So it turns out teaching really is hard work!

It’s at this time every year that I develop a greater appreciation for teachers! Since 2018 I have been helping out with Arts week at my sons’ school. The aim of this week is to promote the love of  the arts including anything from drama, music, dancing, literature to art including digital art.   My role is usually teaching the kids how to draw and paint and it can involve anything from 100 to over 600 students.  

This year it involved teaching 4 classes the principles of colour mixing and how to work with a limited colour palette using primary, secondary and complementary colours (colours on the opposite side of the colour wheel).  They also learned how to paint reflections.  As there was only limited time to teach I used an app ‘Photo to Sketch’ which transforms a photo to a line drawing.  I then applied a grid over the sketch and gave the children a square each to draw. They got the drawing phase started and now that they have the theory they will hopefully complete the paintings soon.  

Every year I try and think up new ideas that can be applied in a 40 minute class to 25-30 kids.  My favourite project for Arts week was  in  2019 when I was invited to lead the Willow Park School Arts Week Project. I started by painting  from a photo called ‘Muddy Knees’.  

The image of dirty knees is a pretty universal  one for anyone picking up kids after sport especially in Ireland during the Winter months! 

I produced a short video lesson on how to paint a portrait that was distributed to each class, before giving a live demonstration throughout the week to all 600 students.  It was an enjoyable but truly exhausting week!   With the help of the Parents Association we scanned each of the kids portraits (over 600). Using Adobe Photoshop, all of the scanned portraits were aligned in a matrix and through an overlaying technique, blended with the original painting of the kids. The resulting image was then giclée printed onto a 100cm x 250cm canvas by a local Irish printer and then framed and mounted in the school hub.  This is a picture of my son on the right (for once without muddy knees)  and his friend showing it off back in 2019. There are over 600 self portraits as a backdrop to this image and up close you can identify each one.

The students can often be found standing up close to the artwork scanning it for their own self portrait but if you stand from afar all you can see is the original painting of the muddy knees in rugby socks and shorts.   The original has been used in the School Christmas Card since then!  What’s lovely about this picture is that every child in the school contributed to it! 

It is also something that could be adapted to every school regardless of how big or small.  All it needs is an image that is meaningful for the kids/school and a whole lot of patience manipulating multiple small images into one large one and then you can have a true school original!  

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