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Wonderful ‘Lost Words’ inspired artwork at High Meadow Infant School….

When Debby Hughes, Head Teacher from High Meadow Infant School,  approached me about an Arts Week they had planned based on the wonderful book, The Lost Words by Rob MacFarlane and Jackie Morris I was, of course, very interested. I have worked at the school, as a consultant, over the past few years and have visited on numerous occasions to deliver focused wildlife-based experiences. I was very familiar with this book. If you have not got a copy, then I recommend you get one!

Debby asked me if I would come up with some art based work around any aspect of this book. I just couldn’t resist and suggested we complete some artwork based on some of the beautiful bird illustrations. I would be working with Year 1 and 2 pupils. I decided on the Grey heron for Year 1 and the Kingfisher for Year 2. #gallery-19945-8 { margin: auto; } #gallery-19945-8 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-19945-8 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-19945-8 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */

I started with the Year 1 group. I have never tackled this image with a class, let alone a class so young…..

When I do art sessions like this, I very much TEACH the children how to draw the subject by modelling every stage. We start by drawing our finger over each element we are going to translate onto paper, so they concentrate on the shape and form of what they are drawing. I model each stage on a large piece of appear at the front and we draw each stage of the picture separately, gradually adding all the different elements. I constantly refer back to the image, making them trace each element with their finger before adding it to their page…

Once the children had drawn the basic elements of the image, it was time to start adding colour. We used a mixture of pastels and pencil. We began with a white pastel. The children discussed where the white was on the heron, then I modelled where this white would go and how to apply the pastel as if you are stroking the bird, so their strokes would follow the direction of the feathers.

Next, we moved onto the palest of grey and repeated the above process…..

This was followed with the darker grey. I also showed the children how to use their finger to smooth and blend the greys…

We then switched media, to pencil. The pastels are quite thick and it is difficult to colour more delicate and thin areas, so I chose to do the beak, legs and eye in pencil. We used different shades and blended these by layering our pencil lines. We also used black pencil to colour the black area of the heron. Now they were really starting to look like herons!

The final touches were the delicate black spotting down the front of the neck and the thin, hair-like feathers coming off the chest….. we were done and, ‘WOW!’, were these looking spectacular!

I was astounded at how well these children followed all the stages and we were all absolutely thrilled with the results. It is certainly the best artwork I have produced with a class this young. This work had taken all morning. Other than a 20 minute break time, these young pupils had worked for almost 3 hours!

Each table stood up and shared their work with the rest of the class…

Each as most definitely a heron and each picture was different… they all had their own, unique character. The children were absolutely thrilled with their images!

After a whole morning of art, it was dinnertime and time for me to prepare for the afternoon session! This time, due to a Forest School session, I only had half a class of Year 2 pupils. The format was exactly the same as with the heron. We started by looking closely at our image and tracing with our finger, the elements we were going to draw; one section at a time….

We then started to add the pastel colours. It was a bit more difficult this time as the pastels we had were not a good representation of the kingfisher colours. This meant we had to add and blend additional colours to create the correct shades….

Again, we used pencil to colour the beak, eye and perch and to add dimension to the pastel colours….

We had less time on this picture but, once again, the results were impressive!

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These images would feature in an art exhibition that would take place at the end of the week, when parents would be invited to school to see all the work completed. I was lucky enough to see the work that had happened earlier in the week and it was, to be honest, just wonderful! You can follow the school and see some of the other work by logging onto their website (which I built and designed with Debby, the Head teacher) at or on their Twitter account; @HMInfants.

We were all delighted when Rob MacFarlane and Jackie Morris responded to our excited tweets showcasing the children’s work. That was the icing on the cake!

I had had a most wonderful morning! Not only had we produced some exceptional artwork, but the children had learnt and talked about the heron and the kingfisher….. those ‘lost’ words had been well and truly found!!

What a day!


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