Creating art that speaks to writing
"If an illustration only repeats what the text is already saying then either the text or the illustration is superfluous... The pictures carry the story on their own."
Armin Greder, The Great Bear (1999)
It is always warming to hear an enthusiastic teacher describe a great book as a 'goldmine'. I find it comforting to imagine them burrowing through the themes, vocabulary and ideas to take their classes to the heart of a book. Teaching that aims to dig below the surface can immerse children in new worlds and, almost inevitably, produces great writing.
Another rich vein of creative possibility for literacy is art and, when tapped in the right way, enhances great writing even further. Indeed, a study of the illustrations or related artwork can often help children capture the mood of or gain insight into a text in a way that when dealing solely with words can be tricky.
It is telling that the above quote comes from the author of the book we are using for this workshop: The Island. In earlier sessions, we examined how artists use colour to convey mood. Read my blog post on that here.
In this workshop, I am using art as a means of developing a sense of character perspective. Whereas the writing focuses on 'the man' and his encounter with 'the people', our artwork looks at 'them' and how they might react to this intruder. In this way, the art and writing are different accounts of the same event, looking at each other against a stormy backdrop created through our dramatic seascapes.
Given a choice of charcoal or pen, the children experimented with mark making and shading techniques. It is important to give the children a feel of the materials. The children posed for photographs as stunned islanders, conveying a range of emotions: curiosity, anger, suspicion, fear, revulsion, kindness. Transferring the images using charcoal, the children then used ink or compressed charcoal to add details and shading. Here is a sneak peak of some of their drawings.
These large images (I always prefer children to work in large scale - small pictures can be so fiddly for little hands!) convey the blurry, erratic drawings created by Armin Greder. They give us the perspective of the islanders to this strange arrival.
The full set will appear after next week's workshop so stay tuned!