27 large-scale painted flowers are showing off their beauty on the boundary wall of Monkstown Educate Together Primary School. The flowers are the product of an art project that 6th class pupils have been working on during the last couple of weeks. It is their parting gift to the school, a well established tradition where every year the children who are leaving to go to secondary school make a piece of artwork to be remembered by.
I had the luck this year, to be the artist/facilitator for the project and to guide the class through the process of designing first, and then producing the flowers (this year’s theme) in a large scale format.
The challenge was to inspire the children to create original work that would be unique to each child. The inspiration was provided by a page from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: And, Through the Looking -glass by Lewis Carroll, where Alice ‘came upon a large flower-bed, with a border of daisies, and a willow-tree growing in the middle.’
I liked the idea that during this conversation the flowers are revealing their own specific character and that qualities, like shapes and colour, are mentioned in a subtle and yet powerful way.
We read the page together in the class and the pupils got the concept straight away.
To reinforce the concept of diversity I also showed many examples of vintage flower seed packets, which had a beautiful pictorial quality and a wide variety of flowers’ shapes and colours.
Over two weeks the children worked at their individual designs using collage, line-drawing, tracing, enlarging and transferring their drawings onto plywood and finally painting with acrylics.
Once completed, the flowers were varnished, screwed to garden fence panels and attached to the wall in the school yard.
Looking at the work there is no doubt that each flower is indeed unique as not two designs are remotely alike. I love the idea that each artwork expresses the child’s temperament and personality. In the course of the project, I could witness how the pupils would go through the creative process in their own unique way, specially in the phase of painting. At that stage I was working with groups of 5 children at a time in the shed at the back of the school; here it was easier to follow them and observe closely how they were making creative choices and decisions.
Some would come in and, in a flurry, would complete their flower in about two hours, others took days working with incredible concentration.
In my role as facilitator I found that I had to refrain from giving too many directions afraid that I would impose too much of my own preferences in terms of design and style. And I am glad I did it, since in the end I was happy that all flowers produced are equally beautiful in their diversity, from the more complex to the most simple, reminding me once more that creativity works in the most unpredictable ways.