Monday, 25 November 2013

Back to School

A couple of months ago a Harpenden primary school asked some local artists to give a short talk to their pupils during the school's Art Week.  I went along to show Year Five some of my work.  They'd researched my website and had loads of questions - it was great fun and I was delighted to be asked back last week to judge their photo competition, which took as its subject 'Autumn Colour':

the photo competition
© Teresa Newham
All the photos were of an extremely high standard so it was difficult to choose a winner - eventually I settled on the atmospheric landscape in the third row above.  The budding photographer had got up early to take advantage of the morning light (one of the 'Teresa Newham photo tips' which had been put up in the centre of the display), and had captured some wonderful grasses in the foreground, as well as the mist and the trees!

watching runbacks
© David Lyness
The teacher had also asked me to do a demo which the children could follow.  The idea was that we would each make a small watercolour based on some holly which I'd taken along from my garden (enough for each table), ideally using just red and green.  I emphasised that we were not necessarily aiming to reproduce what was in front of us, but using the holly as inspiration for a painting.

different greens
© Teresa Newham
I painted my demo piece in stages - and, while each of these were drying, took a walk around the class to see how they were getting on, answer any questions and offer advice when the children asked for it. They used many different approaches: some of the pupils decided to experiment with a variety of greens; some worked in great detail while others had a much looser style.

my demo
© David Lyness
I'd used the visualiser on my first visit;  this time the teacher lent me his microphone headpiece, too, so that I could explain what I was doing while I had my back to the classroom.  All this equipment was a little daunting at first but I soon got used to it, remembering not to move the painting about on the table in case it disappeared from the screen!

shapes and shadows© David Lyness
I encouraged the class to try a variety of techniques:  wet-in-wet, lifting out, glazing, dry brushwork, spattering; this resulted in some very nice contrasts of colour and a variety of leaf shapes - having studied the holly carefully we noted that some leaves were remarkably smooth while others were spiky.

drybrush and spattering© David Lyness
After an hour we had thirty or so small watercolours - each one a personal vision of the holly in front of us.  As the children tidied up and handed their paintings in for safe keeping while they dried, I reflected: who had learnt more that afternoon - the children?  or me?

loose and atmospheric
© Teresa Newham

With many thanks to David Lyness, the pupils of Mercury Class, and the staff at Manland Primary School.


  1. What a talented bunch of kids! It sounds as though you had a great day with them all : -)

    1. they are lovely children, so interested and keen!

  2. What a brilliant day! Sounds like you and the children both got an enormous amount out of it.