, and that so many things can wait. It's a tricky thing to learn to say no, but instead I've learned to say not yet. I'm determined to do things properly and to the best of my ability, rather than rush things. I can see such potential here already, and am really looking forward to seeing what great things emerge from our department this year.
4. Organise my photos - YIKES!
This is a mammoth task and I really really need to do it sooner rather than later. I dread to think how many thousands of photographs I have taken over the years, but what I do know is that they need to be organised into a more sensible way than they are now (which is not sensible or logical at all...) If anyone has some great suggestions on how to do this - I'd really appreciate it!
As a result of getting a job teaching Art at Cramlington Learning Village, we relocated in the Summer back up to Northumberland from North Yorkshire. We've been trying our hardest to get out and do things, see things and spend more time together, and I'm determined that our adventures will continue this year as we explore this wonderful place.We love it up here :-)